The Cold Chain Federation is calling on Government to support the food supply chain’s work to tackle a key barrier to net zero, which continues despite the unprecedented pressures on these businesses from the impacts of Covid disruption, post-Brexit changes and the driver shortage crisis.

The Federation is asking 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 sets out include no TRUs (Transport Refrigeration Units) to be sold into the UK market containing refrigerants with a GWP (Global Warming Potential) 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. 

Shane Brennan, Chief Executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said: “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. 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.

“Transporting food at reliable low temperatures is so important to tackling the climate impact of food waste as well as to a safe and resilient national food supply, but a net zero food chain can’t be achieved without overcoming the complex 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 the result of 18 months of consultation with cold chain businesses, TRU and trailer manufacturers, refrigeration engineers and academics. The plan sets out four key target milestones:

  • Industry Target 1 – No transport refrigeration units to be sold into the UK market containing refrigerants with a GWP (Global Warming Potential) of more than 300 by 2025
  • Industry Target 2 – No transport refrigeration units should use refrigerants with a GWP of more than 300 by 2035 (in line with Kigali agreement)
  • Industry Target 3 – Ambition that no new diesel TRU should be placed on the UK market after 31 December 2029
  • Industry Target 4 – No vehicle operating on UK roads should be using a diesel powered TRU after 31 December 2039

The Cold Chain Federation’s report says that Government must enable the industry to meet these targets by:

  • Providing confidence and a clear deployment strategy for the technologies which will be backed to become widespread in the future to give operators confidence to invest
  • Providing a clear investment strategy to facilitate the installation of electric charging for vehicles and temperature-controlled trailers at depots and rest points, including addressing grid connection issues
  • Supporting the implementation of the plan with effective regulation to support industry efforts to better understand the number of refrigerated vehicles on UK roads and to maintain, or remove, older trailers from the road
  • Supporting the investment in trials or adoption of lower emission technologies through buying incentives such as direct grants on qualifying technology, additional tax incentives or allowances and by ensuring that research funding is allocated to realistic solutions
  • Ensuring temperature-controlled operators are taken into account when developing the freight system of the future as outlined in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan

The Cold Chain Federation has presented the new plan and proposed Government measures to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and the Department for Transport, and will await their responses.

Download the full Cold Chain Federation report (Part Three – The Journey To Emission Free Temperature-Controlled Refrigeration On Road Vehicles) at

Sign up to join the free Cold Chain Federation webinar on 20 October (10-11am) to introduce the new guide and hear from a range of industry operators and innovators on the challenges of decarbonising TRUs:

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