When you’re hauling fresh produce around the country, appropriate refrigeration is not only critical so that the goods remain edible, but also they remain FDA compliant. A refrigerated trailer needs to meet the standards for the items they’re carrying and stay at a specified temperature while en route.
Choosing the right refrigerated trailer is a little more complex compared to purchasing any other type of truck or van. It’s important to know what you’re looking out for as the last thing you want to do is open the back of your vehicle to a client and reveal a haul full of contaminated produce. This will impact not only your bottom line but also your brand reputation.
Before you pick up the keys, you should do your research to ensure that you know everything you need to about a reefer trailer. But to save you some time, here are the most essential things you should know.
How Is a Refrigerated Trailer Different Than a Dry Van?
When you inspect your first refrigerated trailer, you’ll notice a few key differences compared to a dry van. For starters, the walls, floors, and ceiling is made of either fiberglass or metal. You won’t find a reefer trailer with a wood interior as these materials improve insulation and absorb odors coming from the products you’re hauling.
The inclusion of these materials makes reefer trailers heavier. You’ll only be able to load a maximum of 43,500 lbs in a 53′ trailer. You’ll also find that refrigeration trailers are also newer, as the cooling units have a limited lifespan.
How Does a Refrigerated Trailer Work?
Despite the name, reefer trailers are not designed to keep products cold. Its purpose is to maintain a specific temperature while you’re on the road and traveling through a variety of climates.
The trailer does this by not adding cold air into it but removing the heat in the air from inside it. When this hot air passes over the evaporator coil in the trailer, it removes the heat and replaces it with colder.
What Type of Freight Is Suitable for Refrigerated Trailers?
Refrigerated trailers can ship any items that can get impacted by high or low temperatures. Naturally, perishable foods are nearly always shipped in refrigerated trailers in order to maintain its freshness. But there are some items that generally aren’t safe to transport in reefer trailers, such as:
- Pharmacy items
- Hazardous materials
- Liquids in bulk batches
- Chewing gum
It is possible to use refrigerated trailers to keep the air warm too. This often occurs in winter to protect certain products from freezing before they get unloaded at their destination.
Does Every Refrigerated Freight Item Have Different Requirements?
Once you’ve purchased your reefer trailer, you can’t just start loading it with the produce of your choice. In order for the items to remain in the same condition as they were packed, you’ll need to understand the best way to keep them refrigerated.
For example, if you chose to transport sweet corn, then you’d need to know the impacts a refrigerated trailer can have on it. You need to understand that sweet corn must be immediately cooled once harvested so that the sugar doesn’t turn into starch. To counteract this, you should throw ice over it once it’s harvested and again after it’s loaded in the van so it can melt while en route.
Shipping ice cream is completely different. The reefer trailer needs to be pre-cooled to the correct temperature. Any hotter or colder and the ice cream may get rejected by a client due to the condition it’s in.
Before loading anything in your intermodal trailer, you need to understand exactly what you’re transporting and how it needs to get loaded, cooled, transported, and delivered. You should ask a lot of questions and ensure you understand the part you play in making sure all of the items get provided as intended.
What Is the Food Safety Modernization Act?
In a proactive effort to protect the wellbeing of the public, the FDA published a set of Sanitary Transportation Rules. While the FSMA covers seven rules, the Sanitary Transportation Rules contains four specific requirements in relation to refrigerated trailers. The requirements are:
- The equipment used to transport good must be suitable and adequately cleaned
- Adequate measures must be taken to avoid any contamination
- Carriers must be trained in sanitary practices
- Records must be kept of procedures, agreements, and any training related to the safe transport of food
The FDA website has more detailed information on the FSMA. They have also created a guide and training module for drivers of refrigerated trailers.
Renting vs. Buying a Refrigerated Trailer
Before you start looking for a refrigerated trailer for sale, you should weigh up all your options. Another alternative is a refrigerated trailer rental, which can be ideal if the produce you’re transporting is seasonal.
If you’re shipping all year round, then having access to a reefer trailer can allow you to control the schedule instead of relying on a rental being available. You should also consider where you’re traveling from and to. This will determine your shipping times, the temperatures needed, and how much reefer fuel you’ll burn through on your travels.
Looking for More Cool Information?
It’s important to remember that a refrigerated trailer has a limited lifespan. Whether you’re looking to purchase on outright or hire one for a short project, you need to do your due diligence to ensure you’re not the one left out in the cold.
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