Reefer Trailer Basics

If you currently run (or are interested in running) reefer trailers, you undoubtedly have more challenges that dry van drivers.  Here are some of the basics of operating and maintaining reefer trailers that apply to both owner operators and trucking companies.

 Load Selection

The first main issue for reefer load selection is start/stop versus continuous modes.  In start/stop mode, the cooling unit only runs when it is actively cooling the load.  In continuous mode, the unit runs constantly.  Start/stop mode saves gas and reduces running time on the unit.  Continuous running will require more fuel and maintenance expense for the unit.

Second, know the details of your load.  The small details of trucking a reefer load may play a large role in profitability for trucking companies that run reefer units.  For example, if you have the choice between start/stop and continuous loads, the start/stop load may be more profitable.  Make sure you negotiate the acceptable bands of temperature, and run your unit accordingly to use the least amount of fuel.  This is especially important if you are a small company or independent owner operator.

Reefer Maintenance

Properly maintaining your reefer unit is important for maximum effectiveness with minimum cost.  In the best case scenario, you should be running a well maintained trailer and operate it properly. 

Pre-trip inspections rely heavily on the built-in electronic self-diagnostic systems, but units should be checked regularly for oil leakage at both engine and compressor. Belts and hoses should be checked regularly, too. Standard units call for oil and filter changes at 1,500 hours, or about once every few months, depending on how much the reefer operates when the truck is idle.

Don't run a reefer unit with the doors open.  This wastes fuel, and increases your costs.

Balance the use of fuel and insulation.  Refer trailers with think insulation will cause the reefer unit to use less fuel, but will be heavier.  Your truck engine may be working harder to pull the heavier trailer, negating the fuel savings from the insulation.

Make sure the reefer motor and the trailer and in good working order to maximize efficiency.

Know the controls of your unit.  Whether you run your own reefer trailer as an owner operator, or manage a fleet of trucks, properly trained drivers can maximize the use and efficiency of the reefer unit.


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