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UNFI’s Plan To Reduce Emissions: Adopting Zero-Emissions Emerging Transportation Technology

United Natural Foods, Inc (UNFI) has a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emission footprint in California. The company is adding 53 all-electric transport refrigerated trail units (TRUs) to its fleet at the Riverside distribution center. Aside from being electric, the TRUs achieve zero-emission by using a high-efficiency refrigeration system that is powered by solar photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof. It also incorporates a wheel-momentum generator, lithium-ion batteries, and a unique auxiliary power unit to eliminate its need for diesel fuel. Diesel isn’t just fuel for vehicles in a typical TRU, but also powers the refrigeration system in refrigerated vehicles.

This move helps the company stay on track with its Better For All 2030 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda. UNFI made commitments to take innovative action on global social and environmental issues that help transform the future of food. UNFI is one of the first wholesalers to utilize this technology, and the news comes just as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced its plans to impose zero-emission requirements on TRUs sold or operated in California by December 31, 2029. It’s good to see a company like UNFI leading the way well before that.

The all-electric TRU’s high-efficiency refrigeration system and the various complementary tech noted above can provide multi-zone temperature settings that allow the TRU to maintain a full load of frozen products from -10 to -20 degrees F throughout the distribution route.

UNFI will remove 53 of its diesel-powered TRUs from operation and utilize these new zero-emissions ones for at least the next handful of years. UNFI will lease the electric TRUs through PLM Trailer Leasing for five years. During this time, UNFI will continue to explore how it can integrate more into its operations. UNFI is anticipating saving around 135,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year, which will reduce particulate matter pollutant emissions and greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Jeff Wismans, the national director of fleet operations at UNFI, shared his thoughts. “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,” he said.

“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.”

Image courtesy of United Natural Foods, Inc.

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