A shipping journey across the country with perishable goods in tow involves a certain degree of drama. All throughout the drive, sometimes tens of hours long, the only thing keeping the meat, medicine, fruit, flowers, or other products cool is the refrigeration unit in the trailer. If your vehicle fails, or the trailer shell sustains damage at any point, the protective barrier between the environment and your truck’s regulated interior is not effective.
While you and your reefer drivers can’t prevent every issue, there are measures you can take to cut down on mechanical problems that endanger your shipments. To help, here are some maintenance tips for refrigerated trucks that promote the holistic function of your fleet.
1. Regular Cleaning
First, clean the trailer after each and every shipment. Due to the sensitive nature to the goods you transport, it’s too easy to cross-contaminate your next load via residual organic material. Built up over time, this can compromise hundreds of dollars of product at once.
To prevent this, begin your cleaning procedure with a totally empty trailer. While a general, multi-surface cleaning agent would suffice, you should opt for a more heavy-duty disinfectant depending on what you transport and what your truck’s interior can withstand. Begin by pressure washing or wiping down the floor, ceiling, walls, and your door seals. All surfaces can harbor harmful mold and bacteria, so you need to be thorough.
Scraping and Airing It Out
Then, use scrapers to rid your truck of more difficult stains. Be careful not to inadvertently carve up your vehicle’s interior in the process, though. Plastic scrapers are your best option. After a complete cleaning, you must allow it time to dry. Otherwise, though it’s cleaner, there remains a damp environment for mold to grow and damage your products.
2. Consistently Cool Your Trailer
This may sound obvious, but another maintenance tip for refrigerated trucks is to simply maintain a cool temperature when you are carrying a shipment. Not only does uneven cooling threaten to spoil your food or other perishable goods, but what spoils inside your truck compromises the entire interior. Your cleaning projects will be many times easier if you keep your shipments fresh and leak-free. Over time, fewer trips with spoiled goods could mean a longer life for your truck.
3. Pre- and Post-Trip Checks
In accordance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements, drivers must inspect their trailer before and after every delivery. Before a driver leaves, they check several facets of the truck for issues, including:
- Wall damage
- Door seal security
- Temperature calibration
- Air chute integrity
- Fluid levels
- Tire Pressure
- Headlight function
- Engine health
- Proper airflow (Upon Loading)
If everything passes, a driver can safely begin the trip with peace of mind. After cleaning, the truck needs a follow-up check to determine whether there was any damage throughout the most recent delivery. This type of precision is helpful in identifying problems as soon as they arise.
Train Your Drivers to Conduct Checks
In all, this is an intensive process in which drivers deal with complicated reefer technology. To do so skillfully, they need you to equip them with proper training. Shadowing opportunities help new drivers nail down the pre- and post-trip inspection process, but they need a deeper well of knowledge than that. In addition, to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, educate drivers on the specifics of sanitation as it relates to their particular product.
4. Professional Inspections & Servicing
Your trained drivers have skills many ordinary truckers don’t, but even they can’t perform comprehensive preventative inspections. They don’t have the background knowledge or the job description for it. Instead, schedule routine professional inspections for your reefer fleet.
A pro knows the ins and outs of your cooling-specific parts, including your compressor, condenser, evaporator, connecting hoses, air chute, and more. Only they can take apart these refrigeration components and check for contaminants. To schedule consistent inspections, you can either hire on a fleet mechanic with knowledge of refrigerated trucking or establish a relationship with an external expert.
If you have a budding problem with your condenser, they can specifically identify what coils or tubes are malfunctioning and repair them. Once repaired or preemptively addressed, your condenser can continue to function as a heat exchange point in your system.
Also, professionals know what to look for when observing hoses that transport refrigerant. For instance, one of the most vital aspects to assess is the equalizer tube system, which, if structurally sound, allows for consistent cooling from the evaporator. When inspecting your vehicle, a professional will perform a top-to-bottom hose check so you can catch any deterioration before you experience a full-blown failure.
Another all-too-common problem area is the air chute. This element is easily breakable given its proximity to your loads. As workers move product about inside, they risk tearing its relatively sensitive material. Your air chute is responsible for distributing cool air to every area of your truck, and any faulty points make cooling irregular. At worst, you’ll inadvertently cool the topmost product significantly, while lower and rear-end items warm during transport. A professional inspection assesses whether your air chute functions properly and helps catch any issues before you lose product.
Traditional Automotive Maintenance
While all these reefer-specific maintenance tips are helpful, you also need conventional automotive repairs and checks. Oil changes should be more frequent than in a car or non-refrigerated truck because of the added engine strain due to the cooling system. Also, as you transport heavy loads, rotate and replace your tires regularly to avoid a blowout and any subsequent delay. Washing the trailer body to remove corrosive grime from the surface isn’t a bad idea either.
In the long-term, you should plan eventual servicing. Each vehicle’s spark plugs, timing belt, battery, hoses, and other important components need to be in optimal shape. Otherwise, if your vehicle loses power or fails, you won’t be able to cool your product until you receive assistance.
If you have current issues with your fleet or want to expand, contact Emerald Transportation Solutions for information on our effective, lightweight, and green refrigerated trucks for sale. And if you run a small business that has smaller shipping needs, we offer equally high-quality refrigerated vans as well. By starting anew with our superb vehicles, you can employ these reefer maintenance tips for making them last decades after your purchase.