Refrigerated Trailer:

Usage, Pricing, Services & Freight Quotes


Sam Boyd

May 7, 2024

Join the community!

Refrigerated Trailer:

Usage, Pricing, Services & Freight Quotes


Sam Boyd
May 7, 2024



Join the community!

Refrigerated trailers, commonly referred to as "reefer trailers," are indispensable in the transportation of perishable goods, providing a controlled environment to ensure the safe delivery of temperature-sensitive items. Here's an exploration of the key aspects of these trailers, their features, applications, advantages, and specifications.

We’ll also help readers: 

  • Understand how refrigerated trailer pricing is calculated
  • Provide tips on hiring a refrigerated trailer freight company
  • And direct readers where to get a refrigerated trailer freight quote

What is a Refrigerated Trailer?

Refrigerated trailers, or reefers, are the go-to choice when a temperature-controlled setting is required for transporting fresh and perishable goods. 

Specifically designed for items like food products, agricultural produce, pharmaceuticals, hazardous materials, and even delicate artwork, these trailers play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of cargo during transit.

Specifications of Refrigerated Trailers

Cargo Carried: 

Agricultural products, food items, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, flowers, and other goods require specialized temperature control.

Trailer Length Options: 

Various lengths are available, with the most common being between 48 to 53 feet.

Dimensions: 

Maximum dimensions of 53’ x 8.5’ x 13’.

Axles: 

Typically equipped with 2 to 3 axles.

Trailer Weight: 

Ranges from 12,000 to 25,000 lbs.

Maximum Load: 

Capable of handling up to 43-45,000 lbs.

Configuration and Temperature Control

Reefer trailers are configured to maintain a steady temperature, typically ranging from -20 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the nature of the cargo. This controlled environment helps prevent spoilage, bacterial growth, and deterioration of goods. The most common size for these trailers is 53 feet, aligning with standard semi-trailers.

Unique Features of Refrigerated Trailers

Regardless of size, most refrigerated trailers share standard features designed to ensure the safety of transported goods:

Diesel, Battery, and  Electric, or Cryogenic Powered Generators: 

These generators provide the necessary power to run and control the refrigeration unit, enabling temperature and humidity control for extended periods, up to 96 hours. 

Diesel-powered generators use the truck's fuel supply to power the refrigeration unit but are becoming less popular due to the lower cost and environmental impact of the alternatives that follow.

Battery and electric-powered generators use energy stored in a battery, or direct connection to a power supply, to power the refrigeration unit of a reefer trailer. Battery power is preferential when the trailer is in transit, while an electric supply is sufficient when a trailer is stationary.

Cryogenic powered generators: use liquified gas, typically liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide to maintain zero-zero temperatures, and are the newest and most advanced form of refrigeration used in reefer trailers. They are ideally used when extremely cold temperatures are required during transport, such as frozen foods, medications, or certain chemicals.

Trailer Refrigeration Unit: 

Comprising a compressor, condenser, evaporator, and expansion valve, this unit cycles on and off to maintain a consistent temperature inside the trailer.

Lockable Temperature Control Panel: 

Controlled by the truck operator, this panel is set to the client's unique temperature requirements, whether hot or cold.

Insulated Container: 

Lined with foam, the walls of the reefer container ensure a constant temperature throughout the haul, featuring air-tight doors to prevent temperature-controlled air from escaping.

Air Circulation Features: 

Temperature-controlled air moves through air chutes, facilitating air circulation from the front to the back of the trailer.

Applications of Refrigerated Trailers

Refrigerated trailers find application across various industries, serving:

  • Food distributors
  • Grocery stores and retail chains
  • Chemical and pharmaceutical industries
  • Farmers
  • Common Loads

Ideal for transporting a diverse range of temperature-sensitive items, refrigerated trailers are commonly used for: 

  • seafood 
  • meat 
  • dairy
  • fruits and vegetables 
  • medication 
  • chemicals,
  • and flowers

Refrigerated Freight Compliance Requirements

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA):

Compliance with FSMA regulations is crucial for carriers involved in the transportation of food, particularly perishable goods.Requirements under FSMA include implementing measures to prevent contamination, ensuring proper temperature control, and maintaining records of temperature monitoring.

Temperature Monitoring:

Carriers of refrigerated freight must monitor and record the temperatures of their cargo during transportation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires temperature records to be kept for at least 12 months and made available for inspection upon request.

Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule:

This rule outlines specific requirements for the sanitary transportation of food, including perishable items. It includes measures to prevent the contamination of food during transportation, such as proper cleaning and maintenance of vehicles.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP):

While HACCP is not a federal regulation, it is a widely recognized food safety system. Some customers or industries may require carriers to implement HACCP principles in their operations to ensure the safe transportation of food.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations:

Carriers must comply with DOT regulations governing the safe transportation of hazardous materials, including the proper handling and documentation of hazardous cargo.

Refrigeration Equipment Certification:

Refrigeration units and equipment used in refrigerated trailers should meet industry standards and certifications to ensure they can maintain the required temperatures reliably.

State and Local Regulations:

Different states and municipalities may have additional regulations and requirements related to the transportation of perishable goods, so carriers should be aware of local laws and compliance measures.

Insurance and Liability:

Carriers should have appropriate insurance coverage to protect against potential liabilities related to cargo damage, spoilage, or other issues during transportation.

Permit and Compliance Requirements:

Depending on the nature of the cargo and the route taken, carriers may need special permits or compliance documentation to transport certain goods, especially if they are hazardous or subject to additional regulations.

Documentation and Record-Keeping:

Maintaining accurate records of temperature logs, compliance documentation, and shipping records is essential for demonstrating compliance and ensuring the integrity of the cargo.

Security Measures:

Carriers should implement security protocols to prevent theft or tampering of the cargo during transit.

Driver Training and Certification:

Drivers should be trained and certified in the proper handling of refrigerated cargo, temperature control procedures, and food safety practices.

Carriers, shippers, and logistics professionals involved in refrigerated transportation need to stay informed about these regulations and ensure compliance to meet industry standards and maintain the quality and safety of transported goods. Non-compliance can lead to fines, penalties, and potential damage to a company's reputation, so make sure you work with a reputable provider like Guided Freight.

Advantages of Refrigerated Trailers

Refrigerated trucking offers several advantages over non-temperature controlled freight, including:

Preservation of Product Freshness: 

Ensures product quality and safety by preventing contamination, spoilage, or bacterial growth.

Versatility in Temperature Control: 

Allows shipping goods at virtually any temperature, reducing product loss.

Seasonal Flexibility of Delivery: 

Maintains appropriate temperatures despite external weather conditions, providing flexibility in delivery schedules.

Increased Geographic Reach: 

Enables companies with temperature-sensitive products to ship goods safely to various locations.

Compliance: 

Meets strict government temperature and safety requirements, essential for chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

Reefer Trailer Freight Pricing

Refrigerated trailer pricing is typically calculated based on distance, temperature, and weight.

Final pricing will also factor in:

  • Insurance & Special handling requirements
  • Pickup and delivery hours 
  • Current fuel cost
  • Current supply and demand near the pickup and delivery location 

Selecting a Refrigerated Trailer or Truck Freight Broker

If your company is looking to hire a refrigerated trailer freight driver there are several important considerations.

Reputation and Experience:

  • Research the company's reputation in the industry. Look for reviews, testimonials, or references from other businesses that have used their services.
  • Consider the company's experience in handling refrigerated shipments, especially those similar to your specific requirements.

Equipment and Technology:

  • Ensure that the company's fleet includes well-maintained and modern refrigerated trailers equipped with the latest technology for temperature control.
  • Inquire about the type of refrigeration units used, their capacity, and whether they have backup systems in case of mechanical issues.

Compliance and Certification:

  • Confirm that the refrigerated freight company adheres to industry regulations and standards.
  • Verify that the company holds necessary certifications, such as compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for the transportation of food products.

Temperature Monitoring and Reporting:

  • Check if the company provides real-time temperature monitoring throughout the entire journey.
  • Inquire about the reporting mechanisms in place, ensuring you receive temperature logs and reports for each shipment.

Security Measures:

  • Assess the security features of the refrigerated trailers, including locks, alarms, and tracking systems.
  • Inquire about the company's security protocols to prevent theft or tampering during transit.

Insurance Coverage:

  • Confirm the extent of insurance coverage for your cargo during transportation. Ensure that it includes protection against temperature-related damages.
  • Understand the claims process and requirements in case of any incidents.

Operational Support:

  • Evaluate the company's customer support and communication capabilities. Ensure they provide timely updates on the status of your shipment.
  • Confirm the availability of 24/7 customer support for emergencies or unexpected situations.

Route Planning and Efficiency:

  • Inquire about the company's route planning strategies to optimize transit times and minimize delays.
  • Check if they have contingency plans for unexpected events such as traffic, adverse weather, or mechanical failures.

Environmental Considerations:

  • If environmental sustainability is a priority for your business, inquire about the company's efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adopt eco-friendly practices in their operations.

Cost and Billing Transparency:

  • Understand the company's pricing structure, including any additional charges for special services or handling.
  • Ensure transparency in billing and inquire about any hidden costs that may arise during the transportation process.

Refrigerated Shipping & Freight Quote

If your company requires the services of a refrigerated, Guided Freight would be pleased to help. As a freight broker, we’ve got the largest refrigerated fleet on the market, and we specialize in handling complex logistics so you don’t have to.

We’ve made it simple to get a freight quote.


Frequently Asked Questions

How does a refrigerated trailer work?

Refrigerated trailers use a refrigeration unit, insulated container, and airflow ducts to maintain a constant temperature for the transport of perishable goods.

What is a “Reefer” Trailer?

“Reefer Trailer” is the colloquial form of refrigerated trailer used among freight professionals.

How long can a refrigerated trailer run?

Refrigerated trucks can run 2-3 days without refueling if the trailer door is opened minimally. Daily refuels are common once the door is opened more than a few times a day.

How cold can a refrigerated trailer get?

Refrigerated trailers, or reefer trailers, commonly get as cold as -20 and as warm as 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Refrigerated trailers, commonly referred to as "reefer trailers," are indispensable in the transportation of perishable goods, providing a controlled environment to ensure the safe delivery of temperature-sensitive items. Here's an exploration of the key aspects of these trailers, their features, applications, advantages, and specifications.

We’ll also help readers: 

  • Understand how refrigerated trailer pricing is calculated

  • Provide tips on hiring a refrigerated trailer freight company

  • And direct readers where to get a refrigerated trailer freight quote

What is a Refrigerated Trailer?

Refrigerated trailers, or reefers, are the go-to choice when a temperature-controlled setting is required for transporting fresh and perishable goods. 

Specifically designed for items like food products, agricultural produce, pharmaceuticals, hazardous materials, and even delicate artwork, these trailers play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of cargo during transit.

Specifications of Refrigerated Trailers

Cargo Carried: 

Agricultural products, food items, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, flowers, and other goods require specialized temperature control.

Trailer Length Options: 

Various lengths are available, with the most common being between 48 to 53 feet.

Dimensions: 

Maximum dimensions of 53’ x 8.5’ x 13’.

Axles: 

Typically equipped with 2 to 3 axles.

Trailer Weight: 

Ranges from 12,000 to 25,000 lbs.

Maximum Load: 

Capable of handling up to 43-45,000 lbs.

Configuration and Temperature Control

Reefer trailers are configured to maintain a steady temperature, typically ranging from -20 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the nature of the cargo. This controlled environment helps prevent spoilage, bacterial growth, and deterioration of goods. The most common size for these trailers is 53 feet, aligning with standard semi-trailers.

Unique Features of Refrigerated Trailers

Regardless of size, most refrigerated trailers share standard features designed to ensure the safety of transported goods:

Diesel, Battery, and  Electric, or Cryogenic Powered Generators: 

These generators provide the necessary power to run and control the refrigeration unit, enabling temperature and humidity control for extended periods, up to 96 hours. 

Diesel-powered generators use the truck's fuel supply to power the refrigeration unit but are becoming less popular due to the lower cost and environmental impact of the alternatives that follow.

Battery and electric-powered generators use energy stored in a battery, or direct connection to a power supply, to power the refrigeration unit of a reefer trailer. Battery power is preferential when the trailer is in transit, while an electric supply is sufficient when a trailer is stationary.

Cryogenic powered generators: use liquified gas, typically liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide to maintain zero-zero temperatures, and are the newest and most advanced form of refrigeration used in reefer trailers. They are ideally used when extremely cold temperatures are required during transport, such as frozen foods, medications, or certain chemicals.

Trailer Refrigeration Unit: 

Comprising a compressor, condenser, evaporator, and expansion valve, this unit cycles on and off to maintain a consistent temperature inside the trailer.

Lockable Temperature Control Panel: 

Controlled by the truck operator, this panel is set to the client's unique temperature requirements, whether hot or cold.

Insulated Container: 

Lined with foam, the walls of the reefer container ensure a constant temperature throughout the haul, featuring air-tight doors to prevent temperature-controlled air from escaping.

Air Circulation Features: 

Temperature-controlled air moves through air chutes, facilitating air circulation from the front to the back of the trailer.

Applications of Refrigerated Trailers

Refrigerated trailers find application across various industries, serving:

  • Food distributors
  • Grocery stores and retail chains
  • Chemical and pharmaceutical industries
  • Farmers
  • Common Loads

Ideal for transporting a diverse range of temperature-sensitive items, refrigerated trailers are commonly used for: 

  • seafood 
  • meat 
  • dairy
  • fruits and vegetables 
  • medication 
  • chemicals,
  • and flowers

Refrigerated Freight Compliance Requirements

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA):

Compliance with FSMA regulations is crucial for carriers involved in the transportation of food, particularly perishable goods.Requirements under FSMA include implementing measures to prevent contamination, ensuring proper temperature control, and maintaining records of temperature monitoring.

Temperature Monitoring:

Carriers of refrigerated freight must monitor and record the temperatures of their cargo during transportation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires temperature records to be kept for at least 12 months and made available for inspection upon request.

Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule:

This rule outlines specific requirements for the sanitary transportation of food, including perishable items. It includes measures to prevent the contamination of food during transportation, such as proper cleaning and maintenance of vehicles.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP):

While HACCP is not a federal regulation, it is a widely recognized food safety system. Some customers or industries may require carriers to implement HACCP principles in their operations to ensure the safe transportation of food.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations:

Carriers must comply with DOT regulations governing the safe transportation of hazardous materials, including the proper handling and documentation of hazardous cargo.

Refrigeration Equipment Certification:

Refrigeration units and equipment used in refrigerated trailers should meet industry standards and certifications to ensure they can maintain the required temperatures reliably.

State and Local Regulations:

Different states and municipalities may have additional regulations and requirements related to the transportation of perishable goods, so carriers should be aware of local laws and compliance measures.

Insurance and Liability:

Carriers should have appropriate insurance coverage to protect against potential liabilities related to cargo damage, spoilage, or other issues during transportation.

Permit and Compliance Requirements:

Depending on the nature of the cargo and the route taken, carriers may need special permits or compliance documentation to transport certain goods, especially if they are hazardous or subject to additional regulations.

Documentation and Record-Keeping:

Maintaining accurate records of temperature logs, compliance documentation, and shipping records is essential for demonstrating compliance and ensuring the integrity of the cargo.

Security Measures:

Carriers should implement security protocols to prevent theft or tampering of the cargo during transit.

Driver Training and Certification:

Drivers should be trained and certified in the proper handling of refrigerated cargo, temperature control procedures, and food safety practices.

Carriers, shippers, and logistics professionals involved in refrigerated transportation need to stay informed about these regulations and ensure compliance to meet industry standards and maintain the quality and safety of transported goods. Non-compliance can lead to fines, penalties, and potential damage to a company's reputation, so make sure you work with a reputable provider like Guided Freight.

Advantages of Refrigerated Trailers

Refrigerated trucking offers several advantages over non-temperature controlled freight, including:

Preservation of Product Freshness: 

Ensures product quality and safety by preventing contamination, spoilage, or bacterial growth.

Versatility in Temperature Control: 

Allows shipping goods at virtually any temperature, reducing product loss.

Seasonal Flexibility of Delivery: 

Maintains appropriate temperatures despite external weather conditions, providing flexibility in delivery schedules.

Increased Geographic Reach: 

Enables companies with temperature-sensitive products to ship goods safely to various locations.

Compliance: 

Meets strict government temperature and safety requirements, essential for chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

Reefer Trailer Freight Pricing

Refrigerated trailer pricing is typically calculated based on distance, temperature, and weight.

Final pricing will also factor in:

  • Insurance & Special handling requirements
  • Pickup and delivery hours 
  • Current fuel cost
  • Current supply and demand near the pickup and delivery location 

Selecting a Refrigerated Trailer or Truck Freight Broker

If your company is looking to hire a refrigerated trailer freight driver there are several important considerations.

Reputation and Experience:

  • Research the company's reputation in the industry. Look for reviews, testimonials, or references from other businesses that have used their services.
  • Consider the company's experience in handling refrigerated shipments, especially those similar to your specific requirements.

Equipment and Technology:

  • Ensure that the company's fleet includes well-maintained and modern refrigerated trailers equipped with the latest technology for temperature control.
  • Inquire about the type of refrigeration units used, their capacity, and whether they have backup systems in case of mechanical issues.

Compliance and Certification:

  • Confirm that the refrigerated freight company adheres to industry regulations and standards.
  • Verify that the company holds necessary certifications, such as compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for the transportation of food products.

Temperature Monitoring and Reporting:

  • Check if the company provides real-time temperature monitoring throughout the entire journey.
  • Inquire about the reporting mechanisms in place, ensuring you receive temperature logs and reports for each shipment.

Security Measures:

  • Assess the security features of the refrigerated trailers, including locks, alarms, and tracking systems.
  • Inquire about the company's security protocols to prevent theft or tampering during transit.

Insurance Coverage:

  • Confirm the extent of insurance coverage for your cargo during transportation. Ensure that it includes protection against temperature-related damages.
  • Understand the claims process and requirements in case of any incidents.

Operational Support:

  • Evaluate the company's customer support and communication capabilities. Ensure they provide timely updates on the status of your shipment.
  • Confirm the availability of 24/7 customer support for emergencies or unexpected situations.

Route Planning and Efficiency:

  • Inquire about the company's route planning strategies to optimize transit times and minimize delays.
  • Check if they have contingency plans for unexpected events such as traffic, adverse weather, or mechanical failures.

Environmental Considerations:

  • If environmental sustainability is a priority for your business, inquire about the company's efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adopt eco-friendly practices in their operations.

Cost and Billing Transparency:

  • Understand the company's pricing structure, including any additional charges for special services or handling.
  • Ensure transparency in billing and inquire about any hidden costs that may arise during the transportation process.

Refrigerated Shipping & Freight Quote

If your company requires the services of a refrigerated, Guided Freight would be pleased to help. As a freight broker, we’ve got the largest refrigerated fleet on the market, and we specialize in handling complex logistics so you don’t have to.

We’ve made it simple to get a freight quote.


Frequently Asked Questions

How does a refrigerated trailer work?

Refrigerated trailers use a refrigeration unit, insulated container, and airflow ducts to maintain a constant temperature for the transport of perishable goods.

What is a “Reefer” Trailer?

“Reefer Trailer” is the colloquial form of refrigerated trailer used among freight professionals.

How long can a refrigerated trailer run?

Refrigerated trucks can run 2-3 days without refueling if the trailer door is opened minimally. Daily refuels are common once the door is opened more than a few times a day.

How cold can a refrigerated trailer get?

Refrigerated trailers, or reefer trailers, commonly get as cold as -20 and as warm as 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

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