So I'm pretty new to the reefer / hauling produce world. I recently got hired by the coveted "smaller" company. My dispatch is starting to trust me more and more with each load, which has earned me a lot of long reefer runs as of late. I enjoy it and would like to keep doing it. Plus they pay me quite a bit more $$$ to drag a reefer unit rather than dragging a dry box around.
So, I would love to hear any general tips some of you veteran produce haulers have to offer. Pretty much anything you could think of would be appreciated.
But here are a few topics I would especially enjoy hearing about...
-When is it appropriate to run start/stop or a continuous cycle?
-Dealing with lumpers / unloading your own load
-Reefer unit maintenance
-Hauling produce in California
Reefer / Produce hauling tips
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The stop/start function was invented years ago to save wear and tear and fuel consumption. Most cold loads can be run either/or. I believe Ice cream must be continous, but ask the shipper or dispatch if in doubt. Washouts depend on the shipper. Some say must be clean/washed out. After a bloody meat/chicken load, yeah, get a washout for sure. A palletized produce load can be loaded on a dirty floor sometimes. Some produce sheds will have a hose available for you or will wash it out for you, no charge. Wait times at a produce shed are lenghtly. 12 hours is not unheard of. In a perfect world, the grunts would pick the product and get it into the cooler and you would show up just as it is ready to load. Now figure in 100 trucks getting loaded that day with different products to be shipped and you can see problems. Any question you ask of the shipper will get the same stock answer everytime. "Your load is cooling, we'll let you know". Produce sheds do not warehouse the product for more than 1 day normally. Be ever so careful with sensitive product such as lettuce. Shipper will say 33 degrees, but most experienced drivers will go 34. That's because if it freezes, it's junk. Pulp the load as it is being loaded to cover yourself. Don't argue with the shipper, call your dispatcher with any problem loads. ALWAYS arrive at the shipper with full fuel in the refer. Some won't let you on the lot without at least 3/4. When the shipper asks how much weight you can haul, fudge a little to allow for wiggle room. (you can haul 45000, tell him 43500). You don't want to be messing with sliding tandems etc. after hanging around for 12 hours, right? One last thing, always pulp the air temp in transit. You can do that through the drain holes if there isn't a small door. Do not trust the unit temp gage solely.
Call the produce barn to see if the load has been picked yet. Most are honest and will let you know because FCFS doesn't matter a whole lot with produce shippers. keep more than 2 load locks! If you get one of those 1/2 square locks then go to Home Depot and make a wooden "spreader". Take a 1x6 and cut 2 peices 3' long and then cut 4 at 11" long. Lay the 2 long pieces down side by side and then put the 4 pieces across them and SCREW them together. Now when you have a single pallet by it's self when you are making all those picks just put your spacer against the single pallet and then put that handi dandy half load lock against the spacer and tighten it up. It's easier than using a pallet and you can slide it in the side box when not used. It's also good if you have a short pallet next to a taller pallet. Just put it across the top of the short paller and higher to help it stay upright. A good point to remember is to remember which side the tall pallet is on (in case they didn't understand you about a not putting a single pallet on the rear) so you don't take the opposite turn to hard so it doesn't fall over!
Never go any where with a single pallet on the end of a load unless you like to pay damages! It WILL fall over even when you take turns easily! Murphy says it will!
I also use 3 load locks across the back of the load. The 1st one I put in about 2/3 of the way up the load then put #2 just above it and tighten it down and the 1st one will loosen up and might fall off which is good as you'll take it and put it on TOP of the #2 load lock with #1's feet ON the feet of #2 and lock it down. Then put the third load lock in 1/2 of the distance to the floor. I gaurentee that locks 1&2 will still be there when you get to your drop in NYC from Tracy, CA! Also demand to use streach wrap on the back 2 pallets at the top so the boxes don't float around! Get a roll of your own just in case and if you have several drops then do the back pallets of each drop. Remember OS&D can cost you in having to either find someplace to trash the product, or sell it or have to go find a charity to donate it to. The time you take to ensure that the load is SECURE from falling over or off the top of the pallet is as important as the lock you use on the door! Your TIME is worth money too I hope!
Now if the load locks fall off then you drive like an idiot and please stay away from me! LOL
Speaking of locks... I have seen those heavy duty across the bar clamps with the monster locks that cost over $100 left in the road by a good NYC theif! I've had 1 load in my life time hit using them! I don't use them any more and don't waste my money on them either! I do have a cheap little master lock that I use on my load lock rack but for my trailer doors I use a 1 1/2"x 9/16" bolt and 2 nuts! The bottom nut should be a "locking" type with the nepronme in the threads so once loosened it still will need the wrench or ratchet to take off! Put the first nut on and wrench it all the way up to the hasp and TIGHTEN it against the hasp. Then put the second nut on and tighten it all the way up to #1 and then using your 2 9/16" combination wrenches or a ratchet (craftsman of course) tighten them together as tight a you can get them! Do Not worry about bending the end of the bolt as the reason you tighten the first bolt all the way to the hasp as thieves do not carry around wrenches! They might have the bolt cutters but with the nuts tight against the hasp they will not get the bolt cutter between the nuts and the hasp! After loosing those 4 cases of meat going into Hunts Point back in 88 I've NEVER lost anything else with that system! If you bend the bolt over then you have to go find a bolt cutter to get the thing off after you get the nuts loosened!
The hint about using start stop is fine with meat or other hardy products. With produce it's not advisable as I've seen produce mushed from the extra cold air from the unit starting and getting to temp! CONTENTIOUS RUN with ANY produce! Those units do not save that much in fuel with start stop and when you park for the night it PO's drivers you park next to just as if you had opti idle on the truck!
ALWAYS set the temp at what the shipper, receiver or broker tells you to set it at! That way you will not have to pay an OS&D! 1 degree on a recorder can cost you or the company the load. That 1 degree advice earlier was not good advice! Set it where the owner of the freight tells you to set it at!
Ice cream will always be -20* and as with all food loads go in with a clean and pre cooled trailer. Ain't nothing like showing up somewhere with a "clean" trailer (one you DIDN'T wash out) and having to go find the nearest washout which might not be "the nearest" place you want to drive too! Trying to cheap your way out of a washout can cost you in the long run and not that many places I've been to have that "hose" some one mentioned earlier! Been doing reefers for a long time and that's a few and far between deal there! The company will pay for trailer washout unless they are cheap then go look somewhere else to drive as that will cost you a lot no matter WHAT the CPM is!
Learn how long it takes certain temperatures to chill down to during the summer! -20 can take HOURS in the hot sun! I always go get washed out if I know what my next load is BUT I will pre cool the trl down to 32* just in case and when the do the washout it won't matter as just turn it off open it up they wash it out and close it back up and re chill it then turn it off. The trailer if sealed well meaning some yoyo hasn't let the doors hit something and ruined the seals will hold that 32* for hours and chill down pretty fast. Unless it's 90*+! Get 4 of those corks from a trailer dealer to put in the drains! They actually do drain a lot of your cold air in hot temps. Remember that pre cooling your trailer even if you don't have a dispatch is a GOOD idea as what if you've been sitting in the sun and your trailer is sitting at oh say 100* and you get a "HOT" load meaning you need to get there soonest and they want oh say 30* and they are 30 minutes away! You'll be sitting there waiting for the thing to cool down and the customer is getting mad that they cant load you and you are too because you didn't want to "waste" a little fuel to "pre cool'' the thing earlier because of a little thing called no dispatch at this time! Remember "TIME IS MONEY!"
Hit that defrost a LOT! As soon as you close the doors hit the defrost! Get the moisture OUT first. You'll be doing some paper work after you load (read some of my other posts about doing paperwork!) The time you are done you get out and LOOK to see how much water drained out of your defrost tubes. If you don't see any look at the drains at the 4 corners of the trailer or rear doors and if you see water flowing and you DON'T have a load that's been iced down then you have a stopped up drain out of the unit. Easy to fix! Just beat on the rubber hoses and see if trash starts to fall out. If so then get your handi dandy coat hangar and run it up the hose and thrill it around to get any pieces of wood and trash out. This happens when you pre cool a DIRTY trailer! The force of the fan will make small pieces of wood from pallets, paper and other trash fly up into the air return and then down into the defrost tray then into the drain plugs! Just another reason to keep the trailer clean! But do a manual defrost at least every 4 hours a day. Do 2 back to back before hitting the bunk and one as soon as you wake! Do the pulp before a defrost!
The coffee deal kinda works unless you hauled a load of FRESH fish! Then don't waste the money! Just get the washout to do a better than normal washout! Not the cheappie and then let it air out as long as you can! The coffee on the floor will have to be cleaned up before you load so I never used it as I really hate to sweep out a reefer with 1" rails!
Produce loads will ALWAYS know how many pallets you will be getting. When you talk to or get your load you will be told your total case and pallet count. If not ASK! That way you can tell the loader at the first pick if you need it loaded 2 then 1 then 2 or how ever you need it to be loaded due to weight. Also COUNT THEM! DO NOT SIT IN THE TRUCK WHEN LOADING PRODUCE! You need to pulp your load usually 1 case of 3 or 4 of the pallets and WRITE it down in your note pad (your CYA book) as each pallet goes on and count the boxes! Look for damages! Don't let them tell you "oh they'll take them that way" Tell them that's good but still replace the case please because YOU DON'T take damaged produce! Been there done that and got the T shirts!
Some drivers use a leaf blower to "sweep out" a trailer. Go ahead, but don't get caught on someones property blowing that stuff out on the ground! Or out on the side of the road or a rest area or the TRUCK STOP as I've seen some morons do! A nail can ruin someones day! Broom and a trashcan please!
As stated before, FUEL the unit all the way up! That means ABOVE that 3/4 mark as some meat plants will make you leave to put another 1/2 gallon in the stupid thing! If you have to keep hitting the handle to get the gauge up to the FULL make do it! Produce isn't as bad as meat packers but meat plants can take up to 2 -3 days to load! Me, I just put every drop I can in case I'm doing a 2 day pick and don't want to take the chance and opening and closing doors uses more fuel. I also try to GTF out of CA to fuel where it's cheaper!
Pulping the load while running is always a good idea. Get a "flat" refrigerator thermometer and hang it in the inspection door but on the inside of the trailer. that way just open, look and close. Taking your digital thermometer back and closing the door on it will screw it up as the door closes pretty close to the screen if there is one and leaving a crack in the door will let warm air in giving a bad reading. Look at the bottom where the 2 doors of the trailer comes together. You can get the pulp thermometer in through there at an angle pointing up if there isn't an inspection door. But it's not that big of a deal as most newer equipment is actually pretty accurate! If it's not you should be getting a code. If your company doesn't have the door and isn't worried about a pulp reading then don't sweat it!
That's it for tonight!
RolloverLast edited: Nov 25, 2009
Roll over, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to type that post. It's an absolute wealth of information that I'm very grateful to you for. I've read and reread it umpteen times by now.
Methinks you've been around the block once or twice.Donnyh Thanks this.
Great post Rollover ,but one other tip I have is carry a long set of jumper cables sometimes you show up and drop and hook to a reefer that will not start, so they are valuable. If I have to jump start it then it stays on continuous. And check the oil and carry some oil to add, Low Oil Equals codes and problems.
never, ever let your reefer run out of fuel. My first real truckig job was for a McD's distributor, I was running a shuttle trailer from Denver to Trinidad, CO and forgot to fuel the reefer before I left. It ran out of fuel 30 minutes later and I didn't catch it for another almost hour. Had to turn back to the nearest Pete dealer to have the get it fueled and started. The company charged me and the driver who hauled the trailer before me (company policy was to make sure the reefer had at least 1/4 fuel in it when dropped in the yd empty for the fuel and service dept. fee from the dealer.
jbatmick Thanks this.
Yes jumper cables are great BUT not something I want to leave connected between the truck and trailer!
Go to Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware or to a commercial building site.
Go ask the electrician if he has 20' of #3 gauge single conductor wire. Yep just like what they use to run to all the outlets!
Then get a pair of Alligator clips. You know the ones that are about 1 1/2 inch long and if you put your finger in it you'll know it! They are STRONG! Put them on the ends and coil the whole thing up in a 6" coil and put it in the tool bag until needed.
When the unit OR your truck doesn't want to crank use the jumper cables to start. If the unit or truck is showing low amps like the alternator is dying or is dead, then put your new cable between the positive posts on both batteries. You don't need a negative cable as the truck is grounded at the 5th wheel.
This setup will keep power flowing between the good batteries and the bad so you can get to where you need to get for repairs. It's a lot cheaper than your $40 cables and will stretch when making turns!
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