Public Health England this week released a major report with wide-ranging actions local authorities could take to reduce air pollution. The report backs Dearman’s calls for action on transport refrigeration units (TRUs) powered by red diesel.

The headline-catching measure was to ban cars from idling near schools. But given the widespread usage of diesel and petrol cars and lack of affordability of clean cars, it is only realistic to look at measures that could have a sizeable equivalent impact but far quicker.

Tougher regulation for diesel transport refrigeration units

One such measure would be tougher regulation on diesel-powered transport refrigeration units (TRUs), in order to encourage a switch to cleaner TRUs. The report’s full paragraph on car idling (page 56) goes on to add: “A novel regenerative auxiliary power system is available on freight vehicles, which does not require the engine to run for temperature control of the refrigeration units.”

Dearman has innovated one such system and which has been successfully deployed by major retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, and major food producers like Unilever. We estimate that there are 26,000 auxiliary diesel TRUs in the UK, which every year emit 2,260 tonnes of nitrogen oxide, the equivalent of 1.5 million Euro 6 diesel cars, and 300 tonnes of particulate matter, the equivalent of 3.2 million Euro 6 diesel cars.

Ending artificially cheap diesel

This situation is enabled and exacerbated by diesel TRUs being able to use red diesel, which is the same as standard white diesel but comes with reduced taxes on it, making it cheap to use and hence disincentivising a switch to alternative clean technologies that are available.

Public Health England’s report (page 188) goes on to say that “increasing fuel duty/targeting diesels were assessed to be potentially feasible… Interventions which target fuels can also reduce emissions from other non-road sources, such as the use of red diesel, which was subject to a Defra call for evidence in 2018”.

Ministers were right to launch the call for evidence and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) expects to make an announcement on the future of red diesel this Spring. Ministers have taken a number of steps to tackle air pollution and this must involve sending a message that clean technologies, especially those backed with government funds, will not be undermined by artificially cheapened diesel.

Public Health England once again highlights the staggering figure of up to 36,000 premature deaths caused annually by air pollution. The ball is in the court of national and local government to drastically cut this figure, and if officials want a quicker solution than changing car habits but which will have a major impact, then incentivising a switch from diesel TRUs to clean ones is a no brainer.

Mo Saqib
Policy & Communications Officer

Dearman zero emission Transport Refrigeration

The Dearman Transport Refrigeration Unit is the first to meet all environmental challenges – and set new industry performance standards – all without having to compromise on cost.

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