Jason McDaniel | Commercial Vehicle Group
“Without further ado—let’s address the elephant in the room,” declared Amanda Bennett, before the first black curtain was pulled.

No bull: Utility brings Cargobull TRUs to U.S.

Oct. 30, 2023
New JV between trailer OEMs Utility and Schmitz Cargobull will deliver fully integrated, smart reefers with Cargobull refrigeration units to North American customers

FORT WORTH, Texas—A bullish new challenger to the big two transport refrigeration unit (TRU) manufacturers in North America emerged from under the curtains in a reveal attendees packed into Utility Trailer Manufacturing’s booth won’t soon forget during the International Foodservice Distributors Association’s (IFDA) 2023 Solutions Conference.

“Without further ado—let’s address the elephant in the room,” declared Amanda Bennett, newly appointed Utility director and fifth-generation member of the family-owned company, before the first black curtain was pulled, unveiling a new joint venture between Utility and European trailer manufacturer Schmitz Cargobull, dubbed Cargobull North America (CBNA), that will combine Schmitz Cargobull’s “ultra-low-emission” TRUs with Utility’s 3000R refrigerated trailers and TrailerConnect Pro telematics for U.S. and Canadian fleets.

Read more: Schmitz Cargobull reefer snares sustainability award

The Kroger Company will test the first 3000Rs equipped with CBNA’s 625 single-temperature and 655MT multi-temp hybrid TRUs, Utility reported.

“We are proud to be the leading North American producer of refrigerated semi-trailers, dry vans, and flatbeds,” Jeff Bennett, Utility president and CEO, told the throng of fleet, dealer, and supplier representatives who gathered Sept. 11 inside the Fort Worth Convention Center exhibition hall. “Today, we’re excited to announce a new achievement in our journey—the formation of Cargobull North America, or CBNA, a joint venture between Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company and Schmitz Cargobull—the European semi-trailer market leader and producer of transport refrigeration units. Like Utility, Schmitz Cargobull is a family-owned company with a rich history and reputation for high quality and reliability.

“Together, Utility and Schmitz Cargobull have established CBNA to bring you the Cargobull single- and multi-temp transport refrigeration units, or TRUs, and their integrated, advanced trailer telematics. This technology is new to North America, and will be available exclusively from Utility on our 3000R refrigerated trailers.

“Cargobull North America’s mission is to provide the North American foodservice industry a giant leap forward in terms of TRU fuel savings, reduced emissions, and advanced telematics.”

Utility and Schmitz Cargobull also hosted a launch party for 270 special guests, shared their plans to begin manufacturing TRUs in North America by 2026, and teased the production of fully electric TRUs paired with “battery-recuperation” axles that are “coming soon.”

“Everybody’s thinking about how they can incorporate EVs [electric vehicles] into their existing offerings,” Mark Allen, IFDA president and CEO, told Refrigerated Transporter. “So it’s definitely a good move for them, it’s futuristic—and they’re getting in front of where their customers ultimately are going to be.

“And we were very happy they decided to do it here. That was a big deal for us.”

European TRU leader

Schmitz Cargobull currently produces 6,000 TRUs annually and boasts more than 30,000 units on European roads, making it “the market leader in TRU technology in Europe,” the companies said. The hybrid diesel/electric technology revealed in Fort Worth already meets California’s stringent emission standards for 2030. It’s also compliant with California Air Resources Board (CARB) ultra-low-emission TRU (ULETRU) regulations without using a problematic diesel-particulate filter (DPF) or exhaust-gas-recirculation valve. And because the units can be plugged in at a loading dock, operators will lower emissions while maximizing cooling efficiencies.

“Our joint venture with Cargobull further positions Utility Trailer as a global leader in sustainability, fuel efficiency, and emission reduction,” Jeff Bennett said in a news release.

“We don’t just want to be the biggest, but also the best, holistic destination for everything reefer customers need, from strong and lightweight boxes to energy-efficient TRUs and high-tech telematics—all in one trailer.”

Additional advantages of CBNA’s new TRU units include a Hatz industrial diesel engine with “fuel-sipping” common-rail injection, a reliable hybrid powertrain, and noise-dampening options that come standard for quieter loading docks and the quietest diesel operation available in North America.

“It was only natural for us to enter talks with Utility Trailer,” said Andreas Schmitz, Cargobull CEO and chairman of the board. “They have in-depth market knowledge and a comprehensive dealer network, and, as we’re both family-owned and -operated companies, Utility and Schmitz Cargobull share many of the same values.

“I am very much looking forward to our collaboration. Above all, I am convinced that together we will provide added value to North American customers and revolutionize the market.”

Ramping up production

Jeff Bennett said the company currently is establishing channels for the flow of materials from Europe into Utility’s U.S. factories. The plan is to start with supplying smart reefers for smaller, niche customers before branching out to larger fleets. “It’s a process,” he told Refrigerated Transporter. “You’ve got to fill the canals up, get the flow moving, and build momentum. That’s always a challenge at first.”

But when demand starts to spike, the blue elephant will be ready, Schmitz maintained.

“We’re going to increase production capacity in Germany over Christmas break, and that will take our capacity up another 50%, and eventually we can double that, so we can serve the market here; and then, depending on how it develops, we will quickly move into production jointly here in the United States,” he said.

This story originally appeared on RefrigeratedTransporter.com.

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has nearly 20 years of experience as a journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.