6 Tips and Tricks for Compliant Refrigerated Trucking

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When transporting perishable cargo, you have a lot to think about. Whether its produce, meat, plants, frozen foods, or pharmaceuticals, operating a well-running refrigerated trailer is important for safety and FDA compliance.

Of course, temperature control is a primary concern in refrigerated trucking, but there are a number of ways to prepare and operate your rig to get the most out of a reefer trailer and have a safe, efficient journey. Proper reefer maintenance both before, during, and after hauling can help prolong the life of the trailer and avoid potential problems later.

To help you get the most of your reefer, we’ve put together these 6 refrigerated trucking tips that are an essential part of any fleet’s maintenance plan.

Infographic illustrating 6 tips for refrigerated trucking

1. Monitor Temperatures for Safety

The purpose of refrigerated trucking is to safely transport perishable goods. Thus, it is essential that carriers be vigilant in maintaining proper trailer temperatures, not allowing them to go above or below a certain point. Here are a few key trucking tips for keeping goods safe:

  • Have a plan: Plans should be agreed upon by the carrier, loader, and receiver so that each party is aware of safe temperatures to avoid product entering unsafe conditions at any point during transport. This should include specified temperatures for upper control limits (UCL) and lower control limit (LCL). Plans should also specify temperature ranges, rather than simply stating something should be “frozen” or “chilled.” If direction is too vague, it could lead to unsafe conditions and lost product.
  • Monitor temperature zones: Some trailers have multiple temperature zones within them, allowing for different types of refrigerated freight to be moved within the same reefer. In this case, it’s even more important that carriers make sure their equipment is in good working order and they’re able to accurately read temperatures throughout their journey.
  • LTL shipping challenges: Carriers who engage in LTL trucking often carry various goods that may require different temperatures and conditions. It’s especially important for these carriers to make sure that loading is done properly to avoid cross-contamination and improper storage.
  • Check temperature: Checking the temperature just at the beginning doesn’t mean that those same temperatures are being maintained. So, it’s important that carriers continue checking the temperature during transit and when they arrive so that shipments aren’t rejected or contaminated.

The following is a general list of reefer trailer temperature ranges to help you get started on checking for proper temperatures:

  •             32˚F – 36˚F: greens, berries, apples, cruciferous vegetables, grapes, stone fruits
  •             38˚F – 40˚F: avocadoes, cranberries
  •             40˚F – 45˚F: potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes
  •             45˚F – 50˚F: watermelon, cucumbers, some citrus, bananas, tomatoes

2. Clean the Trailer for Proper Sanitation

Keeping a trailer clean and sanitized is highly important for the safe transport of goods, especially if you’re hauling meat, dairy, and livestock. But cleaning goes beyond a good sweep and spray down. Here a few refrigerated trucking tips for proper cleaning:

  • Clean the Interior and exterior of the trailer: A pressure washer is a great way to thoroughly clean the trailer, especially if any type of liquid or blood from meat leaked during transport.
  • Follow written procedures from shippers: The FDA actually requires that shippers create written procedures for proper cleaning of equipment and vehicles. As a carrier, you should be following these to prevent contamination or odors.
  • Use a USDA approved detergent: Using USDA approved cleaning supplies may not be required, but it can ensure a more safe environment.

3. Conduct Regular Maintenance to Avoid Breakdowns

Many carriers follow a fleet asset management plan, which can make the process of managing a fleet simpler and more efficient. It’s important to conduct maintenance at regular intervals to ensure that equipment and vehicles abide by local, state, and national regulations, and for the overall health of the fleet. Of course, truck refrigeration is one area that carriers need to be constantly mindful of.

Creating a fleet asset management plan can offer the following benefits, especially when engaging in refrigerated trucking:

  • Know which vehicles are working, which aren’t, and what repairs they may need can help budget for future service and when to consider a new reefer trailer for sale
  • Stay aligned with FMSCA guidelines require that carriers have a “Systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance” plan
  • Ensures that carriers are conducting routine inspections by drivers before and after each shipment to include:
  1. Inspecting of refrigeration unit (measure and calibrate)
  2. Compressor
  3. Check for fluid leaks
  4. Check that hoses and belts aren’t damaged or broken
  5. Check tire pressure
  6. Inspect around exterior of trailer for damage
  7. Check air chute and drains for clogs or damage

A few common reefer trailer troubleshooting issues may include:

  • Bulkhead issues
  • Condenser
  • Sensor calibration
  • Air and/or fluid leaks

4. Follow Loading Guidelines for Proper Airflow

Carriers are responsible for monitoring the loading and unloading process to make sure that goods are safely packed and moved, and can help to maintain proper temperatures.

Be sure to check the refrigerated truck’s maximum height and weight limits before loading and make sure that cargo and pallets are stacked with proper space to allow airflow.

5. Keep Record of Shipments and Procedures

As set forth by the FDA, maintenance of records are required and should include “written procedures, agreements and training.” The time for keeping these records depends on what’s contained within them, but generally does not exceed 12 months.

In addition to staying compliant, keeping accurate records of shipments and procedures can help with planning for trailer maintenance.

It’s also useful to keep record of driver history and certifications so that carriers are aware of any violations that could affect the safe transport of refrigerated freight.  

6. Fill Diesel Tank for Proper Truck Refrigeration

Refrigerated truck units run off diesel so it’s important that fuel is always replenished.

Some loading docks may even require a refrigerated truck to be at least ¾ full of fuel before they load.

Additionally, low fuel may cause the cooling unit to take on residue from the fuel tank, which can cause mechanical problems that affect truck refrigeration.

Find Your Next Reefer at Hale Trailer

Refrigerated trucking is an important part of the U.S. transportation system, whether it’s for food or other types of perishable goods. These trucking tips are an invaluable part of managing your fleet or vehicle and so is purchasing the right trailer for your needs.

At Hale Trailer Brake and Wheel, we pride ourselves on offering an extensive selection of new and used reefer trailers for sale. If investing in a trailer isn’t a part of your plan, we also have reefer trailers for rent available at several of our locations throughout the U.S.

We proudly offer parts and service for your trailers so that you can satisfy all your trailer needs in one place.

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