Virtually all temperature-controlled operators are facing massive cost increases when the treasury’s controversial initiative to claw back funds from an already over-stretched transport sector comes into play next month on April 1st.

Graham Usher, Managing Director of Hultsteins, the hydraulic refrigeration and electric generator manufacturer, offers some advice and suggests a tried and tested solution to literally bypass the existing fridge engine and thereby, during transit, virtually dispense with fridge diesel altogether.

”I’m sure all temp-controlled operators are well aware that from April 1st, the Government’s mandate states that all TRUs must be emptied of red diesel and refuelled with white – which means a sudden and massive price increase for all. I’m not so sure however, that every operator has calculated how much this change in the law will cost or how they might avoid the problem in the first place.”

Hultsteins focus on two key product groups: Hydraulic drive fridge units, called EcoFridge, which use a hydraulic pump to draw energy from the rigid truck engine to drive the fridge; and Ecogen, a small electric generator which Hultsteins claims is an ideal and affordable solution to the cost increases which will hit the refrigerated sector in April.

Ecogen, says Hultsteins, does not replace the existing diesel refrigeration system, but instead works in tandem with the fridge trailer unit to generate a constant 400V – even at idle speed. This power, supplied via the tractor’s PTO, literally transforms the diesel unit into a hybrid solution which uses the TRU’s built-in electric motor to drive the fridge during transit.

Hultsteins add that a very small amount of diesel will be required from the tractor unit to power the generator, but even so, the company claims diesel consumption to the fridge unit will be reduced by more than 90%.

To this end, Hultsteins calculate that for a typical fridge unit operating for 56 hours per week and using 3 litres per hour, an annual fuel bill in the region of £9,000 can be expected. However, says Graham Usher, by fitting an Ecogen system the fuel cost per fridge unit can be reduced by around 90%, which means a pay back for the equipment in under two years.

Hultsteins also point to the guaranteed reduction in environmental impact: according to the company, Ecogen will reduce carbon and NOx (nitric oxide) emissions by up to 95%, while particulate pollution is also reduced.

”It follows”, says Graham Usher, ”that if no diesel is being used by the fridge unit, no emissions will be produced. Yes, a very small amount of additional diesel will be used by the tractor during transit, but the overall reduction in fuel is very significant.”

Graham goes on to explain that based on the aforementioned fuel and usage assumptions, a carbon saving of around 20 tonnes per year can be expected from each Ecogen system.

”Also, Ecogen is ideal for urban and night-time use because the TRU’s diesel engine will not be running” and in turn, the greatly reduced engine use means less maintenance, which extends the life of the fridge unit.”

As April 1st looms, Hultsteins advise temperature-controlled trailer operators to take stock of their situation and make the necessary preparations. ”If you operate Scania, Volvo or Renault, an Ecogen system can be quickly and easily retrofitted. Or simply retrofit a PTO, but remember to specify your next tractor with a PTO already factory fitted, so an Ecogen can be quickly put to use.” Advice taken on board by Managing Director, George McLaughlan of McLaughlan Transport:

“We ordered the new units with a factory-fitted PTO so the Ecogen system could be put to work straight away. We are the first in Scotland to benefit from Hultsteins’ onboard generators and with the price of diesel set to rocket in April and carbon emissions now high on the environmental list of concerns, it seems like the best thing to do.”