As a truck driver, you may consider expanding your driving abilities to include refrigerated trucking jobs. Reefer trucking or reefer jobs, as they are commonly referred to in the freight-hauling industry, have a huge demand for qualified, licensed truck drivers with the right training and experience.
The recent pandemic reinforced the great need for essential workers like truck drivers capable of safely negotiating their refrigerated semi trucks down the highway and across the United States and its borders. Refrigerated deliveries can include foods, medications, and additional items that must remain in a cool, climate-controlled environment on wheels.
So, is this a good decision for you at this phase of your career? It could be. But before deciding, let’s first examine the pros of driving a reefer truck.
There Is Always a Need for Refrigerated Trucking Jobs
Some professions and trucking jobs are seasonal or cyclic. For example, in the months and weeks before the December holidays, trucking jobs abound for drivers of cargo carriers laden with toys and other seasonal gifts to stock store shelves. But come the new year, those job opportunities can dry up.
But the demand for refrigerated products like insulin and other cool-storage medications. Foods grown south of the border but sold all over the 50 states in grocery stores and markets have year-round demand. These cargo loads have to be carefully monitored to make sure that the temperature neither drops too low and causes freezer damage or climbs too high and causes spoilage. It can be a temperature tightrope to walk if you don’t have the right training to manage the coolness levels
In It for the Long Haul
Some truck drivers don’t want to take the most lucrative OTR jobs that will keep them away from families and their home bases on the longer runs. But all will agree that it is the long-haul truck drivers who make the most money.
If your bottom line remains a concern for you, CDL A jobs that include refrigerated trucks usually generate more money on the longer hauls than you could ever expect to make on local short haul runs.
Those refrigerated trucking jobs can be twice as far as those trips spent hauling dry freight. The industry average, however, is an increase of 150 to 200 miles per trip. In the big picture, those miles don’t mean all that much more time away from your home base. That is especially true when you are working to improve the quality of life for you and your family.
How the Money Breaks Down
Reefer truckers usually earn at least two cents more per mile. At first glance, that might not seem like that much of a boost, but in conjunction with the additional mileage, it can really make a significant difference in a truck driver’s lifestyle. Refrigerated trucking jobs also typically pay more per mile to truck drivers who have their CDL-A license designation.
Reefer drivers who have clean driving records and who are at the top of their games can typically average about $81,000 a year. This of course is dependent on the routes you agree to accept and other factors like your years of experience and driving record.
Your Refrigerated Rig Can Always Haul a Dry Load
Just because you have CDL-A certification and a refrigerated rig doesn’t mean that every load you agree to haul must be kept cool. That is simply a fallacy. Your big rig is fully equipped to haul dry or cold loads as needed. That is not an option that truck drivers who aren’t certified for CDL-A jobs have.
Now, let’s look at some other issues to consider when debating whether reefer trucking is indeed for you.
More Regulatory Oversight
The federal Food and Drug Administration oversees the sanitary transportation of human and animal food in the United States. Your refrigerated tractor-trailer can haul pharmaceuticals, plants, frozen food, produce, and meats. That means the FDA assures compliance with its lengthy list of regulations. When it comes to the FDA, cleanliness is indeed next to godliness. Their requirements also include protections from cross-contact contamination between edible items and non-food items within the same transport load.
This governmental oversight even extends to allergen exposures between the foods in transit. Should an inspector pf your reefer truck see evidence of cross-contamination in your shipment, you could lose the value of your entire cargo load. That is in addition to fines and penalties. If regulatory compliance sets your teeth on edge, you may want to rethink this career change. Otherwise, you can look at the additional regulatory concerns for as an investment in the safety of the products you haul.
Truck Breakdowns Are Your Kryptonite
Reefer trucking or reefer jobs can have downsides, like the most recent debacle at the southern border when the Texas governor’s insistence on additional inspections caused record spoilage that likely amounted to $4.2 billion or more.
But drivers must be hyper-vigilant about their own truck inspections to ensure that the trucks run optimally and that the temperature settings remain at their necessary levels. A broken-down reefer truck on the side of the road poses a real disaster for suppliers, truckers, trucking companies, and the ones eagerly anticipating these deliveries.
Therefore, you must keep your big rig in tip-top shape to avoid all the negative fallout from a mechanical failure on the road that can cost you way too much money.
Reefer Temperature Ranges
Transporting perishable goods can be tricky. Everyone involved in the process has the responsibility to prevent unsafe conditions from occurring. Temperature ranges should be specific, as opposed to vague directives like “chilled,” “kept cold,” or “frozen.”
Reefer truckers must commit to checking temperatures regularly all along the route, including when awaiting drop-offs. Cargo loads can get contaminated and be rejected if the temperatures are just a degree or two off.
Below are the temperature ranges for commonly hauled products and produce:
- 32˚F – 36˚F: Apples, berries, cruciferous vegetables, grapes, greens, and stone fruits
- 38˚F – 40˚F: Avocados and cranberries
- 40˚F – 45˚F: Green beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
- 45˚F – 50˚F: Bananas, cucumbers, select citrus fruits, tomatoes, and watermelon
Of course, those are but a few examples of the temperature controls that must be maintained when transporting goods on refrigerated trucking jobs. There are many others to consider — and accurate record-keeping is mandatory. According to the FDA, records of “written procedures, agreements and training” need to be kept for about a year.
What Certification Reefer Truckers Need
Refrigerated trucking jobs pay higher rates for drivers with CDL-A certifications than they do for drivers without that additional letter on their commercial drivers’ licenses. That is because more is expected of a Class A reefer driver. The cleanliness of the inside and outside of the rig are pivotal in maintaining the sanitary level of the semi truck and allow it to pass the additional inspections required for refrigerated trucking jobs.
The fuel levels are also vital in maintaining the right cooling temperatures inside the truck. Cargo loaders can refuse to load their goods simply if the diesel fuel levels in a reefer truck fall below the three-quarter level. If fuel levels drop below certain levels the fuel tank can emit residue that affects the cooling unit. This unfortunate development can ultimately create mechanical issues with the refrigerated big rig. That delay alone can play havoc with your trucking schedule and your bank account.
How Can a Single Letter Make Such a Big Difference?
While you might think the “A” designation on your CDL is not that important, when it comes to refrigerated trucking jobs, it certainly is. From the suppliers to the stores and, finally, the end users themselves, assuring the integrity of the product is of utmost importance.
Earning your CDL-A designation means more than a bigger paycheck (although that can never be discounted). It means that you put in the time to get the additional training to not just accept refrigerated trucking jobs from your company or independent clients, but to carry them out fully to completion.
Companies and clients appreciate such diligence and reward it accordingly with better-paying jobs. For a brighter future, those truck drivers who are contemplating taking refrigerated trucking jobs in the future would do well to revisit the prospect of earning their CDL-A certifications.
Assure Your Future in the Reefer Trucking Industry
You can have more options available when choosing the trucking jobs you accept. If you decide to maximize your money, take the longer routes for reefer trucks. If it is more important to return home each night, there are short-haul reefer runs in most areas. The best decisions are the ones made with all the options available to you.
When you commit to a career in the freight-hauling industry, it makes good sense to take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to you. Betting on a better future by advancing yourself and obtaining your CDL-A certification can open new doors for you in the trucking industry.