What is Refrigerated Trucking?

Jun 1, 2018 | Refrigerated Trucking

Refrigerated trucking can also be referred to as ‘reefer’, or ‘temperature controlled’. It is a method of freight shipping that focuses on transporting foods and perishable products that need to be handled via temperature-controlled transportation. The truck and trailers which haul these products have an in-built refrigerator called the reefer unit which can be set to the required temperature needed for preserving all products in a controlled environment.

Advantages of refrigerated trucking:

There are many advantages of refrigerated trucking. It is the ideal option for shippers who need to transport their products safely in a temperature-controlled environment to maintain the cold chain.  Some of the things you gain from using a refrigerated truck include:

  1. Demand and Supply: The demand for fresh foods will always be high. Refrigerated trucking is essential to safely transport these fresh and frozen foods all over the country, yet still maintaining its integrity.
  2. Wide variety: In addition to transporting foods that require temperature control, refrigerated trucking can be used to transport several other products that require temperature control such as pharmaceuticals, plants, personal care products, etc. Refrigerated trucking also can protect commodities from freezing.
  3. Protection: One of the greatest benefits of refrigerated trucking is its ability to protect the products being transported from spoilage or spreading foodborne illnesses.

Best Practices For Refrigerated trucking

  1. Identify shipping needs: As far as requirements for temperature is concerned, all items are not equal. Proper quality testing is required to understand how your commodity reacts in certain temperature ranges. It is important to understand water content, the density of products, and the proper handling of the product.  Some sensitive perishable items include seafood, meat, pharmaceuticals, plants, dairy, vegetables, and fruits.
  2. Load speedily: Ensure that products to be shipped are always set for loading to avoid spoilage. The cold chain needs to be maintained to protect product integrity.
  3. Shipment monitoring: Although the driver is responsible for the safety and security of the products while in transit, many reefer trailers temperatures are monitored in the office. Technology today allows a dispatch or quality assurance professionals to monitor temperatures, set temperatures, or change temperatures while the truck is in transit.  Additionally, shippers can adhere to a temperature monitoring device to a pallet or box for the shipment.  This device can alert them when the temperature in the trailer surpasses a predetermined threshold.
  4. Pre-cool: Shippers should require all temperature-controlled carriers to pre-cool their trailers to the appropriate setting prior to unloading. Shippers should verify the reefer is at or near the setting prior to loading.
  5. Continuous Run: Temperature controlled reefers have the ability to be set to run continuously or start/stop mode. To ensure consistent temperatures, the continuous mode is preferred.  Start/Stop mode allows the reefer to turn on once the temperature in the trailer exceeds a threshold.  Once the temperature is in range or at the setpoint, it will turn back off.  Start/Stop mode reduces fuel consumption, hence saving operating costs.
  6. Procedures for unloading: Similar to the process of loading, products also have to be speedily unloaded and in an efficient manner. Reefer units are frequently run during the process of loading and unloading, however, this is dependent on the rules and preferences of the shipper or receiver.

Frequently Asked Refrigerated Trucking Questions

Q: Can LTL shipping be done on refrigerated trucking?

A: Yes! Temperature controlled LTL is a niche offering. Many claims to do it, however, there are only a select few that actually handle the products. Be sure to ask the provider if they are actually handling the product and if the loading docks are temperature controlled.  Maintaining the cold chain is imperative. Also, confirm the provider can maintain your specific temperature requirement.

Q: Can I transport products that aren’t temperature sensitive via refrigerated trucking?

A: Sure, refrigerated trucks can be used to transport any kind of goods and this is also very commonly practiced.  Although, be aware that most temperature-controlled trailers have insulated aluminum flooring and insulate walls.   This reduces the loading cube versus a typical dry van.

Q: Can we use refrigerated trucking to ship frozen goods?

A: Of course. Temperature controlled trailers have microprocessors that allow the drivers to set the temperature specific to the commodity.  It is important to know, however, that deep-frozen commodities such as ice cream require specialized trailers.  Typically there is more insulation in the walls, ceiling, and floors.  Additionally, the reefer unit and coolant would be specific.