What Is Refrigerated Trucking and What Are Its Benefits for Business

What Is Refrigerated Trucking and What Are Its Benefits for Business

Transporting perishable goods in or from a warm area, like Texas for example, is a recipe for disaster. No matter how much money you anticipate saving by shipping perishable items with non-perishable items, it isn't worth ruining your goods.

Warm weather presents logistical challenges for transporting perishables from a place like Texas, but you can easily avoid these challenges by using refrigerated trucking services. A refrigerated freight ensures that your shipment won't spoil before it arrives at its eventual destination. Two different shipments might seem like a high cost, but in reality, your goods will be better protected and last longer, saving you more money in the long run.

Below, our experts at Cowtown Express will discuss what refrigerated trucking is, how it'll benefit your business, and why its importance shouldn't be underestimated.

Refrigerated Transportation Definition and When It Is Needed

Refrigerated Transportation Definition and When It Is Needed

What is a refrigerated trailer? A refrigerated truck or trailer, also known as a reefer, is a freight shipping container specifically designed to transport foods, pharmaceuticals, and other products that require a temperature-controlled environment. The trailer has a built-in refrigeration system to prevent the goods from spoiling.

Reefer transportation must be done by professional transportation service providers to ensure a properly climate-controlled environment, as well as high-quality treatment of the shipment. These trucks have the most advanced technology and can be carefully adjusted for each shipment and its temperature needs. Regardless of the outdoor weather conditions, these trucks keep shipments safe.

Most often, refrigerated trucks are used for shipping perishables, specifically frozen foods and similar products. However, there are a number of other perishable items that require a humidity and temperature-controlled environment. Below are examples of common perishable food and products that require refrigerated trucks:

  • Meat and dairy products
  • Fresh vegetables, fruit, and other produce
  • Baked goods
  • Frozen foods
  • Flowers and floral arrangements
  • Cosmetic products
  • Chemicals
  • Perfumes, colognes, and other essences
  • Any art or furniture that requires temperature-controlled transport

Conditions Required for Shipping Different Types of Perishables

Not every product has its own temperature requirements, so there are a few basic humidity and temperature settings that are commonly used for keeping food shipments fresh.

Below are the three conditions that are generally required when shipping perishable food and products:

  • For shipping frozen foods and products: To ship frozen foods, temperatures as low as -85ºFahrenheit and as high as 32ºF may be needed. For the more extreme temperature requirements, a specialized truck may be necessary.
  • For shipping food and other perishable items: To keep most items cold, cool temperatures of about 33º-39ºF are used.
  • For products that require warmer conditions: Some products require an insulated container to keep products at a warmer temperature and protected from extreme outdoor temperatures.

More specific guidelines for shipping refrigerated food and produce:

  • Flowers and plants: Though every flower and plant has its own needs, the safest temperature range during the shipping process is about 33ºF.
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes: These roots can survive in most temperatures, but they'll keep for a longer period of time if transported at about 40º-45ºF.
  • Greens: Lettuces and spinach, as well as broccoli, grapes, apples, and other foods, should generally be transported in temperatures ranging from 32º-36ºF.
  • Water-rich produce: This category, which includes fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus, watermelons, and bananas, requires temperatures of approximately 45º-50ºF.
  • Pharmaceuticals: When it comes to medication, specificity is key. Using a rough estimate isn't always the best choice; if a medication states that it should be kept at:
  • Room temperature: 68-70ºF.
  • Refrigerated: 35.6-46.4ºF.
  • Cryogenic: below 32ºF.

Packaging Perishable Goods Before the Truck Shipping

Knowing how to properly package your perishable food items is an essential part of perishable goods logistics. Knowing the proper packaging materials, whether that be something as simple to handle as bubble wrap or more difficult like dry ice, will help protect products during transit. We've outlined a list of some common packaging materials used when shipping perishable products.

  • Wood: One of the best choices for frozen food and other products is wood. It can release pressure, so if you're using ice packs or freezer packs, it won't be damaged.
  • Cardboard: A cardboard box is most often used for cool freight, rather than frozen because they can get soggy. A cardboard box is an excellent choice for a shipment using gel coolants or cold packs.
  • Styrofoam: Styrofoam boxes or styrofoam cut sheets are incredibly effective for shipping perishables. They allow you to forgo additional insulators like insulated pads or insulated liners.
  • Plastic: Though not the most environmentally friendly choice, watertight plastic bags and other plastic products serve as effective insulated containers that are great for cool and frozen products alike.

The Benefits of Refrigerated Trucking

The Benefits of Refrigerated Trucking

Refrigerated has a number of benefits for those who require safe, temperature-controlled transportation, including:

1. Fulfill High Demand

The demand for fresh produce, meat, seafood, and dairy products continues to grow. Refrigerated trucking is required to safely supply these goods across the country where they're in demand.

2. Used for a Variety of Products

Another benefit of reefer trucks is the number of items that can utilize the service. There's a wide range of products that require and rely on climate-controlled transportation, not just perishable foods. This can include precious art, chemicals, plants, meat, fruits, vegetables, personal care products, dairy, seafood, and pharmaceuticals.

3. Protection

The biggest benefit of refrigerated cargo transportation is the protection it provides for the perishable goods being shipped. These trailers are equipped with the capability to protect from deterioration, spoilage, and loss of value, no matter the weather conditions.

4. Extending Product Shelf Life

The controlled temperature environment in refrigerated trucks helps extend the shelf life of products, reducing the risk of spoilage or waste. Additionally, by maximizing the shelf life of products, businesses can achieve better inventory management, minimize the need for frequent restocking, and ultimately improve overall supply chain efficiency.

5. Compliance

There are many rules and regulations surrounding the shipment of perishable foods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products. Professional refrigerated trucking services are in compliance with these regulations and are reliable to maintain safe operations.

6. Sustainable Transportation

Modern refrigerated trucks utilize advanced technologies that reduce emissions and ensure energy efficiency, contributing to sustainable transportation practices. These trucks are designed to minimize their carbon footprint, making them an eco-friendly choice for transporting temperature-sensitive goods.

Refrigerated Trucking Tips

Refrigerated Trucking Tips
  • Know your shipment: Perishable items need different temperatures depending on the goods being shipped. Refrigerated goods transportation can include anything from pharmaceuticals to seafood, plants, meat, dairy, and produce, all of which have varying temperature requirements.
  • Pre-cool the trailer: Before loading any temperature-sensitive cargo, pre-cool the refrigerated trailer to ensure it reaches the desired temperature for the specific goods.
  • Load quickly: Temperature-sensitive shipments need to be prepared in advance for loading in order to load them quickly and efficiently, without ruining the perishable items. Efficiency is of high priority, but proper loading is still needed.
  • Track and monitor the shipment: The driver is responsible for the condition of the freight shipment. Refrigerated trucks have a monitoring system for the temperature and cooling of the truck which allows them to ensure that the products are safe during transport.
  • Check ventilation: Maintain proper airflow and ventilation within the trailer to avoid temperature inconsistencies and excessive condensation.
  • Plan efficient routes: Optimize routes and schedules to minimize travel time and reduce the risk of delays that could affect cargo integrity.
  • Unload efficiently: Not unlike loading, unloading also must be done quickly and efficiently to protect the perishable items. The refrigeration can be run during the loading and unloading procedure, but that depends on the rules and preferences established by the shipper or consignee.

What Is the Difference Between Refrigerated and Reefer Containers?

Reefer containers, also known as refrigerated containers, are specialized shipping containers designed to transport temperature-sensitive cargo. These containers have built-in refrigeration systems that maintain the desired temperature throughout the transportation process. Reefer units are commonly used in the transportation industry, particularly in reefer trucks and units, to ensure the freshness and quality of perishable goods during transit.

Criteria Refrigerated Containers Reefer Containers
Temperature Control Maintain desired temperature range More precise temperature control with built-in refrigeration units
Composition General term for containers with temperature control Refers specifically to containers with integrated refrigeration units
Source of Power Relies on external power supply, such as the shipping vessel or dockside generator Equipped with its own built-in refrigeration units
Cost Cost-effective option Typically higher cost due to additional refrigeration components
Versatility Can transport a wider range of goods Primarily used for shipping perishable commodities
Capacity Usually larger cargo capacity Slightly reduced cargo capacity due to refrigeration unit space
Availability More widely available Availability may be more limited due to specialized design and requirements

Temperature Management

Refrigerated and reefer containers serve the same purpose of controlling temperatures during shipments. The term "refrigerated container" is a general term that refers to containers equipped with temperature control capabilities. On the other hand, "reefer container" specifically refers to containers with integrated refrigeration units for precise temperature management. Let's take a look at what sets them apart.


While regular shipping containers are passively insulated, refrigerated containers have active cooling units. Reefer containers have built-in refrigeration systems with components like compressors and evaporators that form a refrigeration cycle to remove heat. This reefer unit lets commodities requiring temperature control be shipped internationally. Refrigerated containers precisely regulate conditions inside to ensure the integrity of perishable goods during reefer truck, rail, or ocean transport.

Source of Power

Standard shipping containers are unpowered passive boxes. However, refrigerated or reefer containers have active electromechanical cooling systems that need power to maintain precise temperature control. Reefers plug into external power on ships, trucks, or in ports. Some also have diesel generator sets or batteries allowing temperature regulation when stationary power is unavailable. This integrated power source makes reefers ideal for temperature-controlled shipping of perishables across cold chain logistics.


Regular shipping containers are relatively inexpensive standardized boxes, but refrigerated or reefer containers have complex cooling systems that require a higher upfront investment. The reefer box, cooling unit, power source, and monitoring equipment make reefers far more expensive than dry containers. In addition, operational costs like fuel and repairs are higher for reefers. However, the premium paid for these temperature-controlled containers allows safe global shipping of temperature-sensitive products.


Refrigerated containers are versatile and can rely on an external cooling source, such as the power supply from the shipping vessel or dockside power. On the other hand, reefer containers have their own set of refrigeration units that allow them to offer precise temperature control for sensitive cargo. This makes reefer containers ideal for reefer shipments that need specific temperature conditions throughout the journey.



Refrigerated containers typically have a larger cargo capacity as they can accommodate a variety of goods, including both refrigerated and dry items. Reefer containers, however, have a reduced cargo capacity due to the space that their built-in refrigeration units occupy.


Reefer containers, with their specialized refrigeration units, may have limited availability compared to standard refrigerated containers. This is due to their specific design and requirements. As a result, the availability of reefer containers for certain shipping routes or commodities may be more limited. Be sure to consider the availability factor when planning logistics for temperature-sensitive shipments.


Refrigerated trucking is an essential and valuable transportation solution for businesses that deal with perishable goods. The benefits it offers, such as temperature control, product freshness, extended shelf life, and sustainability, make it a crucial part of the supply chain.

By partnering with a reputable freight shipping company, your business can benefit from the safe and efficient transportation of your temperature-sensitive products. Don't compromise the quality and integrity of your perishable goods - contact Cowtown Express today to get a quote and experience the benefits of refrigerated trucking for your business.

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