What is Refrigerated Trucking?

Refrigeration is crucial for moving temperature-sensitive freight that’s otherwise prone to quality loss or spoilage.

In the world of intermodal freight transport, refrigerated containers keep loads safe and suitable for their intended use. Ships, trains, and trucks can all play a role in transporting this freight, as well as keeping it cool.

Let’s take a closer look at refrigerated trucking in the context of containerized freight.

All About Refrigerated Trucking: History, Uses, Benefits & More

Refrigerated trucking services keep temperature-sensitive items safe from excessive heat. The most common examples are refrigerated and frozen foods, which must stay within specific temperature ranges.

However, there are plenty of other examples. Certain medications (like insulin) and chemicals, flowers, and camera film are just a few. A variety of perishable goods absolutely need to be kept cool for safety and effectiveness. And many others have better, more attractive qualities when held in a specific temperature range during transit.

A Very Brief History of Refrigerated Trucks and Containers

The refrigerated truck — a cab with a refrigerated trailer — came about before the refrigerated container. That’s at least partially due to the modern, globally standardized concept of intermodal shipping only emerging in the 1950s. By that time, refrigerated trucks were already in use for a variety of applications.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame explains Fredrick McKinley Jones invented the refrigerated truck in the late 1930s. At the time, his employer had promised a local trucking company a reliable and mobile refrigeration solution. Jones bridged the gap between idea and reality, making temperature-controlled, refrigerated transport much more accessible.

There are earlier examples of vehicles with refrigeration, including early ice cream delivery trucks. However, Jones created a transformative and widely used invention with a direct connection to today’s technology. He eventually co-founded Thermo King, an industry leader in mobile refrigeration.

While there isn’t a specific inventor credited, refrigerated containers emerged in the mid-20th century. Since then, they’ve helped to reliably transport perishable cargo across the globe.

A technician looks at several stacks of reefer containers.

Temperature Ranges for Refrigerated Containers

How cold are refrigerated trucks? The exact temperature setting depends on the needs of the cargo. Effective temperature setting keeps freight in the best possible temperature range — neither too hot nor too cold.

Global logistics company Maesrk shares temperature ranges for common container types. For most 20- and 40-foot containers, the lowest maintainable temperature is -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Super freezer units can maintain temperatures as low as -76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keeping Containers Cool: Refrigeration for Intermodal Shipments

The use of more than one type of vehicle to transport containers is a foundational concept of intermodal transport. How do refrigerated trucks work as part of a larger intermodal cold chain? The answer comes from learning how refrigerated trucks are powered.

The key to the intermodal cold chain is the refrigerated container, also called a reefer. These are regular containers manufactured to include a refrigeration unit. Those units can connect to a variety of power sources.

A container ship’s own power system offers connection points for these units, for example. That makes sense, considering these ships are where most containers spend the majority of their journey.

Generator sets (commonly called gensets) are used when permanent power connections aren’t available. That’s how refrigerated container trucks maintain safe temperatures for cargo when it’s away from a permanent power source.

The Importance of a Reliable Drayage Partner for Refrigerated Container Trucking

Reefer containers need to reach an intermodal facility to begin their journeys. They must also be transported to a final destination beyond an intermodal port or railyard. Without these crucial connections, the intermodal supply chain can’t function as intended.

Drayage trucking companies make those initial and final connections. That means they play a crucial role in the intermodal cold chain. Finding the right partner is vital for the quality, safety, and consistency of refrigerated and frozen cargo.

At Iraheta Bros., our drivers are refrigerated and frozen container specialists. They understand how to select the right equipment while working in the Port of Oakland. They recognize the importance of genset equipment and have the training needed to troubleshoot many of their common issues.

We provide more than only transportation of your reefer containers, too. Our services include warehousing and transloading refrigerated containers. Our warehouse’s convenient location just a few miles from the Port makes it easy to store your containers.

We offer a temperature-controlled, monitored, and secure facility. Your refrigerated cargo is safe with our team.

Simplify your transportation needs today!

What is Refrigerated Trucking?

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