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What Is A Reefer Trailer?

In trucking, a “reefer” is a refrigerated trailer that gets attached to a semi-truck in order to transport perishables and other temperature-sensitive goods. It was originally the ice cream industry that gave birth to the reefer around 1925. Reefers may also be used for heated goods.

White reefer trailer truck.How Does a Reefer Container Stay Cool?

Reefer units operate on closed systems to maintain a steady temperature by collecting, pumping, and removing heat. Cooling for a reefer container is achieved through different methods, which can include:

  • Diesel-powered generators: These attach to the container being pulled
  • Cryogenic cooling: Melts frozen carbon dioxide ice to keep contents cool

What Are the Parts of a Reefer Trailer?

While reefer trailers come in many different sizes, most are 53 feet long. Naturally, they have more parts than standard shipping trailers. These parts include:

  • The reefer unit
  • An Insulated box
  • An air chute
  • Air ride suspension
  • Tire inflation systems

Reefer trailers are also unique because they require fuel on top of the fuel needed for the truck. Tanks for reefers hold roughly 50 gallons of fuel. But because of its closed system, fuel consumption for the reefer trailer is not affected by how a trucker drives.

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What Are the Components of a Reefer Unit?

The point of a reefer unit is to maintain a steady temperature for goods being transported. For example, if ice cream needs to be stored at negative 40° F, the reefer unit’s components will ensure that the ice cream arrives at its destination at the same temperature as it was loaded on.

This is all a part of cold chain logistics, which is the technology and process allowing for the safe transport of temperature-sensitive products along the supply chain. So, what makes the reefer trailer work the way it’s supposed to? Components of a reefer unit include:

  • The compressor: The compressor is run by a small engine to draw in and compress gaseous refrigerant, liquefying it and giving off heat.
  • The condenser: The condenser receives the compressor’s liquid for heat exchange, filling the tubing out to the attached fins. These fins help to cool the outside air that comes through the condenser, much like how radiators work.
  • The evaporator: Once the liquid has cooled, it goes through the metering valve of the evaporator inside the trailer, which controls the cooling. The liquid refrigerant expands and becomes gas again, absorbing heat from the finned coils around it. The cooled air inside the trailer blows over the evaporator, which then goes through the compressor to restart the cooling cycle.

Inside a reefer trailor.

Forms Also Used:

  • Refrigerated truck

Examples of Use:

  • Jamal realized one of the constant requirements of the reefer trailer was to clean it out after every load.
  • In order to expand into the fresh produce industry on a national level, the company began training for reefer hauls.
  • The Red Cross relies on reefers to transport blood from its donors to the hospitals and clinics in need.

Other Meanings of “Reefer”

Intoxicated sailors

  • Reefer (also “refer”) – A line printed in a newspaper referring to a column or story located somewhere else in the paper.
  • Reefer – A double-breasted coat often worn by sailors and yacht enthusiasts.
  • Reefer – A slang term for marijuana, often mentioned in context with the 1938 film, “Reefer Madness.”
  • Reefer – A coral reef enthusiast and collector, usually involving saltwater aquariums.

More Trucker Terms:

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