Driving a Reefer

Discussion in 'Questions From New Drivers' started by sw6g, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. sw6g

    sw6g Light Load Member

    Aug 7, 2011
    Why does it seem reefer drivers make more per mile? How does it compare to driving a van besides being concerned with the trailer fridge motor? Looking at doing regional in the midwest
  2. Nashville Driver

    Nashville Driver Medium Load Member

    Aug 9, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    I have never hauled reefer, but I have a very good friend who does and he sits alot and does short hops in the middle of the night. He is always looking to chat at 2AM going from the twin cities to chicago. He too is a midwest regional driver. He does not travel many miles, so the company makes up for it in slightly higher pay per mile. His drive times all over the clock, I could not handle a schedule like that.
  3. Gears

    Gears Trucker Forum STAFF - Gone, But Not Forgotten.

    Aug 20, 2009
    From an owner/operator's standpoint, reefer pays better because you have to provide fuel for the reefer, an added cost when compared to vans. That's just one of the reasons. The freight requires more hands-on... monitoring temps to make sure all's well and so on.
    BigJohn54 Thanks this.
  4. chompi

    chompi Road Train Member

    Jun 21, 2008
    Deland, FL
    You should go for it! There really isn't that much to it. Whatever company you go with they will make sure to train you properly. If you can run the a/c at your house then you should be able to run a reefer. The most important thing is that you monitor it and let your DM know immediately if there are any problems. I have found with hauling reefer that there is a hell of lot less hands on the product. No building tears or stuff like that either. Plus hauling reefer is more versatile in getting loads. You can haul dry loads, reefer loads, hazmat dead bodies etc....!
    venne Thanks this.
  5. jbatmick

    jbatmick Road Train Member

    Dec 1, 2009
    hastings, Fl
    You are more likely to have a claim against the truck by the receiver.Produce receivers LOVE to try and pin the blame on the trucker if the product is not perfect.:Transportation cost
    Reefers freight, as a whole, is more time sensitive than most dry freight. Therefore, the loads are quite often delivered at odd hours, and ASAP after loading.
    You must watch a refrigerated load closer. If that unit does not defrost, quits running, or otherwise malfunctions, a whole load can go bad in just a few hours. You also have to load them so there is certain air circulation in the trailer. Do not jam anything around air inlets.
    Not much can be worse than having a reefer quit running on a Saturday night, loaded with high dollar perishable produce. Not many places to get them repaired. You need a little mechanical know-how.:Wrench::Wrench:
    It can also be harder to get your weight right with a heavier, insulated refrigerated trailer.
    So, you have added duties to keep an eye on the reefer, more liable to have a claim, and just a few more head-aches in general.
  6. chompi

    chompi Road Train Member

    Jun 21, 2008
    Deland, FL
    On that note, reefer loads are usually loaded to the max. As far as getting work done on them, there are TK shops all over the place, 24 hour emergency service and also most cold storage, shipper/receivers have mechanics on premises. Yes it helps if you are a little mechanically inclined but there really is nothing to it. Highly recommend a 20' set of jumper cables to keep in your truck. In the winter you need to monitor the fuel tank for gelling since there is nothing back there generating heat.

    I think a lot of drivers make more of the reefer thing then there is to it.
  7. DirtyBob

    DirtyBob Road Train Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    As these guys said there's really not a whole lot to it, just a couple extra things you have to think about compared to van.

    A couple other things not mentioned. You need to know when to get a trailer washed out after certain type of loads or if it's just dirty in general due to a lot of debris or shavings of rubber from the forklifts. You also have to make sure that you observe the truck being loaded when it's a produce load to ensure the cooler isn't putting warm produce on the trailer. Reefers aren't meant to cool, they're meant to maintain temperature.

    I love running reefer mainly because you can haul dry which gives you more options on loads. A lot of our team backhauls are dry loads. It also has made we want to eat vegetables and fruit more lol. Once you see truly fresh produce coming off the fields you get a craving for it.
  8. Dave_AL

    Dave_AL Light Load Member

    Aug 9, 2011
    The only I have to add is that if you run reefers, do what most drivers rarely if ever do - run the pre-trip on the unit. Push a few buttons, wait a few minutes and make sure the reefer is in good order. This will save you a lot of headaches. As mentioned earlier, reefer runs are typically a little tighter on schedule - you don't want to get half way to your destination and then have to stop and wait for repairs because the unit started throwing alarms. It's so much easier and usually faster to just run the pre-trip and pick another trailer (after reporting any problems with that unit) if needed.
    lostNfound Thanks this.
  9. Emulsified

    Emulsified Road Train Member

    May 6, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    From an earlier post...

    Produce is fun, hard and a learning experience! Me? I just like pulling a reefer. Pays a little better for certain loads.

    With the big box stores out there now and large grocery chains you might be dealing with one broker and his buyer.
    The buyer is the guy that might meet you at several if not all of you pick ups. He's the one who will decide on which pallets he wants for his customer.

    Because you are a "new" driver ask this guy many questions. He is the one besides a driver with years of experience that can show you what good produce looks like.

    Yes believe it or not there are some unscrupulous shippers out there with the loaders helping them. These shippers will watch you the driver to see how you work the dock.
    Working the dock?
    Yes. Do you stand there just watching the load go in the trailer? OR are you standing there with your pulp thermometer, a note pad writing down the numbers of temps and count and sticking at least 2 boxes on each pallet and looking at all 4 sides of a wrapped pallet looking for damaged boxes?

    When you pulp are you pulling a top box off and pulping down a layer in the pallet? Why? Because if the pallet was run through the chiller/refrigerators/freezers the outside layers might be at the proper temps but those inside are way warmer than what the buyer and broker not to mention the receiver wants.

    Ask the buyer what GOOD produce looks like. Like strawberries, or potatoes, carrots and many different types of melons. Do not be afraid to pick a grape or two for a taste test. The same with apples, oranges and other fruit. Is fruit hard, soft or mushy? Some shippers I would not trust them loading a full load of good freight without trying to clean the docks of trash!

    You saw the post about keeping the air flow going and using continuous on the unit?

    Reason is if the unit is not running in continuous mode then when the unit shuts down for a few minutes (to save fuel) when it comes back on it runs colder so it will bring the temp back down. The "colder" air might be below freezing and as this colder air runs across your load it can actually freeze parts of the load and even turn some produce into mush! Not to many dock foremen will take frozen or mushed produce. A tattletale recorder will note the differences in the temps and can cost you in the long run.

    Use a pulp thermometer that you have to stick INTO the fruit or vegetable to get a temperature from inside the product. Those infrared types that you point and click are just fine to see what the temp is on the skin but what is the inside doing? I never trust any shipper that points the infrared thermometer at their product. They are maybe the one trying to clear out the freezers and unload a bad load on a driver. Yeah the skin looks great! But the worm in the middle of the apple is nice and warm!

    Do not think because it's running that the engine oil is good. Those engines can take abuse better than your tractor engine but having one fail with a high dollar load of produce or meat or ice cream is not going to make for a fun day! The same time you check your trucks engine oil, fluids and belts you should be doing the same thing with that T.K. or Carrier unit! Yes turn it off let it set for a minute or so then check the oil, belts and freon and turn it back on.

    Keep it clean inside! If there is just a little bit of doubt in your mind it's not clean go get it washed out! Nothing like having to go find a wash out in BFE and they don't like the floor!

    Defrost! Yes do not rely on the auto defrost. Every time you walk by the unit hit the manual defrost button. Then after hitting it and doing whatever you were doing go look to see how much water came out of the drain hoses.

    FYI: When pre cooling a dirty unit trash such as small pieces of wood from pallets, paper, plastic and whatever gets blown up and into the condenser tray which then drain out through the drain hoses. Those are found coming out of the unit and down the front of the trailer.

    If you have just loaded a load and closed the doors and the loaded has verified that the seal is good hit the manual defrost and stand there and watch for water to flow out heavily. One reason to defrost as soon as loaded is the moisture in the box if it stays in there will make your boxes get damp and collapse which can damage produce and also make a fun mess to clean up! Re stacking pallets of 20-50 pound boxes in the trailer is not is highly overrated.

    If no water comes out of those hoses look at the drain holes in the four corners of the trailer. If water is flowing from them and it's not a "wet" load the tubes are stopped up.
    Easy fix!: Got the gloves on? Good. Shake and pound on the drain hoses from the top where they come out of the unit. Look at the end and watch dirt and junk fall out of it. You might even see a thin piece of wood start to poke out. but keep pounding it and shaking it and even run a coat hangar up in it but sooner or later the water will flow out of those hoses. I've even pulled tie wraps out of them!

    Just remember when you hit defrost and you don't get water out of the hoses but it starts to run from the drain hoses it's time to clean the hoses because you want to remove the moisture from the box NOT add more when the tray overflows into the box!

    I always when getting out of the trailer hit the manual defrost!

    Another tip: Do not rely on the digital reading on the screen or the gauges of older equipment for the "pulp" temp readings! I carried two types of thermometers. 1 is my trusty pointy ended hand held thermometer and the other was a round freezer thermometer that I hand in the trailer inspection door. I hang it on the inside of the trailer to the screen if there is any or hang it somehow using duct tape and coat hangers so all I have to do is open the door, take a quick look and then to look at how the load is sitting then close the door as quick as possible to keep from losing to much cold air and to keep moisture out of the box.

    What if the trailer has no inspection door and yep some are speced without them.
    Look at the bottom of where both doors latch. Just stick the thermometer into the crack into the trailer and let it do it's magic. That's what we call "pulping the load in transit" This is what we used to call into dispatch and what was used to CYA in case of somehow delivering a "hot" load. This is where NOT pulling a case or two off of pallets and checking the inner cases for proper temperatures is a bad deal for you the driver! I have had more than one load start to get loaded hot by the shipper to have you the driver act as a refrigerator to cool his load. Yep they think because that unit has a -20 setting it'll cool the load before you get to the receiver. OH it will if they want it next week and not tomorrow! I've even had Tyson and Excel (Meat) do that to me.

    If you are NOT allowed on the dock call dispatch and tell them! If I get the "not allowed on the dock" line I tell them that I WILL be signing SLC (shipper load and count) I do NOT pick up any load that I can not pulp as it's being loaded unless it's a drop and hook and that's covered by your dispatch in the message so I'm covered. Usually when you tell a shipping clerk that's what you'll have to do because if they refuse to allow you on the dock they either will allow you on or allow you to sign SLC. BUT sometimes they actually will tell you that you will NOT sign SLC! I let dispatch decide what to do! (this also applies for dry loads!) If dispatch tells me to pull out I will but I want that confirmation on Qualcomm, People net or as a text on my cell! I just do NOT pay for product and especially if I can't sell it at OSD prices at the truck stop or a charity!

    There are a few tips for now! Enjoy pulling a reefer! At least you can haul 2 types of loads. Cold or dry! No reason to sit long waiting for a load!


    -The bad thing is that's not all! I got tired and gave up! But this should make up for what I didn't get into!

    -Like what to have and do if you let the unit run out of fuel!
    -An inexpensive wire to have for in case a battery goes dead. Jumper cables anyone?
    -How to secure the doors/
    -Just how many load locks are needed!
    -How to use pallets as a single pallet support device!
    -Should you have spare corks in the tool box. Yes, I wrote CORKS not the other thing that sounds like that word!

    I'm bored again so it's time to write a little bit for you guys1

    I'll start with something that's going to cost you a scale ticket out of your pocket!
    Fuel your new truck all the way in all three tanks if you have that many! First thing is diesel fuel weighs exactly 7.3 pounds per gallon. Not 8 which is the rounded off number which many drivers take as their figure when figuring out a tight fuel, weight, distance problem. Knowing the exact weight is that important! I have yet to see the weight of low sulfur which should be a tad bit lighter but stick with the 7.3. It may be heavier in colder weather but after the tank has run through the lines to the engine it will warm back down to the 7.3 weight. Weigh the truck and trailer full of fuel and with you and what you need in the cab. You now have the complete tare weight or the empty weight of the truck.

    Now what to have in case you let the unit run out of fuel.
    I know you have all seen those air lines that hook to a glad hand for in case you have a tire going down. That is a very important tool to have as it will save you a lot of time waiting for a service truck.

    Go to a NAPA store or an auto parts store and get you a set of quick release air fittings. And get a few extra of the male ends to match. Put a male end on the end with the air chuck and the single female on the air line. Go to a tire shop and get a LONG valve stem that will fit a trucks inside tire. Go find a tennis ball. Drill a hole smaller than the outside dimension of the tire stem and then push the stem into and through the ball. You can glue it if you want.

    If your company didn't instruct you on how to prime the units engine you will need to find out as it is a lot harder to explain with noting to point at so believe me when you learn how to masturbate your unit you'll never have to use your ball! Yes, when masturbating a unit that's what you look like standing on the cat walk up to your shoulders in the unit!

    Ask the shop which nut (? Oh this is going X-rated real fast!) or bolt you need to loosen to let the air out of the injector system before you start either pumping or blowing the system. Yeah it's getting to become a porn post!

    OK. You ran the unit out of fuel. Grab your wrench and open the doors to the unit and loosen the nut/bolt. Grab your air line and put the air chuck on it and bring the ball with you. You just filled the unit with fuel and now you have the air line hooked up and now place the tennis ball in the filler neck of the reefer with the tip pointing out. If you have someone helping have them stand on the cat walk watching the loosened nut so when he sees fuel he can tell you to stop. Put the air chuck on the valve stem in the filler neck and blow air into the tank until the helper tells you to stop. Take a few seconds before you do so that fuel makes it to the injectors.

    Put the cap back on the tank and tighten the nut on the unit and flip the power switch or do what you have to do depending on how old the thing is! Your unit should start. It might cough and shake a bit if any air is left in the system but you just saved your arm the experience of pumping that little 2" primer pump! If you ever let a reefer run out of fuel again you deserve to have to "pump" it!

    That was fun wasn't it? Next in that list:
    Either your unit or your tractor has a dead battery! Not fun but this is one reason I like pulling a reefer. Not every battery will die. The next time you at=re at a commercial construction zone and the electricians are doing their thing as one if you might be able to have about 20' of 3 gauge outlet wire. Next go back to your NAPA Auto parts store and get two 2 or 3" long alligator clips. You want the ones that if you were to open one and put it on your finger or other body part it will take that part off of your body! Attach your clips to each end of your wire. If your tractor wont start or your unit also just hook this new tool to a positive post on the units battery and on your tractors battery. If the tractor is the one needing help it will take a while for it to start unless you also have a 20' long 2 or 3 gauge jumper cable also found at your NAPA auto parts store.

    Jump start the truck or unit but leave the new tool hooked incase there is a bad alternator and this will allow you to drive and have the needed electricity for lights, gauges and whatever until you can get to the shop. It's cheaper to use the wire connected between truck and trailer instead of your jumper cables.

    I can hear some of you asking why just one wire? You don't need the negative cable because the 5th wheel makes you ground connect ion between the tractor and trailer. When doing a jump with your jumper cables then go ahead and use both clamps.

    The best trailer lock ever!
    While at that NAPA store pick up a pack of 9/16 x 1 ½ or 2" bolts and a handful, of nuts and washers. Make it 2 nuts for each bolt. The bolts should NOT have a shoulder. (that part that has no threads.)

    Most thieves carry a bold cutter to remove locks but 99.99% of them do not carry 2- 9/16 inch combination wrenches. Did you just think of something else to buy while at that NAPA? That's right 2- 9/16" combination wrenches for the tool box!
    If the shipper only used a metal or plastic seal you're ok. Anything bigger you'll need the pad lock!

    Instead of an easy to cut pad lock take to the back of the trailer your wrenches, 1 bolt 2 nuts and a washer. Put your bolt into the holes on the latch. Put a washer and the first nut on and tighten it up till you can't turn it anymore then add the second nut and jam it against the first nut. If the thief is built like Hulk Hogan they are not going to cut a 9/16" bolt or actually the nuts with a bolt cutter. Cut it off with a grinder yes, but with brute force not in this century! You can add the spanner lock on the latch rods for a little added protection.

    OK class! Load locks? Fill the load lock holder behind the cab. That's usually 4 and about as many as you might need. I do not recommend laying them across the back between the fairings as it can start to bend them and if it's a company truck you might have to pay for that repair! Besides to many load locks and someone might come along who likes them more than you do!

    Pallets as a load lock???
    You have a single pallet and it can tip over in a hard turn or if you fail to defrost the unit and a box collapses on the bottom.
    You need 3 empty pallets. Ask the dock guy for them but they don't have to be good ones.

    Stand two against the loaded pallet. And the third one put one end into the corner of the wall and floor and lay it down against the two pallets against the pallet of whatever and push it down until it is stuck between boards on the standing pallet. This will keep that one stand alone pallet from falling to the side unless you drive like an idiot then all bets are off! NOTE: This works fine for a pallet at the tail of the load. Not so much for a centered pallet in the middle of the trailer. Now that was easy!

    OK I know you have gone nuts wanting to know about corks! There is a drain in each corner of your reefer. They are there to let the melting ice or any other liquid to pour out BUT when hauling those -0 degree loads cold air pours out of those holes and lets hot air back in and in extreme heat that hot air coming in through those holes can warm up the pallets in those four corners! Most newer trailers have this nice plastic tubes that are squeezed together and only lets liquids flow down and out but keeps air in check.

    For those trailers with just the holes or those open tubes you need corks or something to block those holes. Go to the nearest trailer dealership and ask for at least 4 corks. These are yours so if you haul the same trailer around it's a small expense to pay for not having to stand on a receivers dock as he pulps that load and then loads product back due to hot temps. It will also save you a major pain if the recorder is close to a hole and records an awful lot of high temps. This is a COVER YOUR ARSE idem! When empty and you have washed out the trailer and as it drains and is pre cooling put one in each corner and that's done! Don't forget to take them with you if you drop your empty.
  10. ReallyRotten

    ReallyRotten Bobtail Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    The one thing I like about a reefer is if you have to hand unload a trailer on a hot Day , you got AC.
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