The long-term prospect for the refrigerated vehicles market is positive, despite the gloomy general economic outlook. This is thanks to stricter regulations and increasing domestic deliveries. We look at the industry and some of the key players.According to a recent report by Technavio, the number of temperature controlled vehicles in the UK is set to grow by 28% from 134,000 in 2010 reaching as high as 172,000 vehicles by the end of next year. This is the result of a continuous increase in domestic consumption and higher standards of quality requirements of food products, pharmaceutical and healthcare products. There has been a steady increase in the demand, particularly for trailers.
Call in the Experts
When discussing a refrigerated conversion with a customer, it is important that you look at all parts of the conversion – the refrigeration unit must suit the vehicle, the conversion and the application. Avoid making recommendations without consulting the experts.
Bear in mind that, whilst there is no legal requirement for testing of the refrigerated conversion to use the vehicle in the UK, ATP testing is a requirement for overseas operation. It is likely therefore that this could become standard in the UK over the next few years. Check whether the converter that you are dealing with builds to this standard. If this is the case your customer could pay the extra money for a test to be carried out.
In addition, there is the Europe-wide whole vehicle type approval (WVTA) accreditation procedure that covers both the design and manufacture of refrigeration systems as well as any other bodybuilding carried out on a commercial vehicle. Each unit produced must exactly match the design specification and its components. Check that the converters and the equipment manufacturers have the issue of type approval in hand – if not, look elsewhere!
Looking at the refrigeration units themselves, GAH and Hubbard seem to dominate the van market with a range of equipment to suit most jobs. One firm that has recently opted for Hubbard equipment is independent vehicle hire company, Acrobat Vehicle Rental of Newbury. The company has added
ten new Mercedes Sprinter 316 panel vans with Hubbard 460 AEL heat/cool units to its 60 strong fleet of temperature-controlled vehicles.
Adrian Rice, Managing Director of Acrobat tells us; “The ten Sprinters added since July 2012 will improve our capability to deliver vehicles at short notice throughout the UK. We have now moved exclusively to Hubbard for all of our vehicles managed environment requirements. The Hubbard Total Care package ensures that vehicles while on hire are available with minimal downtime. “This level of service is essential for our specialist customers who may be transporting high-value, small-volume medicines for cancer care, tissue samples or even, as recently, blood samples from Olympic athletes and Premiership footballers”.
Refrigeration specialist, Somers’ Direct Air System has been extended with the recent introduction of a new range of Direct Air Covers designed for the Carrier Transicold Xarios 300 and 350 range of refrigeration systems. The Direct Air system was previously only available for GAH and Hubbard direct drive systems. Chris Berridge, Managing Director at Paneltex, the parent company of Somers, says, “This development is a natural extension to the success of the initial direct air covers we first introduced as we are now fitting more Carrier Transicold Xarios systems each year.”
Available for both Mercedes Sprinter and VW Crafter high roof vans, the Somers Direct Air System uses the airflow over the windscreen of the vehicle, accelerating it to improve the performance of the refrigeration system by up to 15%. An air management feature allows extra to enter from additional ducts when the vehicle is stationary. By improving the airflow around the condenser, this available improvement in refrigeration unit performance should help reduce fuel consumption and reduce refrigeration system wear plus the all-important CO2 emissions.
The most popular way of powering the refrigeration units is to take drive from the vehicle’s engine, but with the advent of Stop/Start systems, especially on the smaller vans there is increased interest in electrically driven units, powered by the vans’ alternator. These systems should improve fuel consumption and work when the engine is not running, but they are unlikely to be able to power a large freezer van that has many deliveries in a day.
Aerodynamics is Vital
If an operator uses a standard blade or roof spoiler, the performance of the refrigeration unit could suffer, as the condenser may get starved of the air it needs to cool effectively. This is why it is important to contact specialists when discussing the configuration of a refrigerated vehicle with a customer.For box-bodied fridge vehicles, aerodynamics plays a greater role in the fuel efficiency. Here GAH have made significant steps forward with the help of Cranfield University in the development of the company’s fuel saver range of refrigeration units.
For larger vehicles, the company has developed a range of ‘Fuel Saver’ (FS) units that can provide savings of between 2% and 10%, depending upon the type of unit chosen.
Buying For Used Stock
To the uninitiated, one fridge van may be much like any other but there is a wide variety of sizes and specifications not to mention the mechanical condition of the vehicle and the refrigeration system. When sourcing vans, remember that many vans are only suitable for chilled work and cannot be converted to frozen. A freezer van can be used as a chiller but not the other way round.
Many customers will almost certainly need a refrigeration system with “electric standby”. This means it will have an electric motor that you can connect to a power supply to keep the fridge operating constantly without having to run the vehicle engine. Units that use a single-phase (domestic) supply are normally preferred as they can be used in more places.
For some applications, customers will need a van that can maintain higher than ambient temperature – they will need a “heat/cool” system. For example, if you are carrying delicate items at +4C in mid-winter with the outside temperature well below zero. This is essential when transporting pharmaceutical products. Some vehicles offer other features such as temperature recorder or dual-compartment. These can be added later but will inevitably save cost if already fitted.
Choosing the right brand of vehicle and fridge will make a big difference to the resale value of the vehicle. Think of the big brands such as GAH and Hubbard when looking at buying used vans for stock.”
There is a new player in the used refrigerated advertising scene with an interesting name – ‘www.PinkEskimos.com’. This is a new online platform that is dedicated to the refrigerated transport sector. The site offers a platform for both retail customers and, more importantly, dealers to advertise temperature controlled vehicles in dedicated categories such as Refrigerated Vans, Refrigerated Trucks Refrigerated Trailers and a Tractor Unit section.
As a specialist site, there are additional categories for specialist vehicles such as Ice Cream Vans, Catering Vans/ Trailers Cold Stores and Display Refrigeration Units. The site shows the user the sellers contact details – a typical classified advertising setup, as opposed to a brokerage. The brains behind the website, Mathew Veryard tells us, “As well as used refrigerated vehicle sales, Pink Eskimos aims to become the UK’s refrigerated transport portal for information such as industry news, magazines, and exhibitions.“ To get dealers interested to advertise refrigerated vehicle stock, the company is offering incentives to book early.
Pola Van Rental, are a privately owned company based near Birmingham, offering 3.5t GVW refrigerated rental vehicles for long, medium or short-term rental.
Over the past two years the company have added a number of Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter refrigerated vans to full ATP Class C specification, with overnight electric standby and heat/cool refrigeration units capable of operating over a temperature range of -25°C to +20°C. All ATP vehicles have temperature recorders with printers. Further recent improvements have meant the addition of a folding driver’s bunk with cab night heater. This allows a loadspace length where four standard UK pallets or five euro pallets can be carried on a Mercedes Sprinter 313CDi LWB High Roof. This is an added
advantage for European operation as an overall vehicle length of under seven metres reduces ferry charges.
A second “back up” refrigeration unit has been added for specific customers, delivering on behalf of the Pharmaceutical industry. Depending on final specification, this second unit is driven by electric standby from secondary gel batteries charged by an up-rated vehicle alternator.
Pola Van Rental is currently undergoing an expansion programme to their rental fleet to add additional Mercedes Sprinters built to this Pharmaceutical specification. However, many operators in this industry require vehicles constructed to their own particular specification. In this instance, Pola Van Rental can offer long-term rental as a solution, even on high mileage vehicles, with back-up support being provided by other vehicles on the fleet which have also been built to ATP Class C standards with certification.
GAH is an independent, UK-based company specialising in the manufacture of transport refrigeration. Tel: 01394 421140 www.gah.co.uk Twitter @GAHgroup.
Hubbard is part of the worldwide Zanotti Group of companies. The company supplies a wide range of direct drive, alternator drive, Diesel drive and stand alone electrical units for panel vans, box body vehicles and truck and trailer combinations.
T: 01473 892218 W: www.hubbard.co.uk
Paneltex – Somers
Formed in 1991, Paneltex Limited manufactures truck, trailer and container bodywork from insulated composite panels made in-house. Paneltex owns Somers Refrigeration, also established in 1991 catering for the quality panel van conversion market.
Somers Tel: 01508 532 248 W: www.fridgevans.com
Paneltex Tel: 01482 787236 W: www.paneltex.co.uk
VanFridge – Pola Van Rental
Vanfridge Ltd was formed in 2002 to provide a “package solution” for a new refrigerated van. The service was targeted specifically at small companies requiring a refrigerated van. The company also operates a rental arm that provides vans for short, medium or long-term rental or contract hire. Tel: 01299 253478 W: www.vanfridge.co.uk/