Reefer Hauling 101: Tips and Tricks for Refrigerated Trucking

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Rollover the Original shares his experience pulling reefers:

I love a reefer! Never a problem waiting for a load as dry freight fits just as well!

I do not sweep out a reefer! I have a small battery operated leaf blower! But Blue Beacon does a great job also when water is needed! Not ALL meat loads bleed on the floor.

Yes, jumper cables are great, just get the LONGEST ones you can find such as 20’+. and the smallest gauge you can 3 gauge or smaller. I also have a long 3 gauge wire with heavy duty alligator clips for using when needing to run with a cable between the unit and the tractor. I got mine from a commercial construction site and works great for an emergency. You only need one as the ground between the truck and trailer is all that is needed. You use this setup when your alternator in either the truck or trailer is bad. It will work in a “jump” situation but it takes a lot longer for it to juice up a set or batteries but when it’s all you have go with it!

Ask your mechanic how to “pump” up a unit that has run out of fuel! Some are different than others. Get a tennis ball and an air chuck or air valve from a tire to make a device that will help to blow fuel up to the injectors if you run out of fuel. Someone will show you how to make it. But you’ll run out of fuel one time and then you’ll learn to keep better watch on that fuel gauge on the reefer tank! It’s a PITA pumping up or “jacking off” that fuel pump!

A milk crate is the best think to hold your jumper cables,siphoning hose, oil, fuel additive,rags, polish and other things. The 9/16″ combo wrench you should keep in your tool bag!

ScooterDawg warns about weight issues to consider when hauling dry freight in a refrigerated trailer:

Sometimes you will have a reefer hooked to your truck and you get dispatched to pick up a dry load. Typically, shippers sending out a dry load plan on a heavier load that what you would be used to with a reefer load.

Obviously a reefer trailer weighs more than a dry van. And if you are picking up a dry load that weighs 43,000 lbs or more, you could have a problem with exceeding the 80,000 lb gross weight restriction.

I have run both and I couldnt count on both hands and feet the number of times that a dry load, put in my reefer, forced me to run light on my fuel and re-fuel with 50 gallons of fuel every 325 miles. I have lovingly coined it as “the 50 gallon giggle”. The advantage is that I can bank a bunch of showers in a short period of time, but the disadvantage is that I have to stop a lot.

Reefers usually have longer unload times (and lumpers…. argh!), and there are maintenance issues as well. But on the flipside, they are somewhat more versatile when it comes to hauling either cold loads or dry loads.


  • If you’re having trouble finding cold freight, reefer trailers can just as easily accommodate dry freight
  • Steady freight market as a result of consistent demand for fresh produce from supermarkets
  • Less waiting around trying to find a load, more time driving means higher pay


  • Constant noise produced by the motor in the reefer trailer
  • Cleaning out trailers after every load
  • Refrigerated trailer breakdowns are an emergency maintenance issue to prevent spoilage
  • Long waits to get loaded at the shipper docks

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18 comments. Add a comment.

  1. Glenn Pense says

    I may need to rent to a tenant that drives a truck for a local trucking company. He may need to keep the truck part of the rig at my rent house over the weekend, when he’s not hauling. Where do most commercial truck drivers leave there rigs when they are not working? I may have a code compliance issue. Where do most trucking companies prefer there workers park there rigs (less trailer) when there not on the road. I am clueless about the trucking business.

    • scooter says

      I have be driving 11 years and I take my truck (less a trl ) and have only received one complaint due to me washing the truc not so much that it was parked there the tenant or you should touch base with local police and neighbors and just ask if there will be a issue if they are informed they are more likely not to complain or file a complaint as far as code issues the local police will be able to answer those questions but being that it’s just the tractor most likly there will be no issues

  2. Bandit says

    Glenn ~
    Before I Moved Out Into The Country, I Lived In The City Of San Antonio, They “Hate” Trucks (With/Without Trailers) Being Parked Just anywhere..Yet In A Neighborhood, So My Only suggestion To You Is Either..
    1.Find The Nearest Truck~Stop And Just Park It There Long Term..
    2. Talk To Your Local Wal~Mart/Store/Mall..They May Let You Park It Out Back By The Loading Docks(But Again, Make Sure You Watch City Ordinances)

  3. thehairytrucker says

    about the weight in a van and having to play with the fuel, out of the busy cities im rarely over 20 k in a load with my dry van, thats hard to find in a reefer. so i get better fuel milage and less wear and tear on my truck. for pretty much the same rate. my last load i picked was from LA CA going to denver Co i was paid $2450 and it weighed only 8 k, my buddy on the other hand was offered a 40 k load for the same price. weight in a load makes a BIG difference and you seem to be lighter in a van. not to mention when youre grossed out doing 35 40 mph up a hill, im usualy flying by doing my 65 70. having been involved in both reefer and dry, dry is hands down less of a headache. the only thing about a reefer is a little bit more pay

    • Rambo1 says

      B/H reefers ( Carrier ) will use 3/4 gal per hour on chill, and 1 to 1& 1/2 gal on deep frozen cycle. A little less on ” stop and start mode “, a little more on hot days parked. Never fuel the tractor without putting at least five gallons in the reefer. That way you get in the habbit. Also, you can use off road diesel in the reefer if the Truck stop has it available such as Queen City in Meridian, Miss. ( Ex. )

  4. says

    You can figure 15-25 gallons of fuel about every other day for the reefer. Of course that depends on the outside temps. Hot days will mean alot more than cold days. But I have found that in the cold weather, companies that usually send their freight in a dry box in the warm temps, cannot allow it to freeze in the winter, so more freight for reefers. It is a lot more work, and most of the time you have to “Run it like you stole it!”, but the rates are better, and you definately do not set still as long as you have to for dry freight to become available.

    • Rambo1 says

      Make sure that if you choose Progressive, that they don’t ” bush whack ” you by limiting your coverage area to 500 miles from your home terminal. If you are 501 and have a problem, THEY WILL NOT PAY ! OOIDA is good, but their rates are higher. You need 100k load insurance, and reefer break down insurance, and anti terrorist ( incase someone walks buy and shuts off your unit ). Towing is important also as a wrecker will tow to drop area if needed so you don’t loose the load and income.

  5. Steve says

    Hi, has anyone used a 48′ single temp trailer to store a Freezer load in the nose and have a cooler load in the rear? I know I should have a multi temp but I do not, so is that possible to put a curtain accross the front for frozen and keep the rear at 42 degrees? Thanks for any thoughts…Steve

    • Rambo1 says

      Steve, we buy used multi temp trailers from FFE and they come with Styrofoam fold up deviders. They fit against the wall when not in use. Most used trailer dealers and or FFE trailer repair shops have them for sale or give away. Be careful though that the produce in the back doesn’t get frost burnt. May have to vent the rear door some to regulate the rear half temp..

  6. jrflindt says

    Jumpers for a Refer….Yup, The Refer unit can jump the Power Unit in a pinch, But with permission (My excuse is I need some sleep) I run the Jumpers to the Power Unit and place the refer on Continuous Cycle (on all the time) so I can run my converted in the bunk and not worry about running the batteries down…It’s not an APU But it works in a pinch on a cold night, ya know? Give me a Refer anyday.

  7. keith williams says

    My daughter pull-tested a reefer twice and went 100 ft before it fell off the 5th. It was bitter cold and the grease wasn’t lo temp. I am trying to come up with a compact lift that terminals ,rental stores, and wrecker Co’s would buy. It took 5 hrs for a wrecker to get her rig up on the landing gear.
    I am looking at differential screw-jack principle presently. An A-frame might be workable also.

    • WALLST says

      Yeah. Tell your daughter to stop being lazy and visually inspect the locking jaws before pulling off half cocked. Rocket surgery not required.

    • Rambo1 says

      Keith, with the use of 24.5 and 22.5 tall and low pro tires being used on tractors and trailers, we have a rule that when the ” wings ” of the 5th wheel make contact with the trailer and the tractor brake is pulled, that the driver always down cranks the trailer til the trailer weight puts the 5th wheel in the horizontal position. Then put the tractor in reverse, hold the brake and release the park brake and proceed to back up the tractor under the trailer. A lot of drivers are not taught that and it is a time and safety measure.

  8. red says

    I payed an excavator driver 50 bucks to pick up the nose of my half loaded trailer. only to find out that there was no kingpinI turned around and it was still stuck in the jaws. old M.S carrier trailer death by freight shaker!

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