Making the right choice: staying ahead of the game in refrigerated transport

27th March 2019

The days of the ‘one size fits all’ approach to cold chain logistics could soon be behind us. Particularly when it comes to delivering loads in city centers, where the pressure is growing to reduce noise pollution and vehicle emissions.

It’s predicted that diesel will continue to play a vital role, but alongside it will need to be a portfolio of technologies – from hybrid to electric – to complement each other in moving items from long haul to the last mile.

To make this happen transport managers need choice. If inner-city deliveries need to be whisper quiet and zero on emissions, what are the best available options? What regulations will need to be met? And where should future investment be aimed to generate the best possible returns?

Let’s take a look.

Protecting city centers

Today, a growing number of metropolitan authorities is looking to uphold the European Ambient Air Quality Directive, which sets goals for cities to provide cleaner air and a better environment for all.

For example, in May this year Hamburg publicly announced plans to become the first German city to introduce a diesel ban. Driven by a big push on air quality, over two thirds of the city’s diesel cars will no longer be allowed inside the city center.

A notable event in a country renowned for its car industry – but also one where nitrogen dioxide thresholds are regularly surpassed in over 80 provincial cities.

Bans, but no coordinated approach

Not that Germany is alone. London remains a key trendsetter, while Milan will introduce a ‘progressive ban’ on diesel vehicles from next year, with a ban on all diesel vehicles entering the city center from 2025.

That said there remains an absence of any coordinated approach emerging from within the EU. With the exception of the Netherlands, all member states’ cities appear determined to create their own frameworks for introducing diesel bans and low emission zones.

Limiting the options

But what does this all mean for logistics and transport companies? Are these bans likely to demand an immediate move away from diesel? Or a more measured investment approach?

Well, the evidence to date points to the latter.

To start with there’s the fact that while full-electric light commercial vehicles are gradually making their way into the market, the high cost of full-electric heavy trucks is proving a significant barrier to adoption. Plus, the public infrastructure needed to support an industry-wide switch still doesn’t look close to being available anytime soon.

Right time, right place

So a gradual development is expected, with different ‘engine tech’ establishing their own unique places in the supply chain:

  • Long haul – diesel trailers, equipped with diesel or hybrid trailer refrigeration units
  • Distribution (low emission zones) – CNG or hybrid truck, equipped with hybrid or electric refrigeration units
  • Last mile (low emission + noise restrictions) – electric truck and electric refrigeration unit

For fleet managers, the choice of diesel, hybrid, or electric will thus come down to the proximity of urban zones. That’s not to suggest that such a choice is new, only that the boundaries for each technology will become more important – and more strictly enforced.

Give yourself the power of choice

No matter the pace of change, issues with diesel will remain a significant challenge for most transport companies. Especially since they already have a number of other rules to comply to, ranging from PIEK noise limitations to regulations dealing with refrigerants.

At Thermo King, we believe that this is where innovation takes center stage. By continuing to introduce powerful solutions (our SLXi line for instance is already fitted with engines that comply with NRMM Stage V), we’re committed to helping you win through capability.

What’s more, our newest full-electric unit, the E-200, stands as a testament to that ambition.