People in Gainesville, Georgia and all over the country rely on reefer trucks to bring fundamental and necessary everyday products to local stores.
Fresh food in all forms — whether it’s produce or meat — requires refrigeration as it’s being taken from the distribution source to the stores who sell it to consumers.
Without reefer trucks, people on the East Coast wouldn’t be able to enjoy avocados from southern California. Likewise, people in Nevada would never be able to enjoy the luxurious taste of a fresh lobster.
As with just about anything, there are pros and cons of having a reefer truck, which we’ll explain in full detail below.
What is Reefer Freight?
Reefer freight is any cargo that needs to maintain a specific temperature while it’s being transported. “Reefer” is in reference to refrigerated. Reefer freight can include any food product, pharmaceuticals or chemicals used in manufacturing.
Reefer trucks come in three different categorizations — maintained (also known as heated), refrigerated or frozen. Which type of truck is needed depends on the type of cargo that’s being transported.
Four Requirements Established in the Sanitary Transportation Rule
Food that is not transported properly can result in people getting sick from foodborne illnesses. Because of this the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set guidelines under what’s called the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule, which falls under the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The FDA rule applies to almost all food that is meant for animals and people and is transported by any type of equipment. There are four main requirements under the rule, including…
Equipment: Any equipment or vehicle has to be maintained and designed so that the food can be kept safe. It must be simple to clean and also keep that way. Plus, the refrigeration has to be able to keep the food at a stable temperature.
Operations: Everyone who is involved with shipping the food must ensure the food remains safe at every step of the process.
Training: All personnel have to go through training in these practices and provide proof that they’ve completed the training.
Records: All written training, agreements and procedures have to be maintained by the carrier
Exceptions If You’re a Carrier or If You’re a Shipper
Almost all carriers, loaders and shippers are covered under the STF. There are some exceptions, though, including
If you transport by air or ship
If your average yearly revenue is $500,000 or less
If it’s a Canadian or Mexican firm shipping food through America, as long as it won’t be distributed to the U.S.
If you’re a farm transporting goods
If you’re transporting food contact substances or compressed food gases
If you’re transporting food byproducts that will be given to animals with no additional processing
If you’re transporting food enclosed completely in a container, as long as it doesn’t need to be temperature controlled.
Best Practices for Transporting Reefer Freight
If you’re considering transporting refer freight, there are some best practices that you can follow to ensure you’re performing the job up to your best abilities — and according to federal law.
Here are some of the main things to consider.
Identify Temperature Requirements
As mentioned, different cargo will have different temperature requirements. If the cargo needs to be frozen, your truck will need to be programmed differently than if the cargo needs to stay heated.
It’s also a good idea to know if the cargo is perishable, and what the expiration date is so that you can ensure it is delivered in an acceptable timeframe.
Keep Jumper Cables Nearby
A reefer truck will suck up extra energy than non-reefer trucks. Even when you’re stopped to rest, refuel or eat, the reefer truck will need to keep running to maintain the temperature.
It runs off its own battery, but it’s susceptible to failing, just like any battery. So, make sure you have jumper cables with you at all times in case you need to restart them. This could help maintain the integrity of the cargo if the battery fails.
Precool Your Trailer
Your reefer truck needs to be at the proper temperature when you arrive to pick up a load — and that will take time. So, make sure to precool your trailer to the proper temperature before you arrive to get the cargo.
Load and Unload Reefer Cargo Quickly
Once you open the door to the trailer, the temperature will start to change and become harder to maintain. So, once you arrive at your destination, try to load and unload the cargo as quickly and efficiently as you can — without compromising the fragile cargo you have, of course.
Monitor the Shipment Closely
When you’re driving a truck, it’ll be next to impossible for you to know whether the trailer is working properly or not. Monitors and gauges will help you see what’s going on in the trailer when you’re in the cab.
Keep a constant eye on the temperature of the trailer, and make sure to have multiple monitors going at the same time in case one fails.
What is the Average Reefer Load Rate?
Like all trucking, load rates for reefer cargo can vary depending on the season and the region you’re serving. That being said, current rates sit around $2.97 a mile.
Generally speaking, Midwest rates for reefer loads are the highest, while those for the Southeast are the lowest. Rates also typically increase when demand is higher, which happens when you enter growing seasons for each region of the country.
Why Do Reefer Loads Pay More?
Reefer loads pay more for a variety of reasons. First, the trucks themselves are costlier to operate, and that cost gets passed onto the supplier. There’s extra work involved with reefer cargo and extra accountability on the trucking company and the drivers.
Typically speaking, reefer trucks will drive longer average hauls than dry trucks. More miles driven then results in higher pay.
How Do You Get Reefer Loads?
You can get reefer loads in a number of ways. One of the best sources of available reefer loads is through a trucking load board. These boards will list thousands of available jobs that require reefer loads, and many of them pay well.
So, if you’re ready to take on reefer loads, check out a load board and get started.