Electric Refrigeration Reduces Fuel Consumption and Noise

Electric Refrigeration at Meals on Wheels People

When parked, it’s a common practice for operators of refrigerated trucks and trailers, also known as reefers, to maintain proper temperatures by idling the auxiliary diesel generator in their transport refrigeration units (TRUs). But just because it’s commonplace, doesn’t make it cost-effective—or healthy for the surrounding area.

That’s why Portland, Oregon-based Meals on Wheels People—which provides meals for seniors in the Portland metropolitan area—now powers the TRUs in its fleet with electricity. Thanks to guidance Meals on Wheels People received from the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition (CWCCC), the nonprofit’s trucks now leave the loading dock early each morning to deliver food to regional outlets, then rely on electrified parking spaces when they return in the middle of the day to restock for afternoon deliveries. Meals on Wheels People’s fleet has seen substantially reduced operating costs and emissions since it made the switch—all while ensuring their cargo stays at the desired temperature.

As an added bonus, employees who work in the dock area and adjacent offices, as well as nearby businesses and residences, say they have noticed less exhaust fumes and enjoy a quieter operation overall.

“More than 20 refrigerated fleets are participating in our technical assistance project, which received support from an Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Prevention Program grant,” said Brian Trice, CWCCC coordinator. “Once fleets learn about idle-reduction technologies and best practices, it’s usually an easy decision for them to make a change in their operations.”

CWCCC is working in partnership with a variety of its coalition members—such as CleanFuture, Shorepower Technologies, Portland State University, Transportation Research Education Center, and Forth (previously called Drive Oregon)—to promote electrified idle reduction in refrigerated fleets. With support from the coalition’s joint technical assistance project, four other fleets in the region have implemented TRU idle-reduction projects, and many more fleets are in the process of evaluating their options.

The choice to install electrified parking was clear for Meals on Wheels People after its Green Team reviewed an idling analysis, which laid out the financial and environmental benefits of moving to electricity. The analysis was conducted by CleanFuture as part of CWCCC’s technical assistance project.

“Few fleet operators realize how much fuel is wasted in parked reefers that could be saved with shore power electricity,” said John Thornton, president of CleanFuture.

CleanFuture has found that it’s common to find a delivery fleet’s TRU idling about 40%-50% of the time while parked at distribution centers.

“Operating refrigerated trucks and trailers while they are parked is unfortunately an accepted status quo,” Thornton said. “We’re working to share information and identify cost savings in each fleets’ operation. Electric TRUs, combined with electrified parking spaces, are a win-win because they provide a cost-effective and healthier solution overall.”

Technology and Strategic Solutions to Reduce Pollution at Moving Forward Network Conference

Join us at the Moving Forward Network Conference on October 13-14 in Carson, California.

Moving Forward Network

The Moving Forward Network builds the capacity of network participants working to improve the freight transportation system in the areas of environmental justice, public health, quality of life, the environment and labor.

John Thornton of CleanFuture will join a panel on the use of technologies and efficiencies to reduce pollution at ports and throughout the freight system. Hear about innovative approaches to meet the triple bottom line from the ship to the terminal and throughout the supply chain.

This FREE two-day conference will feature discussions and strategy sessions, including best practices and zero emission technology, as well as capacity building workshops in organizing, research, communications, social media, policy, and planning.

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Driving Down Refrigerated Transport Cost with Shore Power Electric Standby

Register here for a workshop on January 9 at Northwest Food & Beverage World 2017.

Refrigerated transport is being electrified – for operating cost reductions and in preparation for future compliance reasons. Learn how to reduce refrigerated transport operating costs by 40 to 70% by eliminating wasteful diesel fuel burn in parked units with low cost electricity. Hear from industry experts on best practices and technologies to operate refrigerated trailers on electric grid-powered temperature-control instead of using diesel fuel while parked at food manufacturing plants, loading docks, yard parking and staging areas at distribution centers, and at refrigerated warehouses.


  • Jeff Kim, President and CEO, Shorepower Technologies
  • John Thornton, Principal Consultant, CleanFuture, Inc.
  • Kevin Williams, Region Director – West, Carrier Transicold



Transport Refrigeration in California Sustainable Freight Action Plan

Transport refrigeration is identified in the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan in accordance with an executive order providing a vision for California’s transition to a more efficient, more economically competitive, and less polluting freight transport system.

According to the document “The Action Plan is the beginning of a process, and signals State government’s interest in collaborating with stakeholders on defining the actions necessary to make the vision for a sustainable freight transport system a reality.”

Citations related to transport refrigeration are excerpted below:

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CARB Workshop on Reducing Stationary TRU Emissions

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) scheduled the first in a series of public workshops to discuss proposed regulatory concepts to limit emissions from transport refrigeration units (TRUs) operating in California.

CARB is requesting stakeholder comment on reducing emissions from stationary TRU operations. The agenda for the public workshop to launch development of California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) air pollution control measure on stationary operating time limits for transport refrigeration units is posted here.

The basic concept is to reduce the amount of stationary run time of time TRUs operate in a stationary mode while powered by internal combustion engines on fossil fuel at certain California locations.

The regulation in development is described in California Air Resources Board (CARB) Sustainable Freight: Pathways to Zero and Near-Zero Emissions Discussion Draft document. The proposed allowable operating time limit for TRUs would decrease over three phases:

  • Phase I: 24 hours, effective January 1, 2020
  • Phase II: 1 hour, effective January 1, 2022
  • Phase III: 5 minutes, effective January 1, 2025

The workshop is on April 13 at 10 am Pacific time. The workshop will be webcast and questions/comments will be accepted by email during the webcast.

Further information the workshop and pending rule-making activities are posted on CARB’s Cold Storage Control Measure for TRUs Website.  .