Hauling a refrigerated trailer is, in more ways than one, a “cool” job. It’s a very important job, too: refrigerated freight means that people aren’t just relying on you to reach your destination safely and on time, it’s just as important that your cargo arrives chilled to just the right temperature. From produce and poultry to pharmaceuticals and many other perishables, refrigerated trucks, or “reefer trucks,” make the transport of temperature-sensitive goods possible from coast to coast.
And yet, through only minor oversight and very bad luck, you could find yourself arriving at the end of a long route with a truck full of nothing but spoiled goods, meaning disruption to a delicate supply chain and big financial losses. A failure of your trailer’s refrigeration system is thus unacceptable to you, your company, and the people of the businesses you serve.
Fortunately, the good thing about a worst-case scenario such as this is that it’s quite easy to avoid. By taking the necessary steps to ensure peak performance of your refrigeration trailer before you hit the road, all you’ll need are some quick checks and the same safety you’d bring to any job, cool or not. Maintenance for refrigerated trailers is integral to truck drivers, trucking companies, and to a world that depends on the transport of perishable goods.
Refrigeration units don’t power themselves. Diesel fuel powers your cab’s engine as well as the generator for the trailer. Expect higher fuel consumption as you drive, and don’t risk running low. Plan to refuel more frequently and try to leave every station with your tank at least three-quarters full. This will keep the “E” on your fuel gauge from sneaking up on you as your engine keeps your shipment cold.
Don’t Forget the Fundamentals
Don’t forget that driving a reefer truck is, in many ways, just like driving a normal truck. The fundamentals don’t change. This includes doing all the same safety checks and upgrades you’d do on any truck, like making sure your lights are operating at peak performance and your mirrors are offering you maximum visibility. If you believe your lights could be brighter and more efficient, explore LED lights for your refrigerated truck. If you worry about the field of vision your mirrors provide you, a new wide-angle mirror lens could do the trick.
Refrigeration Unit Observation and Maintenance
The fundamentals of mobile refrigeration aren’t hard to understand. It functions a lot like your household refrigerator: a compressor, condenser, and evaporator exchange fluids and gases in an insulated space to cool the air. But just like many household refrigerator repairs are above your pay grade, trying to make repairs to your refrigerated trailer isn’t something you should try to do.
There are still measures you can take without taking apart your condenser. Keep an eye peeled for oil or fluid leaks from your truck—a cause for concern on any truck but especially one with so many additional moving parts. Make sure that the trailer is kept airtight and is not letting cold air escape, because this could dangerously overwork your unit. Pay attention to the temperature inside your trailer, which should be held at a constant temperature. If you notice the number inching its way up, down, or back and forth, you have a problem on your hands that you’ll need to report.
Like any automobile, parts break down. The fans, coils, and hoses of your refrigeration unit work hard, and they will eventually fail. That’s not your fault. All you can do is make sure that experts service these parts before it’s too late. Have your truck inspected regularly to ensure that this most critical element of your truck is functioning properly. There is a lot of reefer upkeep that you can do yourself, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts—or fans and coils—of the refrigeration unit, you should defer to the professionals.
You can think of the last step in the cycle of refrigerated trailer maintenance tasks as the first step of a new cycle. Conclude every trip with a thorough cleaning of your trailer to ensure no remnants from the last haul have stuck around. Fruits and vegetables are highly susceptible to hosting colonies of mold—mold that will contaminate and ruin an entire shipment. If you’re transporting raw meat, you run the risk of residual particles spoiling after the refrigeration shuts down, and pathogens from that raw meat running rampant inside your trailer. Whether you know what your next assignment will be, each trip must begin with the trailer as good as new.
The best way to begin cleaning your trailer is by pressure-washing the ceiling, walls, and floor, preferably with an environmentally friendly disinfectant that kills most bacteria and mold without being harmful to your own health. Following this broad-field cleanup, narrow in on any persistent stains or residue that require extra attention and elbow grease. Just as important as washing your trailer, is drying it. Damp, tepid conditions could lead to mildew and mold growing despite your best efforts to maintain a sanitary environment, making all your hard work for naught. Once your trailer is clean and dry, the attention to cleanliness doesn’t stop. Make certain that cargo is packed in such a way that no cross-contamination will occur within your shipment.
Driving a reefer truck is something of an honor. It’s a specialized job with big responsibilities, which should give drivers a special sense of satisfaction. When you drive a refrigerated truck, you’re not just transporting goods from Point A to Point B, you’re transporting the ingredients of a family’s special Sunday dinner, or the flowers that will become prom dates’ corsages, or the insulin a child with juvenile diabetes needs to thrive. Practicing proper maintenance for refrigerated trailers is extra effort, yes, but effort that should be worth your time. That effort could be great for your professional development, too. Taking initiative to report any issues and ensure peak performance of your reefer truck is the sort of attention to detail that should make you an indispensable part of your fleet—and that’s cool.