United Natural Foods, Inc. Adopts New Transportation Technology to Reduce Emissions

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Thu. May 6th, 2021 - by Chandler James

PROVIDENCE, RI - With boots on the ground and tires on the pavement, the process of getting produce from field to shelf relies on esteemed distribution partners. United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) is one such partner, and it recently announced that it is adding 53 all-electric transport refrigerated trailer units (TRU) to its fleet located at a Riverside, California, distribution center. This effort supports UNFI’s Better for All 2030 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda. The company is reportedly one of the first wholesalers to utilize the innovative technology, and it 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 31, 2029.

Jeff Wismans, National Director of Fleet Operations, United Natural Foods, Inc.“Nearly 50 percent of UNFI’s direct greenhouse gas emissions are from our fleet of trucks and trailers. 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 under Better For All,” said Jeff Wismans, National Director of Fleet Operations. “Adding these TRUs comes after an exhaustive 4-month pilot testing the equipment through a variety of conditions with the intention to replace diesel-powered TRUs. 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.”

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 a unique auxiliary power unit to eliminate the requirement for diesel fuel to power the refrigeration system. Through this process, the refrigeration system provides multi-zone temperature settings with the capability of maintaining a full load of frozen product from minus 10 to minus 20 degrees F throughout the distribution route.

United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) recently added 53 all-electric transport refrigerated trailer units (TRU) to its fleet located at a Riverside, California, distribution center

To accomplish this work, UNFI is removing 53 of its diesel-powered TRUs from operation and utilizing Advanced Energy Machines (AEM), a leader 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 the trucks will 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 emissions.

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, a press release stated. 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.

Keep an eye out for these innovative vehicles as more and more operators adopt sustainable practices.

United Natural Foods, Inc.