United Natural Goods Adds All-Electric Refrigerated Trailers to Fleet


United Natural Foods Inc., the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor of health and specialty food in the U.S. and Canada, says it is adding 53 all-electric transport refrigerated trailer units (TRUs) to its fleet located at the company’s Riverside, Calif., distribution center. 

The company is one of the first wholesalers to utilize the technology and comes as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced plans in January to impose zero-emission requirements on TRUs sold or operated in California by December 2029.

The all-electric TRU achieves zero-emission results by using a high-efficiency refrigeration system powered by roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels, a wheel-momentum generator, lithium-ion batteries and an auxiliary power unit to eliminate the requirement for diesel fuel to power the refrigeration system. Through this process, the system provides multi-zone temperature settings with the capability of maintaining a full load of frozen products from -10 to -20℉ throughout the distribution route.

UNFI says it is removing 53 of its diesel-powered TRUs from operation and utilizing Advanced Energy Machines (AEM), a company that specializes in the electrification of refrigerated trailers, to rebuild the units to all-electric specifications. UNFI will lease the TRUs through PLM Trailer Leasing for five years while the company continues to explore how they integrate into its operations. By operating the all-electric TRUs, UNFI anticipates it will save approximately 135,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year while reducing particulate matter pollutant emissions and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“These 53 all-electric TRUs will help us get a head start on the proposed CARB zero-emission requirements and are expected to allow us to decrease our emissions as we make progress on our climate action commitments,” says Jeff Wismans, national director of fleet operations at UNFI. “Adding these TRUs comes after an exhaustive four-month pilot testing the equipment through a variety of conditions. When we look at it from an operational standpoint, we’re not changing anything, but it gives us a fresh look at running our operations and finding additional efficiencies.”

To help reduce the cost of retrofitting the diesel-powered TRU, PLM applied for and received vouchers on UNFI’s behalf through CARB’s Clean Off-Road Equipment (CORE) Voucher Incentive Project. CARB launched CORE in 2017 to accelerate the purchase of zero-emission freight handling equipment in California by providing a streamlined voucher process to offset the higher cost of such technologies.

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