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Government support crucial for net-zero transport refrigeration

UK: Companies in the food supply chain have called for UK government support for its plans to transition to emission-free transport refrigeration. 

The Cold Chain Federation is asking the government to commit to the series of meaningful support measures that will be necessary for the businesses which transport fresh and frozen food and pharmaceuticals to achieve their new industry-led plan for emission-free vehicle refrigeration by 2039.

Its call comes in a new report published today which sets out the first ever plan for transitioning away from diesel as the primary power source for refrigeration on vehicles. Ambitious targets it proposes include no transport refrigeration units (TRU) to be sold into the UK market containing refrigerants with a GWP of more than 300 by 2025 and no new diesel TRUs to be sold into the UK market after 2029.

The Cold Chain Federation estimates there are currently 30,000 refrigerated trailers operated by UK transport businesses and a further 40,000 vans and rigid vehicles which are temperature controlled. The complex challenge of removing both air quality and carbon emissions from refrigerated vehicles is unique to the cold chain but it is fundamental to achieving net zero and air quality targets associated with the distribution of fresh or frozen food and pharmaceuticals across the entire UK cold chain.

“The cold chain is pulling out all the stops to keep food on our shelves in the midst of the industry’s worst crisis in living memory,” said Cold Chain Federation CEO Shane Brennan. “Despite the exhausting cumulative burden of the driver shortage crisis, disruption from Covid and major challenges related to post-Brexit changes, these businesses are committed to progress towards a net zero future by finding ways as an industry to phase out the use of diesel in vehicle refrigeration entirely. Government must start to play its part too.”

He argues that a net zero food chain can’t be achieved without overcoming the challenge of transitioning to emission free refrigeration on distribution vehicles.

“But the technology is not ready, the infrastructure is not in place and we feel let down by government’s previous promises of direct support for trialling and adopting emission-free technology which never materialised. Our ambition is achievable but only with meaningful Government action to help us address the infrastructural and economic barriers.”

The Journey Towards Emission Free Temperature-controlled Distribution on Road Vehicles is said to have been produced following 18 months of consultation with cold chain businesses, TRU and trailer manufacturers, refrigeration engineers and academics.

The report calls for backing for a clear deployment strategy for the new technologies, an investment strategy to facilitate the installation of electric charging for vehicles and temperature-controlled trailers at depots and rest points, the removal of older trailers from the road and investment in trials or adoption of lower emission technologies.

The full Cold Chain Federation report can be downloaded here.

A free-to-attend online webinar to introduce the new guide will be held on October 20. Register here.

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