While the commercial vehicle industry’s gradual movement away from diesel to alternative forms of motive power ahead of 2030 is much vaunted, the refrigerated trailer sector is undergoing a quieter transition. With the requirement to efficiently and safely transport Covid-19 vaccines in strictly controlled environments, the sector has never been more important.
Until recently, temperature-controlled trailers have been heavily reliant on dedicated diesel engines, but a drive towards increased efficiency and sustainability has resulted in the emergence of solutions such as electrification, including hybridisation, solar power and optimising the efficiency of incumbent technology. Changes to UK fuel duty planned for 2022-23, which abolishes the duty-rebated (red) diesel often used for generators, will also impact negatively on fleet costs.
One of the most radical solutions has been recently launched into the UK by Carrier Transicold. Its Vector eCool is, says the company, the
first fully autonomous, all-electric engineless trailer system. According to the company’s president, Victor Calvo, it “represents the future of refrigerated trailer technology.”
The eCool utilises the company’s E-Drive technology, which captures and stores kinetic energy generated at the trailer’s axle to power the refrigeration unit via a battery pack. The fully autonomous system manages battery recharge cycles to ensure full refrigeration capacity and can also be plugged into a charge point – a full charge is achieved in under four hours. According to Carrier Transicold, a system such as the eCool is also lighter than a traditional diesel generator and full tank of fuel, providing “further reductions in energy consumption.”
Electrified trailer technologies help reduce emissions, but also reduce noise pollution, which is becoming an increasingly salient topic in congested LEZ areas. For example, operating noise of an eCool-equipped large, refrigerated trailer is below 60dB. However, similar benefits can be brought by hybridised units, which help shorten the jump from internal combustion to full electrification.
A further solution from companies such as Thermo King, for example, allows operators to use a diesel generator for refrigeration on long haul, before switching to silent, emissions-free electric power for the last-mile leg.
Electrification technologies are scalable for applications from refrigerated vans suitable for supermarket home-deliveries to multi-wheel tractor units. In fact Tesco has recently announced that it added 30 new zero-emission electric vans equipped with the new Thermo King E-200 refrigeration units to its fleet in 2020. The units offer multi-temperature performance and operate entirely autonomously to optimise charge and discharge cycles.
According to Thermo King’s David O’Gorman, the E-200 units were “designed to bring constant capacity and the intelligent power management needed to exploit the opportunities presented by fully-electric commercial vehicles. By fitting Tesco’s new LDV electric vehicles with the E-200 units, we unlocked low noise and low emission zones to any delivery.”
Being inverter-driven as opposed to from a direct drive from a diesel engine, the E-200 can be utilised with electric or internal combustion powered vehicles. It also allows them to benefit from supplementary technologies, such as solar capture, to optimise power management, ensuring battery condition is not compromised and the draw on stored energy is minimised.
According to UK Thermo King distributor Marshall Fleet Solutions, the increasing need to reduce fleet emissions is “putting pressure on refrigeration equipment manufacturers to launch new and exciting all-electric technologies.” The company does, however, believe that electrification is the long-term answer.
“As a power source, electric is already making great strides,” says Mark Howell, Marshall Fleet Solutions managing director, of how the sector can ‘go electric’. “Finding the answer will depend heavily on developments in technology. That’s because most direct drive solutions for diesel combustion engines include compressors that require engine movement to power the refrigeration unit. The next step is to extend all-electric capabilities to both medium-sized vans and trucks. From increased uptime and utilisation, higher reliability and improved temperature control, to an intelligent algorithm that helps safeguard and optimise the power supply, going electric means gaining a significant boost in performance.”
It is a viewpoint that is echoed by vehicle and trailer manufacturers, with electrification continuing to rise in prominence and the technology advancing rapidly. It has been four years, for instance, since Renault debuted its experimental all electric 13-tonne prototype truck equipped with a Carrier refrigeration unit. At the time, Renault Trucks president, Bruno Blin hailed the project as providing, “the ideal solution for maintaining air quality and reducing congestion in the city centre, because it allows noise-free deliveries to be made during the anti-social hours, maintaining peace and quiet for residents. Because it produces no polluting emissions, this vehicle also helps maintain the area in which the operatives are working.”
Four years later, the technology is rapidly emerging as the solution for the refrigerated trailer sector. However, in the short- to mid-term there are still great benefits to be released from more traditional methods. For example, this week Carrier Transicold announced the launch of a ‘Trade In – Trade Up’ programme for the sector in the UK. The incentive encourages hauliers to upgrade their single-temperature refrigeration units to benefit from the 30% fuel efficiency improvement offered by latest units.
Motive power agnostic, the units are compatible with diesel or electrification technologies such as energy recovery, but refine the offering of established technologies to provide operational advantages, including reduced CO2, variable airflow independent of engine speed and electronic engine speed control. Remote data capture of fuel consumption and performance from telematics also provides, says the company, transparency of operational costs, servicing and maintenance requirements.
As a reminder that differing solutions are evolving for common challenges, O’Gorman concludes, “With this programme, Thermo King wants to help transport companies address the impact, which the upcoming changes in fuel duty in the UK will have on their operations.”
Of course, a change to fuel duty is only one of the challenges posed to the sector. The increased focus on refrigerated trailer units, inspired by growing popularity of home-deliveries during Covid-19, is intensified by logistical challenges during the vaccine rollout. Cold storage companies, logistics operators and supermarkets have offered use of their refrigerated fleets to help facilitate vaccine transportation as the country rallies in its fight against the pandemic.
Renault Trucks UK & Ireland has committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas status by 2030.
The company’s Sustainability Initiative details a nationwide transformation programme of the company’s operations and dealer network. It seeks to understand, manage and improve its operations with a view to steadily reducing all direct and indirect emissions.
Carlos Rodrigues, Renault Trucks UK & Ireland managing director, said, “We recognise the global challenges of climate change and as a business we have a responsibility to act. The commitment of our Warwick headquarters and our dealer network to achieve net-zero by 2030 underlines the importance we place on playing our part in creating a more sustainable future.
“While some of these changes are happening already, with the Covid-19 pandemic hastening the shift to home working and reduced travel, some changes will require longer term transition and investment. We are determined to decarbonise our operations and make a difference.”
Earlier last month, an alliance of Europe’s largest truck manufacturers including Daimler, Scania, Man, Volvo, Daf, Iveco and Ford announced that it is working towards phasing out diesel trucks by 2040.
TfL has completed its programme to fit its older buses with cleaner engines to reduce particulate emissions. The project, which began in 2017, has ensured that the 9,000-strong fleet meets the Euro VI emissions standards required by ULEZ.
TfL stated that each retrofitted bus would emit 95% less NOx emissions and 80% less particulate matter than before. The authority claimed that project completion represented a major milestone in tackling toxic air pollution in London.
Claire Mann, director of bus operations at TfL, said, “We’ve already seen how much retrofitted buses can clean up the air in busy London hotspots, and now with our retrofit programme complete on our core fleet the whole of the city will benefit from improved air quality.
“We will press ahead with our electrification programme and investments in other green technology to ensure all buses in London are zero emission by 2037 or hopefully, if traditional financial support can be found, sooner.”
Since 2017, around £85m has been invested in the retrofitting programme. Additionally, TfL has introduced more than 400 all-electric buses, with a further 300 expected to join the fleet by year-end. There are plans for 2,000 electrified buses to be in operation by 2025.
Scania’s new disengageable tandem bogie axle is said to provide more sustainable multi-wheeler operation, reducing fuel consumption by up to 3%. The LDTA (liftable and disengageable tandem bogie axle) can also reduce a vehicle’s turning circle when lifted, with actuation taking less than 25 seconds. The new axle is compatible with the RB662/R660 range for 6×4 and 8×4 applications. Fuel savings are attributed to the reduced friction inside the disconnected axle gearing when lifted. 19-, 21- and 26-tonne bogie design weights are available with load limits with the second axle lifted being 9.5, 10.5 and 13 tonnes respectively. Vincente Connolly, Scania (GB) UK sales director, said, “This is a highly desirable function for customers in a variety of applications, such as construction and timber haulage. Our engineers have determined that substantial fuel savings are achievable, especially for vehicles which make multiple drops every day and run empty on the return leg. In addition to improved fuel economy, operators also benefit from less tyre wear and increased manoeuvrability. Axle lift and disengagement is carried out remotely by the driver in the cab, with automatic override if an overload situation is identified. When the axle is lowered, drive is automatically re-engaged. With normal chassis height and tyres, tag-axle ground clearance is almost 70mm.
A joint venture between Group Renault and Plug Power will focus on the development of a new range of alternative fuel vans. By developing the vans, fuel and refuelling infrastructure, the companies aim to secure a 30% share of the European fuel cell-powered van market.
The venture will first focus on the Trafic and Master platforms with the aim of deploying the first vans into pilot fleets later in 2021.
Renault CEO, Luca de Meo, said, “This joint-venture project is fully aligned with our strategy to offer market-ready H2 solutions for LCVs. With Plug Power, we will build a unique end-to-end fuel cell value chain and offer turnkey solutions for customers including vehicles, refuelling stations and decarbonised hydrogen delivery.”
Part of the project is to establish a unique Innovation Centre for the development of fuel cell technology and hydrogen fuel cell LCV vehicles based on existing and future Group Renault platforms.
As part of its purchase of HRVS Group, MAN Truck & Bus UK has acquired five dealerships across central England. As MAN franchised agents, HVRS has previously supported the manufacturer’s customers with sales and service for over 17 years.
The dealerships are part of a £20m commitment from MAN into its UK branch network and are located in Ripley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sheffield, Scunthorpe and Sleaford. The deal also includes a workshop in Burton upon Trent.
MAN Truck & Bus UK CEO, Thomas Hemmerich, said, “The acquisition will undoubtedly strengthen our wholly-owned brand network which, following the HRVS purchase, now numbers 24 vehicle service and sales locations. We’re very excited to be adding these five new locations and pleased to be welcoming new and highly experienced colleagues to the MAN family.
“We’re keen to integrate HRVS into the MAN Truck & Bus UK team as soon as possible, starting with the transfer of the HRVS employees.”
Hemmerich added that HRVS would continue to operate as usual.
TIP Trailer Services has launched its new BrakePlus dedicated Electronic Braking Performance Monitoring System (EBPMS). The system aims to eradicate the need for physical roller brake tests throughout the year, reducing cost and vehicle downtime by providing precise monitoring of performance and updates to fleet managers.
The system measures braking performance using a trailer’s electronic controls and produces reports to help operators remain compliant with DVSA. Under-performance triggers an email alert, meaning that manual system monitoring is no longer required. TIP stated that its research suggests that the true cost of performing a roller brake test is £100.
TIP Trailer Services managing director UK & Ireland, Mike Furnival, said, “For a while now, DVSA has considered EBPMS to be a valid means of assessing trailer braking performance, the output from which can be used as compliance evidence that forms part of an operator’s maintenance records. After nearly two years of developing the system, including a year-long trial with several fleet operator customers and nearly 100 UK-based trailers, we are delighted to add this capability to our range of trailer services.”
The nation is braced to accept ‘the new normal’ and it is no different for the transport sector. Fleets have treated the boom in home deliveries – the latest lockdown announcement sparked contingency measures, such as virtual queuing systems and restricted website access, from some of the UK’s largest online grocery retailers – as an opportunity to expand fleets and challenge established operations through accelerated adoption of alternative fuels and more efficient processes.
Part of the response from supermarkets since March 2020 has been to vastly expand home delivery slots, while some have embarked on novel partnerships with companies such as Deliveroo to grow physical capacity. Parcel delivery companies have experienced a huge upturn in demand for their services and have seized the opportunity to expand fleets while embracing emissions-reducing technology and adapting their approach to last-mile deliveries.
DPD, for example, recruited 3,500 new drivers and expanded its fleet of electric vans from 130 at the start of 2020 to more than 700 by year-end. Handling more than a million parcels a month during traditionally off-peak times, which its CEO Dwain McDonald describes as “more akin to the festive seasonal peak,” more than 10% of its van fleet is now electric. The company will also be trialling the world’s first 16-tonne electric truck, the Volta Zero in early 2021, is working with Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV) to develop a new lightweight zero-emissions delivery vehicle and is partaking in trials of the new LEVC VN5 and Vauxhall e-Vivaro electric vans.
“We originally targeted 500 EVs this year,” says McDonald. “Despite everything that has been going on, we’ve been really focused on getting EVs on the road and delivering for us this year. Yes, you need to be trialling new technology and looking at future concepts, but you have to start making the difference now.”
Asda has increased its home shopping capacity by 90% in the face of growing demand, offering nearly 850,000 weekly delivery slots. Fleet expansion – including 25 new ‘sustainable delivery vans’, that offer 10% mpg improvement alongside larger cargo and 300kg reduced weight through use of recycled plastic water bottles as insulation – is only one aspect of its capacity ramp-up. The company doubled its Uber Eats partnership, which provides 30-minute deliveries from 200 stores nationwide and also trialled an EAV cargo bike suitable for urban deliveries: capable of 15mph, it can carry 10 totes of shopping, the equivalent of two customers’ orders.
Tesco, now completing 1.5m online grocery orders a week, announced its ambition to operate fully-electric fleets by 2028 and hit net zero emissions in the UK as a company by 2035. The grocer rolled out a fleet of 30 new electric vans on to the streets of Greater London in November alone and has created 20,000 new permanent jobs since the start of the pandemic to “support the exceptional growth” of its online business. Of these jobs, 3,000 were drivers.
Waitrose is also aiming to fulfil increased orders and tackle the need to reduce emissions by doing more than simply expanding fleets. The company now completes four times as many home deliveries – 200,000 per week with plans to increase capacity to 250,000 – than pre-Covid-19 and, in September, embarked on a trial with Deliveroo to complement its existing fleet.
The store, alongside John Lewis, also announced plans to end the use of fossil fuels in its fleets by 2030, “saving over 20,000 tonnes of CO2 every year.” The plan is to achieve this through adoption of electric delivery vans, with trials beginning soon in 2021, and development of a biomethane gas filling station for its HGVs. This will, says the company, reduce CO2 emissions by 80%.
“As our online services rapidly expand, we’re working hard to meet our goal of operating a zero fossil fuel fleet in the next 10 years,” explains Justin Laney, partner and general manager of central transport at the John Lewis Partnership. “Our new electric vans are an ideal solution for home deliveries; the innovative design means they’re more efficient (increased capacity means that two electric vans can replace three diesel vehicles), but also respectful to the environment.”
Growth of EV van fleets is a trend continued by Co-op, which last week introduced a fleet of eight new Mercedes-Benz eVito vans to complement the emergence of Appy Shop and Snappy Shopper platforms. “The impact of our operations on the environment sits at the heart of every decision we make, which is why the eco-credentials of the vehicles used to launch these two new services had to be front and centre,” says Gary Tomlinson, central England Co-Op transport manager, of the investment, which includes the installation of charging points at participating stores across Norfolk, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Birmingham and Derby.
January’s announcement from Amazon, that it has been given the go-ahead to build a London last mile logistics hub, echoes the view of Waitrose & Partners executive director, James Bailey, that, “Even before Covid-19, there are few retailers that wouldn’t have predicted the continued growth of e-commerce relative to physical shops.” However, while online demand grows, it actually presents an opportunity to streamline logistics operations and, in some examples, reduce the number of vehicles on the road. In a bid to drive down emissions in central London, Amazon’s logistics hub will, says the company, result in 23,000 fewer journeys in the region each year with 85 fewer vehicles on the road every day.
To help with reducing congestion and emissions, Amazon states that the final leg of its central London parcel deliveries will be completed by e-cargo bikes or on foot. This will cover a 1.2-mile radius of the hub in London Wall Car Park – including the entirety of the City of London and some parts of central London.
Consortium Purchasing, led by William Stobart, has placed an order for at last 2,250 trucks from Scania. The deal is the largest ever placed in Europe for its commercial trucks.
The trucks, which will remain in service for three years, will be supplied over the next two years and include P-, G-, R- and S-series tractors and rigids, plus multi-wheelers. More than 1,000 trucks will be operated by Eddie Stobart, with the others spread across AW Jenkinson Forest Products and the third member of the consortium, WS Transportation.
William Stobart, executive chairman of GreenWhiteStar Acquisitions, which owns Eddie Stobart, said, “We are absolutely delighted to have placed this order with Scania, especially in such challenging and uncertain times. Scania’s latest generation of vehicles – which we have now operated for three years – are continuing the long tradition of excellent service, reliability and good fuel performance we have come to expect from the brand.”
Each vehicle will be supplied with a full repair and maintenance contract with all work to be carried out by the UK Scania service network. This is the sixth instance of companies associated with Eddie Stobart placing orders in excess of 1,000 units with Scania.
Scania UK sales director, Vincente Connolly, said, “We look forward to fulfilling the order and working with the team within the consortium to deliver the best possible service and total cost of operation for every vehicles in this agreement.”
According to Eurostat data, almost 90% of the UK has bought something online in 2019. Furthermore, the surge in home deliveries caused by Covid-19 has inspired a significant rise in the number of delivery vehicles on the road.
While current industry attention has so far been on rigorously maintaining van fleets to ensure continued safe operation, Euro NCAP are hoping to shift that focus to enhancing vehicle safety in the first instance and, where possible, avoiding accidents. To do this, the vehicle safety and research body has launched the world’s first Commercial Van Safety Rating. They applied Euro NCAP 2018 Safety Assist protocols to 19 of the most popular vans, which make up 98% of UK sales in 2019.
The organisation assessed the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) of vans in the hope of inspiring greater take-up of crash avoidance technologies in new van orders, and encouraging standardisation of safety equipment ahead of 2024’s General Safety Regulation (GSR) for ADAS technologies. Euro NCAP claims that the ratings will help fleet operators to make safer choices and ultimately save money by reducing vehicle downtime and insurance premiums.
“Commercial vans are big and heavy compared to passenger cars so, if they crash, they can do a lot of damage and cause serious injuries to others,” says Euro NCAP secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen. “Active safety systems exist which can greatly reduce the likelihood of a collision with other cars, or with pedestrians or cyclists. These technologies are already commonplace on passenger cars but much less widespread on vans. Given the millions of vans on the roads, increasing the active safety systems fitted to commercial vehicles is key to improving safety for all road users.”
The new ratings system has also been met with approval from Highways England programme, Driving for Better Business, plus vehicle insurers.
“The fitment of AEB and other ADAS technology to vans could be a massive step forward in road safety, however fleet operators who don’t demand this technology could be missing out on the potentially huge associated business benefits,” says Simon Turner, campaign manager for Driving for Better Business. “Van fleet operators tell us their biggest concerns are the business disruption caused when vans are off the road for repairs and the rising cost of insuring their vans – often a result of their collision record.”
Jon Dye, director of underwriting for motor at QBE Europe agrees, “Making sure vehicles on the road meet certain standards and better utilise ADAS technology will help reduce accidents and improve road safety. This may also lead to a reduction in those insured and uninsured losses resulting from accidents, helping to reduce the overall cost to drivers and businesses as well as controlling insurance premiums in the long run.”