5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Reefer for Your Food Service Business

When you purchase a refrigerated trailer  for your produce or food service business, ask yourself a few questions about how suitable the trailer will be for your business. Of course, make sure your truck has the power to haul the trailer at its full capacity. Five other concerns are addressed below.

Is the Refrigeration System Adequate?

Your refrigerated trailer runs off a separate system from the one used by your semi-truck. Most likely, the reefer’s compressor runs off of a power source like its own diesel engine. The compressor and refrigeration equipment should be rated to chill or freeze a space as large as or slightly larger than the interior of the food cargo area of the trailer. This way, the refrigeration equipment isn’t overloaded on extremely hot days.

For long trailers, you need ductwork to reach the entire length of the interior space to avoid having produce that’s fine on one end and improperly chilled on the other end of the same load. A front bulkhead is an option to have installed. The bulkhead increases the amount of space for return airflow and can increase the efficiency of your refrigeration system.

How Good Is the Insulation?

Whichever type of insulation you use, it must be efficient enough to keep your product at the correct temperature no matter what the weather’s like outside. Your refrigeration unit can only do so much. If cold air constantly escapes through trailer-body leaks and poorly insulated walls and floors, your refrigerated trailer may never reach the correct temperature for the product you’re transporting.

If you show up with seafood that’s five or six degrees off from the safe temperature range, your customer can refuse that load. It’s essential that you invest in proper insulation and sealing to keep cold air inside the food compartment of your refrigerated trailer.

Be aware that the insulation will affect the interior dimensions of the trailer and not the exterior dimensions. If you add more insulation to a reefer, you lose interior space. Your normal delivery setup inside the food compartment may have to be altered to accommodate the reduction in space.

What Kind of Door Is Used for Deliveries?

How often do the rear doors of your trailer open during a delivery day? Does the entire load get taken off at a distribution center? Or does your truck make multiple stops during the delivery schedule?

A roll-up door is extremely convenient when drivers must open and close the refrigerated trailer repeatedly. However, a roll-up door poses a huge energy leak. Products closest to the rolling door may not stay as cold as they should. The refrigeration system must work harder to keep the entire product space cold.

Insulated side-by-side doors may be more of a pain to open repeatedly. However, their assistance in keeping your rig energy-efficient makes them the better choice for a refrigerated food delivery trailer despite the slight inconvenience.

Some people use the curtains made of flexible strips behind rolling doors to block warm air from entering the trailer compartment. Be aware that these strips are very prone to breakage when loading and unloading your food freight.

What Are the Semi-Trailer Measurements?

If you’re buying your semi-truck separate from the reefer, you want to make sure you have a good fit between trailer and truck. All connections, lights and hookups should work properly between the truck and trailer.

The chassis of the truck and that of the trailer must also be taken into account. Do they align properly? Will there be any strange hauling issues because of height misalignment? Will the doors and other access points open properly when the truck and trailer are connected?

You have to follow some pretty strict rules when transporting food. The U.S. government’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) sets strict rules about how your food-service truck should be set up.

The inside of your trailer must be sufficiently sealed to prevent insect and rodent infestation. The cargo area must be designed so that FSMA and other inspectors can easily assess the cleanliness and interior temperature of the trailer. No vents or ductwork should drip on food, and no materials other than food or food-safe items should be allowed in the reefer.

Interior surfaces should be made of materials that can easily be washed and disinfected. Stainless steel is one material that is often used on floors and walls of reefers. Food-grade epoxy is also used as wall and ceiling material, since it is very durable and easy to keep clean.

You must also make certain that all racks, pallets and load-handling tools are kept safe and free of contaminants. Any transport vehicles or containers used for food handling must be marked “for food use only.” These items should be secured inside the truck when it’s moving.

Contact the truck professionals at Arrow Truck Sales to learn more about choosing the right semi-truck and reefer for your business.