SALINAS, Calif. — Fresh Express is using new technology to reduce carbon emissions from trucks loaded at its Salinas, Calif., processing facility.

Fresh Express testing cleaner trucks

Dawn Withers

Two refrigerated trailers are cooled using electricity at Fresh Express Salinas, Calif., loading docks. They will transport salads to a Safeway in Tracy, Calif., Feb. 18.

Working with Brent Redmond Transportation Inc., Hollister, Fresh Express is using new electric hook-ups as an alternative to diesel powered engines to keep product cool. The equipment allows the company to cool two refrigerated trailers during the three to six hours it takes to load them.

The company started the program Jan. 19, said Tom Shepherd, vice president of transportation for Fresh Express, and is preventing an average of 77 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere each day.

“This is a continuation of Chiquita’s commitment to environmental sustainability,” Shepherd said. Chiquita is Fresh Express' parent company.

Though the project is small — Chiquita fills about 130,000 loads throughout its entire network a year — Shepherd said it’s part of Chiquita’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint and expand environmental programs beyond its banana business, which has electric hook-ups at ports and distribution centers where the fruit is imported.

The two trailers, bound for a Safeway in Tracy, hum quietly next to louder diesel engines that fill all of Fresh Express' loading docks. Brent Redmond, president of the transportation company, said he was willing to take a risk on the technology when Fresh Express approached him about switching to an electric cooling system on a handful of trailers.

“I thought it was a no-brainer for me,” Redmond said. 

Out of a fleet of 133 trucks, Redmond has six trailers that use the combination electric-diesel cooling systems. One reason for the limited use, Redmond said, is that few buyers have electronic hook-ups at their retail stores or distribution centers, and Fresh Express is his only client, out of 600 accounts, that is also using the electric system.     

The trailers still use diesel to power their refrigeration systems during transit, and can switch to diesel during loading if the electric system fails.

Shepherd said Chiquita doesn’t yet have a time frame for expanding the program beyond its Salinas facility. But the savings, Shepherd said, could turn out to be significant because it only costs about 32 cents to cool the trailer with electricity, compared to $10 for the diesel needed to do the same thing.

Michael Johanson, who handles transportation, co-manufacturing, warehousing and logistics for Chiquita Brands International, said the company has a goal of eliminating about 30,000 pounds of carbon emissions through the pilot program in Salinas this year.