Reefer Intermodal Shipping

Perishable foods against yellow background reefer intermodal shipping concept

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Perishables and related products have urgent shipping requirements. If these items don’t reach their destinations in time, they will likely go bad, leading to losses. While standard shipping services are reliable for Canadian businesses, they aren’t for perishables. A reefer proves more effective. Use temperature-controlled trailers to ship perishables and other temperature-sensitive items across Canada and beyond.

There are several options to choose from. There are refrigerated vans and heated vans. Use heated vans to transport goods with higher temperature needs and refrigerated vans for goods with low temperatures.

If your shipment is small, consider shipping in a short 20-feet long trailer. However, you’ll need a larger 53-foot container for larger shipments. Other options for large shipments include high cube, wide, and multi-axle vans. Also, you’ll need a vented van when shipping goods that need sufficient air circulation.

Read through for more.

What Is Reefer?

A reefer is a refrigerated trailer used for transporting perishables and other temperature-sensitive goods. The trailer is attached to a semi-truck and loaded with desired shipment ready for shipping. It was introduced in 1925 by the ice cream industry to transport the commodity to different locations to meet the growing demand. Besides transporting ice, it can also be used to transport heated items.

Reefer units have closed systems that they operate on. These systems collect, pump, and dissipate heat to maintain a steady temperature, keeping temperature-sensitive goods in desired conditions over an extended period. For instance, when transporting ice cream that needs -40° F temperature, the reefer maintains this temperature until the ice cream arrives at its destination. This technology, called cold chain logistics, facilitates the safe transportation of temperature-sensitive products.

Reefers cool down the temperature in two major methods:

  • Cryogenic cooling: Cooling is achieved by melting frozen carbon dioxide ice
  • Diesel-powered generators: The generators are attached to the pulled container to keep its content cool

Parts and Components

As expected, a reefer has more parts than a standard shipping trailer. While they come in different sizes, they have the following parts.

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

Note that a reefer requires fuel other than fuel needed to run the truck to maintain the desired temperature. Reefer tanks hold up to 50 gallons of fuel. The good thing is that the reefer’s fuel consumption is independent of how the truck is driven.

In addition, the reefer has the following components, which work in unison to maintain a desired temperature with the closed system.

  • The compressor: This component has a small engine that allows it to draw in and compress gaseous refrigerant, which is then liquified to give off heat.
  • The condenser: The condenser receives the liquified gas from the compressor. It then fills the tubing out to the fins attached to it. Thus the air outside coming from the condenser is cooled. The cooling process at the condenser works much like in a radiator.
  • The evaporator: The evaporator controls the cooling inside the trailer. The metering valve of the evaporator receives the cooled liquid from the condenser. The liquid refrigerant inside the evaporator expands and converts to gaseous form. The gaseous refrigerant absorbs heat from the finned coils, cooling it. The air inside the trailer, now cooled, blows over the evaporator, going through the compressor to start the cycle again.

What You Can Transport with Reefer

You can use a reefer trailer to transport the following items:

  • Perishable foods
  • Beverages
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Produce
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Frozen baked goods
  • Frozen meat

Shipping using a reference is mandatory for businesses dealing in meat, produce, plants, pharmaceuticals, and perishables. Proper refrigeration is the key to your business success. Transporting perishables and hazardous products without a well-maintained temperature can result in product loss and revenue.

The products mentioned above are transported in reefers if they are “protect from freezing”. Also, you should do so if they require controlled temperature stability. 

Reefers also have control units and temperature sensors, ensuring remote control and monitoring of the temperatures and operations in the trailers. With the GPS units, you’ll be assured that your shipment arrives at its desired destination safely and in the proper condition.

What to Consider When Shipping with Reefers

Consider the following factors when shipping with reefers.

Choose Asset-Based & Canadian

There are several shipping companies with reefers. However, the best option for reefers is the asset-based and Canadian ones. This option should be reliable for your perishables and hazardous product transportation across Canada.

Choose Dry, Cool, Heated, Flatbed

Some products require low temperatures, while others require high heated temperatures when transporting. Therefore, transporting your perishables with reefers ensures they are diverse and have all available heating, cooling, and custom-tailored delivery options.


You should choose a fully certified shipping company when transporting your products with reefers. Popular certification authorities include CBSA & ASFC, PIP, FAST, SmartWayACE, C-TPAT, ACI, HAZMAT, and CSA. The certification ensures the legitimacy of a shipping company, ensuring the safe shipping of your items.

Number of Trucks and Trailers

A reputable shipping company for reefers should have many trucks and trailers. The high number of trucks and trailers ensures efficient transportation of your large shipments in Canada and across the border. The equipment should also be up to the industry’s standards.

Delivery Time

It can be disappointing to ship your perishables only for them to arrive at the desired destination late. This practice can result in a great loss, especially when transporting perishables. Therefore, the shipping company you opt for should have on-time delivery. The company should have innovative reefers to ensure accurate delivery times.

Single Temperature Trailer Units – Examples

The examples of the single-temperature trailer units are as follows.

Precedent S-750i

The precedent S-750i is a diesel-electric trailer for transporting retailers, fleets, and pharmaceuticals. They are highly efficient in power consumption, thus an excellent option when shipping on a budget.

Precedent S-600

The Precedent S-600 single-temp reefer is a certified CARB evergreen unit which eliminates the need for a DPF. It is more efficient in fuel saving.

Precedent S-700

The precedent S-700 is ideal for shipments that need deep-frozen conditions. It is CARB Evergreen certified and custom-made to meet your business needs.

Precedent C-600

Precedent C-600 is a cost-effective single-temperature trailer unit. The Thermo King dealer network backs this unit.

SLXi Local Trailer

The SLXi local trailer is a lighter, quieter reefer unit suitable for urban distribution.

Choose the best shipping company with reliable reefers for your perishables transportation needs. Ensure the company has on-time deliveries for the success of your business. Shy away from standard shipping services for perishable and hazardous products.

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