There was a time when perishable goods were rarely transported farther than around the town where they were grown or manufactured. Things are much different in today’s connected world. In the U.S., products are continually moving from coast to coast and everywhere in between, and they have to be properly protected throughout their journeys.

If your company sells items that require refrigeration, you probably use refrigerated trailers to transport them. The same is true if you use resources or raw materials that must be kept cool on their way to your location.

This article covers what refrigerated semi trailers are, how to use them, and what you should know about leasing this type of equipment.

What Is a Refrigerated Semi Trailer?

As the name suggests, refrigerated semi trailers have built-in cooling capabilities for keeping goods, like food, beverages, plants, pharmaceuticals, and others, at a controlled temperature while en route to their destination. Doing so helps maintain their quality.

Modern refrigerated trailers were developed in the 1950s. Prior to that time, truckers hauling perishable goods used trailers with ice-storage systems. While those trailers stayed relatively cool, they had many limitations, and products from meats to fruits and vegetables often arrived in poor condition.

Temperature control in modern refrigerated semi trailers (which are often referred to as reefer trailers or simply reefers) is managed by a Trailer Refrigeration Unit (TRU) mounted outside the semi trailer’s front wall. These units are most often powered by small diesel engines.

Reefers also have other adaptations for temperature control. For example, their walls are thicker than a standard semi trailer’s walls and heavily insulated. In addition, they typically have doors that seal more tightly to minimize the leaking of chilled air.

Proper air circulation is also essential for keeping loads evenly cool. So, refrigerated semi trailers have features that keep air moving to all areas.

Pointers for Leasing and Using Refrigerated Semi Trailers

When using reefer trailers, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Consider leasing over owning refrigerated trailers. With refrigerated semi trailers (and all types of semi trailers), leasing often makes more sense than buying for many reasons. This includes that you can return leased semi trailers when your needs change. That means you don’t have expensive equipment sitting idle. Plus, leasing gives you access to well-maintained, modern equipment. As an owned trailer ages, its value steadily decreases.
  • Get equipment from a trusted semi trailer leasing company. It is crucial that the features and functions of any type of trailer work as designed. The safety of the driver, others on the road, and the goods being transported depend on it. But the proper functioning of a refrigerated trailer is particularly important. Arriving at a destination and finding that the refrigeration unit failed along the way and the entire load has spoiled can be costly.
  • Ensure that compliance requirements are met. If the states you’ll be driving through have requirements for reefer semi trailers, it’s important that your trailer provider can confirm that the equipment you’re leasing meets them.
  • Work with a semi trailer leasing company with a large inventory. You never know when your equipment needs will grow. Consequently, it’s important to partner with a semi trailer provider that has access to a large inventory of reefer trailers. That may include equipment the company owns and also having an extensive network of suppliers from whom they can get trailers quickly as needed.
  • Get to know your leased refrigerated trailer(s). It’s vital to understand how to operate any reefer trailer you use. This includes knowing it can take around two hours for an empty trailer to reach the desired temperature and building that time into your schedule. You should also understand the trailer’s different features and functions, like continuous cooling versus cycled cooling.
  • Keep an eye on your fuel gauge. Letting your rig run low on fuel is never advisable, but that’s particularly true when hauling cargo that will have to be discarded if its temperature falls below a specified threshold.
  • Learn about loading and unloading best practices. As soon as you open the cargo door of a refrigerated trailer, the temperature begins to drop. Consequently, it’s critical to know how to get goods loaded and unloaded quickly to prevent spoilage.
  • Understand your cargo. Some types of refrigerated goods can tolerate minor to moderate temperature fluctuations. For other items, just a few degrees off the target temperature can have adverse effects. It’s essential to understand the requirements for every load you haul in a refrigerated semi trailer.
  • Monitor the trailer temperature closely. A well-maintained refrigerated trailer should have no problem holding its temperature setting. That said, it’s a good idea to ensure it is doing so throughout your trek, especially in hot weather. Most reefers have a built-in monitoring system, but you can also purchase monitoring devices.
  • Budget time for cleaning and sanitizing your trailer. Because reefers are often used to haul goods that can spoil, it’s crucial to clean and sanitize them regularly. The last thing you or your client wants is for you to arrive at your destination without incident, only to discover that the load has been contaminated by residue from a prior run.

Lease Reefers and Other Types of Semi Trailers From a Trusted Industry Leader

As noted above, you need to be especially careful when hauling goods requiring refrigeration. If poorly maintained equipment fails while you’re on the road, the results can be catastrophic—to that load, your relationship with that client and your industry reputation.

That’s why you should only work with a semi trailer leasing company with experienced owners, skilled maintenance teams and other staff, and a reputation for providing the highest-quality equipment in the industry.

Boxwheel Trailer Leasing’s clients throughout the southwestern U.S.—Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas—can attest to the expert assistance we provide in meeting their need for refrigerated semi trailers, dry vans, and lift gates. We have an extensive inventory of trailers from the best manufacturers, including Great Dane, Utility and Wabash.

If you have questions about our company and services, contact us today. We’re happy to answer them and discuss your semi trailer needs and operational challenges.

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