A reefer trailer means a refrigerated trailer, not that it hauls marijuana (although it could). In this article we will go over all things reefer.
What is a Reefer Trailer?
A reefer trailer is a trailer that has a built-in cooling system, usually powered by diesel fuel, to keep freight cold. Reefers are commonly used for produce, but can be used for anything temperature-sensitive, such as computers, candles, and blood plasma. They are usually used to keep freight cold, but a reefer can also be used to keep items warmer, such as preventing blood plasma from freezing en route to northern Maine.
How Does a Reefer Trailer Work?
Reefer trailers use the science behind Boyle’s law to remove heat from the trailer interior.
Boyle’s law states that pressure, volume, and heat are all linked to one another.
The refrigerant normally has a very low boiling point, but the reefer trailer uses diesel fuel to power the compressor to turn the refrigerant into liquid by compressing it. It then cools this liquid by using the wind outside with a cooling fan, not unlike a radiator for a vehicle. The system then lets the cooled liquid back into the trailer, where it is no longer compressed and is free to become a gas again, much cooler than it was at the start of the process.
Beyond removing heated air from the unit, the reefer is lined with aluminum to better insulate it and slow the outside temperature from leaking in.
The History of the Reefer Trailer
When trucks first came to market, any produce that needed to stay cool had ice put next to it, and the driver hoped for the best.
This changed with Frederick McKinley Jones, an inventor known for two revolutionary inventions: a device to add sound to film, and around 1938 the first portable air-cooling unit for trucks. He started a trucking company with a business partner, and used this new technology to become rich.
Frederick McKinley Jones’ invention helped deliver fresh supplies to the Allied Forces of World War II, a great advantage over the Axis powers.
He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007, where he is listed among Thomas Edison (lightbulb), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), and George Washington Carver (peanut butter).
Logistics of Logistics
Here are some things to keep in mind while hauling one of these trailers.
They are intended to keep objects at the desired temperature, not to cool or heat them. If you add frozen meat, it should stay frozen, but adding fresh meat and expecting it to cool down on the trip will most likely lead to it rotting.
Items such as candles and ice cream cannot easily be turned back into their original form when heated for a time. Newer reefer trailers are “smart” and can alert the driver of a problem when the inside of the reefer becomes too hot.
Current regulations require reefer trailers to be able to track their internal temperatures at all times so that safety inspectors can know if the inside of one reaches an unsafe temperature, and if so for long enough to ruin the cargo.
Reefer trailers have their own diesel supply, so operating them takes more fuel per mile than a standard dry van.
Reefer trailers tend to be heavier than a dry van counterpart, which means less cargo can be carried while operating within legal weight limits.
Reefers can be run in cycles or continuously. Continuously never stops, while cycle mode turns on when the inside reaches a set temperature and turns off when it hits another temperature. Cycle mode saves on diesel fuel, but there is a greater risk of the cargo melting or going outside of acceptable temperature ranges.
Because of its machinery, reefer trailers are more expensive than their flatbed and dry van counterparts.
The reefer shipping market often has its largest season from March to September, when most fruits and vegetables in the United States begin to ripen.
Financing requirements for a reefer trailer are comparable to those of a semi truck. Requirements include:
- The reefer having fewer than 12000 hours of runtime.
- 650+ credit score.
- Time in business three years or greater.
- The owner of the company has a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
If you are interested in getting one or more reefer trailers, TopMark Funding can help! We use a network of 30-plus lenders to get you the best deal for your credit scenario. Fill out the contact form for more information.