• TCS&D 2019 Dates: 25 & 26 June 2019. Location: East of England Arena, Peterborough


CoolKit is renowned for its conversions of panel vans in the temperature-controlled transport industry, but an increase in demand for box body vehicles has led to an expansion at the company.

TCS&D spoke to Design Engineer James Smith (pictured above) to discover how CoolKit has managed the creative process to transform paper plans into a vehicle with an impressive payload.

“Because it’s a new product line for us, we’ve had to essentially start from scratch with the structure, even the basic drawings,” explains James. “Having the creative freedom to produce this product has been a rewarding challenge for me.”

James has been key to setting up new and improved production processes for CoolKit, helping the company establish themselves as a quality box body provider since their first large batch of refrigerated box vehicles rolled off the production line in 2017.

“At CoolKit, we’re experimenting more with the process because we have the freedom to try things out. If it works, fantastic, we’ll release it. If it doesn’t, we’ll change it. There’s a lot more scope for prototyping and getting things right instead of sticking with what you’ve already got because it’s how it’s always been done in the industry.”
Developing a specialist refrigerated box vehicle has brought a wealth of customer benefits, most notably the increased payload and flexibility.

James said: “On our latest fleet of 10 box vehicles, we achieved an extra 150kg of load space per vehicle when compared to a competitor’s quote. The customer had originally been quoted a payload of 1050kg, but with a little bit of creativity and the use of innovative composite materials, we’ve delivered the magic 1201kg payload per vehicle.

“To do this, we’ve taken away some heavier elements of the construction without compromising on the strength or quality of the product. Over the fleet of 10 vehicles, that’s one and a half tonnes more that can be carried.”

The additional payload has helped the customer to reduce outlay – effectively providing an extra vehicle without having to add an extra driver and the associated vehicle costs – plus two trips can become one, helping to cut down on CO2 emissions and the customer’s carbon footprint.

Unlike panel vans, which are confined to a specific size and height, the box body is a freestanding structure that can be customised. This degree of flexibility is the ultimate tick in the box for the customer.

James said: “On a box body, your only limitations are legal requirements. We can make them any size, with doors placed wherever they need to be. Basically, whatever the customer wants from a refrigerated van, they can have with a box body.

“The sheer range of what we can do is vast. We’re here to help the customer create a vehicle that meets their needs.”

CoolKit’s Head of Operations, Steve Wilkinson (pictured below), has worked closely with James during the process.

“CoolKit will not accept the status quo when it comes to design and build techniques within this industry. We have listened to our customers and for those who are particularly payload sensitive, we have developed a solution.”

Steve said CoolKit has challenged itself not just to be on par with the competition but to beat it by some distance.

“If we entered with another ‘me too’ product we’d be waiting a long time to gain market share. By offering a payload that in some cases is 12% better than our competitors, it means customers can carry more in less journeys. It really changes the customers cost base and competitiveness, especially across a fleet.”

To achieve the impressive payload on their refrigerated vehicles, CoolKit have turned traditional refrigerated panel van construction on its head.

“The biggest factor in our growth has been the use of new composite materials in our panels. We have tried to exploit ideas that we have seen in other industries such as automotive and aerospace and marry them into our industry.

“It’s good to be progressive and challenge the norm, but we have to do it ambitiously but cautiously. We are taking ambitious baby steps.”