UK temperature controlled-transport market booms

London, UK: The number of temperature controlled vehicles in the UK is set to grow by 28% reaching 172,000 vehicles in 2013.

The temperature controlled road transport industry has become a major part of the UK economy with 134,100 vehicles operating in the UK in 2010. This is the result of continuous increase in domestic consumption and higher standards of quality requirements of food products, pharmaceutical and healthcare products according to a report by TechNavio.

There has been a steady increase in the demand, particularly for articulated vehicles (semi-trailers) and this trend is expected to continue in 2011 according to the report: UK Refrigerated Road Transport Market 2010-2013.

“With the UK market gaining momentum after the recession, several trends have been aiding the growth of the road transport market. With the increase in population growth, there has been an increase in the number of eateries in the UK. This in turn is driving the demand for refrigerated road transport vehicles. Moreover with the economy gaining momentum, consumer spending is slowly increasing again. Thus, giving a major boost to the refrigerated road transport market,” TechNavio’s analyst says.

“Increased awareness about food safety among consumers has also been driving the growth of refrigerated transportation. End users are becoming highly cautious about the quality of food, which is driving the companies to opt for refrigerated transportation. Market players as a result are improving the efficiency of the vehicles and the refrigeration systems.”

“The most prominent trend in the UK refrigerated market is the focus on environmental issues. Low fuel consumption and reduced noise pollution will be key factors considered by refrigerated vehicle manufacturers.”

UK Case study: Marks and Spencer’s green blueprint

Marks and Spencer’s Plan A is a set of 180 environmental commitments described by its chief executive Mark Boland as an “integral part of our business [and] an integral part of the brand”.

Plan A dates back to 2006, when Sir Stuart Rose, chief executive at the time, decided that the retailer needed to go beyond traditional corporate social responsibility, in which M&S had a rich heritage.

Environmental issues were coming to the fore, while customers were becoming sceptical about the claims that big businesses were making. To move forward and stay one step ahead of customer demands, Sir Stuart believed that M&S should become a green business.

Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at M&S, says Sir Stuart saw that “part of our retail battleground will be in being a sustainable brand”.

Barry was tasked with translating Sir Stuart’s vision into a set of firm principles, that became Plan A – a comprehensive set of commitments to becoming a more sustainable business.

Just more than four years ago, M&S unveiled its original 100 commitments. These included making the company carbon neutral by 2012, as well as other pledges on climate change, reducing waste, use of natural resources, being a fair partner and improving its customers’ health and well-being.

Sir Stuart said at the time that the plan was “deliberately ambitious and in some areas difficult”.

According to Barry, the breadth of Plan A is one of its distinguishing features. “One of the reasons it has been well received is we have not cherry-picked any issue. We are tackling [everything],” he says.

Products are at the heart of Plan A, while developing a more sustainable supply chain is also critical. More than 20m people visit M&S stores every week, which adds up to 2.7bn individual items of food and clothing sold every year.

“[This is] a change management programme,” says Barry. “It is about changing how we do business, and engaging every employee and every customer in a more sustainable future.”

One initiative is in its temperature controlled goods transport fleet. M&S’s stores and transport fleet now use 20% less energy. It is also involved in trials by one its transport contractors, Gist, using a prototype closed system nitrogen cooling system for trucks.

On its cold store fridges, rather than replacements that use harmful greenhouse gases, it has opted for a more measured (and cheaper) approach of halving the carbon footprint of its refrigeration systems by 2015 by cutting leaks and using a kinder form of hydrofluorocarbons in these systems. It aims to eliminate the use of harmful HFCs from its refrigeration systems by 2030.

“Plan A is not about being dogmatic,” says Barry. In the case of revamping the refrigeration systems, “we are being sensible and pragmatic – delivering change, but in a way shareholders would understand and respect”.

Despite the challenges, M&S had achieved 70 of its Plan A commitments by last summer. It expects to increase this to 90 by the end of March. A year ago, it extended Plan A from 100 to 180 commitments.

The group has launched a £50m incubator fund to foster the development of new green products and services. Parts of the business compete for investment to explore new ideas in transport, logistics, and food and clothing production.

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