What Does Reefer Mean in Trucking?


The word reefer in trucking refers to a truck trailer that acts as a refrigerator. A reefer container keeps perishable goods and temperature-sensitive products fresh and safe while in transit. Reefers first came into being in 1925 courtesy of the ice cream industry. Reefers also have a heating option to warm the trailers up.

What Does Reefer Mean in Trucking?

How Reefer Containers Work

The refrigeration systems used in reefers are closed systems. Reefer units are designed to keep temperatures steady by removing heat. There are a few ways reefers keep food products and other goods refrigerated. In fact, one way is to use a diesel-powered generator. In this case, the generator attaches to the trailer. A small engine then drives a compressor. The gaseous refrigerant is drawn in by the compressor and then compresses the refrigerant by using pressure. This results in the gas being liquefied.

The gas then generates heat in the compressor body and the air surrounding it. Meanwhile, the warm liquid is conveyed to a condenser and flows through tubes to the exposed condenser fins on the outside. In turn, this cools the liquid in the cooler air which is drawn in by the fan of the condenser. The cooled refrigerant passes through an evaporator which controls the amount of cooling by using a measuring valve. The refrigerant then expands and returns to a gaseous state and absorbs heat around the finned coils. The finned coils transfer heat from the air traveling over the fins to the refrigerant. As a result, the trailer is cooled by transferring its heat to the evaporator.

Conversely, some refrigerated trailers make use of cryogenic cooling. This method of cooling involves melting carbon dioxide which has been frozen.

Reefer benefits

Reefers play an essential role in cold chain logistics. Reefer trailers have several benefits.

Meeting geographical demands

Reefer freight helps meet the demand for fresh produce around the country. Refrigerated truck drivers are able to transport fresh perishables to far-flung areas around the country.

Variety of use

Refrigerated trucking is not only for fresh produce. There are other products companies must transport at specific temperatures. These goods include personal care products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, plants, and some flammable products.

Safety and protection

One of the main benefits of reefer truck transport is the protection that it affords to materials and goods that are sensitive in nature. Temperature-controlled reefer containers protect goods against extreme weather conditions. Heat and severe drops in temperature can spoil perishables.

Reefer best practices

While there are commonalities, not all perishables or sensitive products require the same treatment. Below are some of the best practices in the refrigerated trucking industry.

Identify product shipping requirements

Given that different types of products have different temperature needs, the mantra of one size fits all does not apply. Therefore, it is important to identify perishable products from non-perishables and to ship them separately.

Quick loading

When transporting perishables, maintaining the required temperature of goods in every step of the cold chain to avoid spoiling is critical. Cold chain logistics requires products to be ready for loading, just in time. Timing is everything in the cold chain transportation process.

Shipment monitoring

All reefer trucks should have monitoring equipment so that the driver can keep an eye on the cooling system while on the road.

Off-loading procedures

Speed and timing are paramount from the moment the trailer doors open. In fact, it is quite common for reefer containers to be on and running during the loading and offloading processes.

Safe, fresh, and frozen

Reefers and their drivers are the unsung heroes of the cold chain. Many companies and industries rely on truck drivers to deliver perishables and even frozen goods to where the market needs them, safely and without spoiling. 

Cannonball Express Transportation

Cannonball Express Shipping Company has been providing top-of-the-line service at a reasonable rate. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, we provide nationwide refrigerated LTL services, as well as, local delivery services. Contact us today!

Nationwide Shipping Company Services:

  • Refrigerated LTL deliveries in the lower¬†48 states
  • Refrigerated Cross dock

Local Shipping Company Services:

  • Redelivery Services
  • Truckload & LTL Capabilities
  • PUP
  • Cross dock
  • Transload
  • Warehouse and Distribution capabilities from multiple Omaha Locations