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refrigerated truck driver

Are you looking to expand your trucking experience? Being a refrigerated truck driver might be the perfect fit. It’s most commonly known as reefer trucking, and this haul type is particularly good for drivers who have some experience already and pride themselves on their close attention to detail. Reefer trucking is hard work but is also compensated well. Here are a few ways to decide whether being a refrigerated truck driver is for you. 

Job Security is a High Priority

Job security is one of those things that is hard to measure when you are job searching but helps us all sleep a little better at night. This year, job security has been top of mind for many Americans. As we saw in Spring 2020, many truck drivers were considered essential workers, but not all of them. One big benefit of being a refrigerated truck driver is that your job security is very good. Reefer trucks primarily carry fresh food. As a result, no matter what else happens, reefer trucks will be on the roads. 

Job security is very good for reefer drivers. Most refrigerated truck drivers haul fresh food, and that will always be essential.

Demand for reefer trucking is consistently moderate to high because of the goods hauled. On the other hand, because of the extra training requirements, the supply of drivers is comparatively low. If you are a refrigerated truck driver or want to become one, that means less job competition for you! Many (but not all) reefer drivers are owner-operators. If you are finding your own loads, reefer trucks are a more flexible choice. Even if you can’t get a refrigerated load, some dry van loads can also be hauled in a reefer truck. That helps reduce the possibility of an empty return trip where you’re not earning a paycheck.

You Want to Diversify Your Experience

Being a refrigerated truck driver isn’t a first step for most CDL holders. Running refrigerated loads can be challenging, but it’s also well-paid. Typically, people start considering reefer driving after at least a few years of other driving experience. To become a refrigerated truck driver, you will need some extra training. 

In addition to the technical skills you will learn, refrigerated truck drivers need to be excellent decision-makers and problem solvers. Because of the temperature control required for successful reefer runs, a breakdown can mean losing a load. So, drivers must have quick, sound judgment when they run into unexpected challenges on the road. Once you have a few years of experience under your belt, reefer driving is a great way to stand out as a skilled candidate for future jobs. 

Employers Consider You Punctual and Detail-Oriented

Being a refrigerated truck driver takes more than just good driving. Arriving on time for deliveries is extremely important. Often, a missed appointment isn’t just a question of a slight delay. It can mean a very long wait time (even up to more than a day!) before you can reschedule your delivery! With that in mind, punctuality is critical for anyone hauling a reefer trailer. 

Punctuality is critical for anyone hauling a reefer trailer. Schedules can be very tight and most loads have very specific requirements for temperature.

In a refrigerated truck, precision doesn’t stop at the schedule. Most loads have very specific requirements for temperature. To help manage this, drivers may be responsible for supervising the loading and position of freight in their trailer. Depending on the job, drivers may also be responsible for loading or unloading as well. Then, after you’re on the road, drivers must use consistent tracking to maintain a certain temperature in all parts of the trailer at all times.

9-5 Jobs Aren’t Your Style

Truck driving is more than a job. For many drivers, it’s a lifestyle. Each haul type has unique pros and cons, and refrigerated loads are no exception. These runs are a good fit for night owl drivers who love the quiet roads in the early morning hours. Reefer drivers tend to work odd hours and will find themselves regularly loading and driving during nighttime hours. 

Reefer jobs can be local, regional, or OTR. Many local drivers are home every night, but regional and OTR drivers will be spending nights in the cab. In a refrigerated truck, the cooling unit has to run 24/7, and that comes with a lot of noise. For light sleepers, earplugs may be a worthwhile investment.

It’s Time to Be Your Own Boss

Refrigerated trucking owner-operators are in high demand. It is also possible to be a refrigerated truck driver for a large carrier, but these positions are harder to come by.

If you are interested in becoming an owner-operator, being a refrigerated truck driver might be a perfect fit for you. 

As with any owner-operator position, confidence navigating hiring contracts is a must. Because the stakes for breakdowns or repairs can be a lost load, owner-operators need to understand their contract inside and out. A contract should clearly state who is responsible for the cost of repairs and maintenance. Once you understand the finances, logistics, and contracts of being an independent contractor, you’re ready to be your own boss!

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truckinginfo.comThere’s plenty of news centered on CDL trucking jobs and trends, but news about refrigerated truck design is not so common. So, we were pleased to see a story on refrigerated truck design come up.

What will the refrigerated trailer of the future be made of? Chances are it will be economical, strong and feature an aluminum sheet-and-post design, says a Truckinginfo.com article on the subject.

The thicker the walls and the amount of foam inside, the greater the vehicle’s ability to help the unit maintain a desired temperature.

But, thicker walls also add tare weight and reduce payload capacity. “I see more use of non-metallic materials,” says Charlie Fetz, recently retired research and development engineer at Great Dane Trailer and author of a Future Truck paper on temperature controlled trailers for ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council. “Aluminum serves as a great material, but it conducts heat. If inside the wall cavity, the aluminum posts contribute to heat conduction. However, manufacturers minimize that with careful design.”

One way to improve efficiency is through aerospace-like composites like those from Wabash National.

The material gives the 53-foot trailer up to 25 percent improvement in thermal performance. In addition, it is up to 20 percent lighter compared to conventional designs. Interior puncture resistance is 25 percent better.

“The composite includes a mixture of fiberglass, carbon fiber and resin,” says Larry Adkins,truckinginfo.com applications engineer for Wabash. “Carbon provides strength. It’s used only in areas where strength is needed, and some areas don’t have any. The center of a trailer needs carbon,” which supports the load like a bridge span. Another advantage: “Composites are more corrosion resistant (than metals). Chemicals have no effect on the materials.”

The first trailer prototype units beyond the initial vehicle produced later this year

Five “launch partners” begin testing in normal fleet operations, Adkins says. “First, we get some miles on them. Miles show what can’t be done in labs. Then, we alter the design if we have to.”

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Few elections have featured two nominees as divisive as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And while the nation wrangles over whom to vote for, consumers are filled with anxiety about what the next four years will bring.

As their anxiety builds, consumers are slowing their spending. It’s having a major impact on the trucking industry, too, as trucking clients throughout America curb their own spending in response to consumers’ frugality leading up to Election Day.

Consumers feel apprehensive

“The economy moves the trucking industry, and for whatever reason, businesses slow their freight down during an election year,” says Anthony Leichty, a company driver who hauls cars for Toledo, Ohio-based Irelan Trucking. “You really feel it during election years because no one knows which side is going to be in power next. It’s kind of a fear thing. People get afraid.”

Anthony Leichty and family

Anthony Leichty and family

Car hauling especially slows down, because cars are a substantial investment for consumers, says Leichty, who’s had a CDL trucking job for 16 years.

“My first year with this company was an election year,” he says. “I made $37,000 that year. The very next year I made $55,000. I attribute that to the election being over. The economy ticked back up.”

Comparatively, business slowed this year, but not drastically, Leichty says.

Normally, Irelan runs about $4,500 in business per truck a week. Right now, it’s running about $3,500 to $4,000 in business per truck weekly.

However, Marci Hinton, president and director of safety at refrigerated carrier Coldliner Express, says the election has in fact greatly impacted her company’s business this year.

Big companies such as Kroger and Wal-Mart buy from Hinton’s clients—recognizable food brands such as Tyson and Hillshire Farms. “Refrigerated products are time sensitive,” Hinton says. “So when buyers like Kroger and Wal-Mart place orders with my customers, they order based on our economy. When consumers are afraid of what is to come with the election around the corner, they buy and order less.”

Hinton really noticed a drop off in inventory this summer.

American families curtailed their spending. In response, Kroger and Wal-Mart curtailed theirs.

“The average middle class family lives on a budget,” Hinton says. “When they are worried about where our country is going to be in the next six months, they don’t spend the money on family parties and cookouts. Instead, they put that money back. During the summer is when you usually see a big increase in hot dog and ground beef purchases, but this year it was down over 20 percent due to the election.”

Hillary, ClintonRefrigerated trucking is the sector likely affected most during an election year, Leichty says.

Because every major trucking company has a refrigerated division. Companies don’t want to sit on food if consumers aren’t going to buy it.

“Companies don’t want to take the chance of a huge profit loss in an election year, so they just slow production down,” Leichty says. “During an election year, go to Wal-Mart. You’ll see they have a smaller stock than they normally do. They don’t order as much during an election year.”

One of Hinton’s clients already has stopped delivery to certain regions until the election is over.

The company simply is not selling enough inventory. It’s had to throw product away, so it’s chosen not to sell in certain cities until after Nov. 8, Hinton says.

“It impacts the amount of orders I receive from clients,” Hinton says. “I have to go to a broker board. A broker finds freight for trucking companies to ship. We have to go on a board and work with companies we don’t know real well. We go through all of that and then sometimes they end up canceling the load.”

Broad impact felt across the board

The election’s impact is felt across the trucking industry, from fuel surcharges to freight capacity.

John Reed

John Reed

Business owners would be smart to keep a savings account for anything that might happen unexpectedly, says Drive My Way contributor John Reed, an owner operator leased to Mercer Transportation. For those with owner operator trucking jobs like him, Reed recommends setting aside $20,000 for emergencies during an election year.

“A lot of small owner operators are worried about upcoming economic changes because they may not have enough money to correct their business model before they can adapt to the change,” Reed says.

Owner operators, however, also have more flexibility than company drivers in where they can fuel up or purchase tires.

Through that flexibility, they can save money.

“It’s easier for owner operators to adapt to presidential change than it is for a larger company to adapt,” Reed says. “When you have to bring your ideas in front of a board of directors to create change, it has to go through a voting process, whereas an owner operator can virtually change something overnight if he sees something that’s not working the way it should.”

Things should stabilize after the election, when Americans have a greater understanding of what their future holds. Until then, expect Americans to continue clutching their purse strings ever so tightly.

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overdriveonline.comWith new regulations for food haulers handed down in April by the FDA, shippers will now be charged with setting cleanliness guidelines for truck drivers and their equipment, Overdrive writes. One attorney says shippers may turn trucks away without loads if they fail to meet previously agreed to requirements.

Rob Moseley of transportation firm Smith Moore Leatherwood offered insight into the new regulations in a May 11 webinar held for shippers, brokers and carriers.

The Food & Drug Administration rules remain broad, and only about 10% of the rule applies to food transportation. Even then, most of the transportation-focused portions of the rule, meant for shippers. So, just a small part of the rule applies to carriers directly.

The new rules goes into effect April 6, 2017.

They require shippers to develop standards for certain food shipments, such as temperature-controlled foods and produce.

“Shippers control the process without any question about it,” Moseley said. “They control how to transport their goods. And the consignee or receiver tasked with making sure those protocols set by the shipper have been met.”

Shippers must set sanitation requirements for carriers’ equipment.

In addition, they also set pre-cooling requirements for reefer loads and periodic training for carrier personnel, drivers included, who may interact with food products.

Likely the key takeaway from the new regulations for food hauling carriers is to have clean, well kept equipment, Moseley said. “This may mean that trailers need work,” he said. “If they leak with rain from the roof, or if road water comes into the trailer from the floor, you need to make changes,” he said. Small holes, debris, vermon droppings or trailers that smell bad give shippers pause under the new rules, Moseley said.

Another component of the rule likely to apply to carriers are its pre-cooling requirements.

Such requirements impact by load times. When shippers dictate certain pre-cooling temperatures prior to food being loaded onto a trailer, those requirements must be met, Moseley said. Long waiting times at a dock compromises pre-cooling. Then, shippers start checking for proper pre-cooling temperatures due to the new FDA regulations.

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