Minimising the environmental impact of refrigerated transport remains a key aim of operators in the sector and firms that supply them with the equipment they need.
Earlier this year, retailer Sainsbury’s became the first company worldwide to take delivery of a semi-trailer equipped with a prototype fridge unit developed by Carrier Transicold that uses non-ozone-depleting CO2 – carbon dioxide – as its refrigerant.
Known as R744, it has a GWP – Global Warming Potential – of just one, says Carrier. That is lower than other natural refrigerants such as ammonia, it adds.
Power comes courtesy of the same E-Drive all-electric technology that is used in Carrier’s Vector range and the refrigerant is in a closed-loop system.
The 13.6m dual-compartment tri-axle trailer is the first of a trio joining the supermarket giant as part of a three-year field trial, and was built by Gray & Adams.
Though best-known for its fridge trailers, the Scottish company constructs temperature-controlled bodies for rigids too and recently supplied several to Pilgrim Food Service on 13.5- and 16-tonne Mercedes-Benz Atego chassis.
A leading player in the transport refrigeration market, Carrier is of course well-known for its more mainstream systems. Recent orders include one for a dozen Supra units that have gone into action with Hunt’s Foodservice, a catering wholesaler of frozen, chilled and ambient goods operating across the South West.
Eight of them have been fitted to DAF LF 250 18-tonners with the balance installed in four DAF LF 220 12-tonners. All the trucks come with twin-compartment bodies built by Jackson Coachworks and can be working up to six days a week.
A key reason behind Carrier’s success in the UK market is the strength of its dealer network.
Much of the South West is covered by Carrier Transicold Southern, a trading style of Glenside Commercials. It boasts workshops in Caerphilly, Avonmouth, Portsmouth and Bracknell in Berkshire, as well as a mobile team of engineers. Glenside also represents Iveco and Fiat Professional.
Sainsbury’s is not solely collaborating with Carrier. It has also been busy trialling a Mercedes Antos rigid leased from Dawsonrentals with a refrigerated system powered by an engine developed by Dearman which is driven by the expansion of zero-emission liquid nitrogen.
“It quite literally means that the cooling is running on thin air,” says Sainsbury’s Head of Sustainability, Paul Crewe.
Dearman and the retailer have been working in partnership with Air Products, bodybuilder Solomon and fridge unit maker Hubbard.
Keeping Emissions and Temperatures Low
Hubbard’s broad portfolio includes another, long-established, approach to minimising emissions on the highway while keeping cargo cool; eutectic beams. It has recently supplied two eutectic beam systems sourced from BOTEMP of the Netherlands to wholesale catering supplier Total Food Service and they have been installed in dual-temperature Solomon bodies fitted to a pair of DAFs.
The beam system is charged up overnight from off-peak mains electricity and is suitable for both chilled and fully-frozen work. “It is reliable, quiet and energy-efficient,” says Total Distribution Manager, Dave Fox.
Earlier this year, Hubbard launched a line-up of four new diesel-powered fridge units under the Un0 Monoblock Diesel banner that use a drive train system that does not require drive belts.
Connectivity is becoming an increasingly familiar mantra so far as trucks are concerned. The same is the case with refrigerated trailers.
The ability to remotely interrogate it 24/7 thanks to its telematics package is a standard feature of Thermo King’s new SLXi single- and multiple-temperature trailer fridge unit. It offers up to 20% better fuel consumption too says the manufacturer.
The Stop/Start Effect
There are, of course, times when the desire to cut emissions can clash with the need to keep loads at the correct temperature, a point made by fridge van conversion specialist CoolKit.
The widespread installation of Stop/Start systems in light commercials that prevent the engine from idling wastefully at the lights or in a traffic jam is undoubtedly laudable from the viewpoints of cutting fuel consumption and air pollution. However, it can prevent a van’s refrigeration system from functioning efficiently, CoolKit contends, because it keeps interrupting the power supply.
You may of course be able to order your new van without Stop/Start and most Stop/Starts can be over-ridden manually.
If you are buying an otherwise-attractive second-hand vehicle however, then you may be stuck with the device, and a manual over-ride depends on the driver pressing the appropriate button, which may not happen.
In response, CoolKit has come up with an interface that disengages Stop/Start automatically. The driver can re-instate it at any point during the journey.
It is an approach that is already finding favour with operators: “It provides a solution to a major problem we had with our vehicles,” says Dave Thomas, Transport Manager at Metrow Foods.
Now occupying a 45,000 square foot premises on a 2.5-acre site in Burnley, CoolKit has achieved average year-on-year growth of 40% over the past six years. It has recently invested in a new CNC – Computer Numerical Control – machining centre with a five-axis head capable of machining the plastics, resins and light alloys used in its conversions.
“It will allow us to reduce production time by up to 75% while producing conversion products that are better-engineered, easier to install, and therefore even more effective in regulating temperatures,” says Sales Director, Cameron Javed. “We plan to utilise it to help us develop a new range of components.”
CoolKit is increasingly fitting Hubbard’s unobtrusive SFZ range of fridge units which do not require a pod to be mounted on the roof, says Javed
“Modern vans are designed and manufactured to maximise fuel efficiency and load space with aerodynamically-shaped bodies,” he observes. “The SFZ system ensures that these efficiencies are not compromised.
“The under-mounted condenser unit maintains the vehicle’s overall aerodynamics, while the inclusion of an ultra-low-profile evaporator ensures the load space is maximised and efficiently chilled,” he adds. “Furthermore, SFZ is available with optional standby connections for overnight cooling.”
Other van conversion specialists have not been idle.
Paneltex Somers for example has been working closely with Mercedes, fleet management specialist VMS and Iceland to develop a dual temperature van that allows the retailer to deliver a wide variety of products to householders alongside its more-familiar frozen lines.
The converter has come up with a special insulated lining to help meet Iceland’s requirement for a frozen compartment towards the front accessed by a sliding side door and a larger chilled compartment at the rear. It is an approach that matches the company’s product mix and ensures that the payload is better-balanced across the front and rear axles.
VMS has supplied the Alex Original direct-drive refrigeration system.
The conversion has been independently tested by CRT – Cambridge Refrigeration Technology – against international ATP standards, and it achieved the performance level required to meet Class C frozen and Class A chilled. ATP is mandatory for cross-border work but not a requirement for domestic use purely within the UK, although there is an argument that it should be.