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7 Tips For Reefer Truck Drivers

Do you wonder how your groceries, pharmaceuticals, and electronics get delivered?

Here, reefer trucking comes into play. It is important for the economy of the U.S. In areas with limited access to ports, reefer trucking emerges as the savior. Hence, it is one of the most sought-after sectors in the truck industry. 

This brings us to our main point of discussion: what is reefer trucking? In this blog, we will answer the most common questions related to this industry. How to become a reefer truck driver, what are the benefits, and 7 major tips for this career–all these topics will be the best remedy for all your doubts and confusion. 

What is Reefer Trucking?

Reefer trucking is a short term for “refrigerator”, meant to move stuff in special trucks called reefers. These trucks are insulated and work like big fridges because they control the temperature. Unlike regular trucks, known as dry vans, reefers keep things cool or warm.

Reefer trucks are super crucial for carrying things that need specific temperatures. They are not just for food—although they do transport fruits, veggies, meat, and more. These trucks also handle frozen goods, baked goods, chemicals, cosmetics, flowers, electronics, and fancy things like art and antiques.

The cool thing about reefers is that they also stop goods from freezing in cold weather. These trucks are versatile and capable of keeping frozen goods cool in hot summer temperatures and maintaining a warmer environment during freezing winters to prevent cargo from freezing.

Requirements for Reefer Trucking

Now that we have covered what a reefer truck is, let’s discuss the rules for reefer trucking. Now, there is a chance that some of the things these trucks carry might be risky if they spoil. So, the c set up the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). This is about ensuring food gets transported safely to reduce the chances of making people sick.

Also, reefer truck companies need to know the Sanitary Transportation Rule from the FSMA. This rule has four main parts for moving both human and animal food. Here’s what they are:

1. Vehicles & transportation equipment: Trucks must keep food from going bad, so they must be good at controlling temperatures. After each delivery, the truck must be thoroughly cleaned to stop one load’s stuff from mixing with the next.

2. Transportation operations: Besides cleaning, carriers must do more to avoid mixing food with non-food things. This means ensuring the truck stays at the right temperature and the food is protected from other stuff.

3. Training: Truck carriers must how to move food safely and prove they got the training.

4. Records: Carriers must keep records of what they do, like signed agreements and proof of training.

Even though these rules might sound a bit much, the FDA has made it easy for carriers. They have guides and free online training to help truckers follow the FSMA rules without any trouble. If you want to know more about moving food correctly, check out their guide or take their free training online.

Note: You typically need at least a Class B CDL for driving a reefer truck. This license allows you to operate single vehicles with a gross weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. A Class A CDL would be required if the reefer truck is a combination vehicle with a trailer exceeding 10,000 pounds GVWR.

7 Most Important Tips for Reefer Truck Drivers

Pre-cool reefer units

One effective way to maintain the quality of your cargo is to pre-cool your reefer unit before storing it. This practice helps reduce temperature changes when handling and transporting the goods.

Use technology

Make the most of available trucking technologies like electronic logging devices (ELDs), transport management systems, and digital freight matching (DFM) tools. These tools help optimize equipment use for maximum efficiency. 

You may also enhance reefer capabilities by installing monitoring and alert systems, improving security, and allowing swift responses to breakdowns or sudden temperature changes.

Prepare contingency plans

Avoiding a malfunction during transit is crucial for reefer truck operators. Identify common issues and carry the necessary tools and parts for essential repairs. Plan for contingencies by having a backup reefer trailer or setting up interchange agreements with fellow reefer service providers along your route.

Conduct preventive measures

Cold chain logistics leave little room for mistakes. Reefer truck operators need to maintain their trucks and cooling systems diligently. For diesel reefers, ensure timely oil and filter changes, typically after every 1,000 hours of use. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines for best results.

Train employees

Running a reefer truck demands more technical know-how than handling regular trucks. It is crucial to offer comprehensive training covering cold chain logistics, routing, repairs, and maintenance to ensure expertise in all essential aspects.

Plan 

Refrigerated transport demands strategic planning. Prioritize proactive planning for loading, scheduling, and routing. Utilize the First In-Last Out (FILO) approach during loading to maintain uniform cooling. When dealing with shippers or receivers, confirm they have adequate staff and equipment to avoid extended handling that might cause spoilage. 

Follow rules properly

Last but not least, follow the rules. Governing bodies have set up several regulations to follow. These include SQF, FSMA, HACCP, and sanitary rules, etc.  

Pros and Cons of Reefer Trucking for Reefer Truck Drivers

Pros

  • Abundance of work

Reefer truckers always have a lot of work because they transport essential stuff like food and medicine. Even when the pandemic changed how people buy things and messed up supply chains, reefer trucking stayed busy. Everyone still needed food and medicine, even during lockdowns and other tough times.

  • Fewer deadhead miles

If you need other jobs that don’t need temperature control, you are in a good spot. You don’t always have to use the refrigeration part of a reefer truck. You may use it like a regular truck to haul non-refrigerated items when required. This way, you can take on different jobs to keep busy.

  • Better paying loads

Reefer loads usually pay more than regular dry freight. The main reason is that specific items, such as medicines, chemicals, and even our daily food and drinks, need exact temperatures to stay good. Shippers know that handling this kind of cargo needs a particular truck and skilled care, so they are ready to pay extra to ensure their goods are treated with care.

Cons

  • A lot of maintenance

Keeping a refrigerated truck in good shape requires regular maintenance. Typically, these trucks maintain temperatures between 55º F and -20º F. However, specialized units even go as low as -85º F for transporting specific medical or chemical items. To overcome this, make sure to do regular maintenance.

  • Longer Hours

Grocery stores usually open early and close late. This means they need deliveries either before they open or after they close. To make sure you deliver during these times, you might need to work longer hours, either starting earlier or finishing later.

  • Pre-cooling requirements before pick-up

There is a common misunderstanding that reefer trucks cool down the stuff they carry. Actually, they just keep the cargo at its current temperature. To make this happen, you need to pre-cool your truck. If you arrive at the dock and your truck is not at the right temperature, you will have to wait until it is. Not handling the pre-cooling well may end up costing you time and money.

How Can One Start a Career in Reefer Trucking?

To start a career in reefer trucking, obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), gain driving experience, and research reputable reefer trucking companies. Look for firms that offer training and ensure your CDL has any necessary endorsements. If you plan to become an owner-operator, invest in a suitable reefer truck. Stay informed about industry regulations and build relationships within the trucking community. By following these steps, you will become a good reefer driver.

Opt For Matrack Fleet Management Solutions

As we discussed above, owning a reefer truck is expensive. So, we need to make sure we take good care of it. You should consider opting for Matrack Asset tracking to monitor your assets without worrying. This tracking solution is great as it provides SMS and email alerts plus geofencing updates to your phone. It also comes with an SOS feature. 

Moreover, as the reefer truck has a cool temperature, this asset tracker is built to sustain in such extreme conditions. It also has a long battery life of up to 3 years. Not only this, it comes with a 4G LTE connection as well. Is there any worry left? Not at all. 

Wrapping Up

In this blog, we discussed different aspects in the context of reefer driving. We saw how one becomes a reefer driver, what are the requirements, the pros and cons, and 7 tips to excel in the domain. With this knowledge, you have successfully unlocked the potential to earn the maximum this field could offer. With constant determination and hard work, you will achieve the said results in just some time. Book a call with Matrack to order your asset tracker now so that all your focus stays on the road and the career, not on the stress.