Pro Tips for Refrigerated Trailer Operation

Many fleets operate refrigerated trailers, or “reefers,” which require more attention than a normal dry van. Drivers responsible for a reefer load should not only understand basic functions, but also some of the more advanced mechanics of the refer unit functions to ensure quality of the product being transported. If shipping refrigerated foods, drivers should be aware and trained on FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) policies for hauling refrigerated freight.

Here are some advanced tips for drivers to consider when operating a refrigerated trailer:

Maintaining a Clean Reefer (From the Inside): Shrink wrap, labels and pallet pieces can easily get sucked into the refrigerated unit, causing cooling problems. Be sure to regularly inspect and clean the “return air” vents at the bottom of the refrigerated unit to prevent this. Vents should always be clean and free of any scrap pieces.

Defrost cycles: Drivers having cooling problems on a reefer unit should always consider running a manual defrost cycle. In the normal operation of a reefer unit, it is normal for ice to build up on the evaporator coils, causing cooling problems. Defrost cycles melt the ice build-up, causing water to drain from the unit. ALWAYS run as many defrost cycles as needed until NO more water is draining out, meaning that all the ice is melted. Defrosting is especially important in warm weather.

Properly reading product temperature: Any driver hauling refrigerated product should have a temperature probe or laser temping gun. For probes, place the metal probe tip between cases on the pallet to get an accurate loading temperature. The metal probe tip should NEVER be used to poke or pierce into the freight. Temp guns should be used within 6-8 inches of the product to ensure the most accurate temperatures. Please note that temp readings from laser guns can be affected by packaging, which is why our fleet uses probes. Be sure temperatures are documented on the bills and any out-of-range temps are communicated with dispatch BEFORE departure.

Checking the trailer chute: The chute on the ceiling of refrigerated trailers moves air flow from the reefer unit in the nose to the rear. This helps keep even cooling throughout the trailer box. Inspecting the chute should be part of your normal pre-trip for a reefer. Make sure there are no rips, holes, blockage or other damage that will affect air flow in route. Contact dispatch immediately with any problems.

Use these pro tips in your daily refer operation. Learning and respecting the mechanics of your refer unit will put you ahead of most other drivers on the road. If you have questions at any point in the process, contact your maintenance manager or dispatch team for more information.

Are there any tips we left out? Let us know in the comment section, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to our blog for more helpful articles.

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