What have you had delivered recently? 

Whether it be flowers, frozen food, or pharmaceuticals – if it was cold, it was likely delivered by a refrigerated vehicle. There are about 400,000 of these delivery trucks on U.S. roads today, delivering frozen goods from distribution centers to grocery stores and to your door. 

Refrigerated vans, or reefer vans, are vehicles that provide temperature-controlled shipping by way of a refrigeration system and metal or fiberglass insulators that cool the truck. 

The demand for reefer vans will only keep growing, with estimates that the refrigerated truck market will be worth $13.9 billion by 2030. Growing consumer demand for packaged foods in addition to the rapid growth of the pharmaceutical and medical industries have contributed to this uptick.

This growing consumer demand and interest in sustainability make us  wonder, what’s the latest technology? What can we expect for refrigerated delivery in the future? 

Via Coyote

New developments to truck body and size 

Reefer vans weigh more than their dry counterparts since they require  extra insulation and a cooling unit. The cooling unit alone weighs around 2,000 pounds, and this limits the load capacity and efficiency of the vehicle. 

In collaboration with Thermo King, a well-known reefer manufacturer, Morgan Truck Body has made alterations to current truck bodies – revealing a sleeker, more efficient body that improves aerodynamics. 

The newer model includes an electric-powered transport refrigeration unit with maximum delivery range. -

Other retailers are using smaller, more lightweight trucks such as box trucks or cargo vans  for home deliveries. 

Exploring electric, solar & beyond  

Packaged foods, which have become consumer preference, can help cut down on food waste. But the trucks that deliver those foods can offset any gains because of their effect on the environment. The average CO2 emissions of a reefer van are 15% higher than that of a dry van, in addition to a quarter more fuel used by reefer vans. 

Electric

With these emissions in mind, companies are researching more environmentally-friendly ways to use reefer vans. The benefits of an EV reefer van include better temperature control, higher reliability, and fewer maintenance costs than traditional systems. 

Companies are also looking into hybrid options, which would combine the best of diesel and electric systems to offer a more flexible experience – fewer maintenance costs, a smaller environmental footprint, and the “dual-mode” option. 

Others are looking at electrifying only the transport refrigeration unit (TRU), since it contributes the most to the added emissions. Sunswap, a U.K. based company,  is among the first to have a successful trial run on a fully electric TRU. The next-generation technology provided 22 hours of frozen cooling time from a single charge. 

Solar

Energy equipment and solutions company eNow wants to take the solar route instead. These proprietary solar panels rest on the top of the truck, converting the sun’s energy into power for all of the truck’s moving parts, including its refrigeration unit. 

Reefer Monitoring Solutions 

Motive, an AI solutions company, has introduced sensors specifically for reefers. These sensors remotely monitor the truck’s temperature and humidity conditions in real time. Users can see all aspects of the truck in one place; including vehicle locations, telematics, and other reefer insights. The introduction of this technology makes reefer logs more accessible, while also reducing costs and truck downtime. 

Retailer Partnerships 

Since grocery delivery has skyrocketed, retailers are taking their turn at establishing stronger frozen delivery, investing in and partnering with other companies: 

  • *Amazon: Amazon co-founded Rivian for electric delivery in an effort to climb to 100,000 vehicles by 2030. The retail giant also launched Amazon Scout Delivery, a robot that can deliver temperature sensitive items such as food and medicine. 
  • *Canoo: Canoo teamed up with Walmart to expand its last mile delivery fleet to meet the consumer demand for same-day deliveries at a low cost. 
  • Nuro: Nuro launched self-driving delivery for Kroger’s groceries and Domino’s pizza in a temperature-controlled unit. 
  • Starship Technologies: Starship Technologies  announced a robot-based food delivery service at Missouri State University, delivering hot and cold meals across campus. 
  • Pine Melon: Grocery delivery service Pine Melon has partnered with Fluid Truck to utilize its fleet for customized reefer vans. These 2021 Dodge Promasters have been rented from Fluid Truck’s platform and are outfitted with Pine Melon’s design. The benefit of this partnership is that it allows for identifiable branding on Pine Melon’s part while still utilizing an already-established truck rental program that is consistent, convenient, and efficient. 

*Not refrigerated, but can be accompanied by a solid-state refrigerated tote in the vehicle.