Tips For Mastering Refrigerated Shipping in 2024

Refrigerated Shipping
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Mona Sohal

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Ever wonder how your groceries stay fresh on their journey from farm to fridge? The answer lies in refrigerated shipping, also known as reefer shipping.

Imagine a fleet of high-tech trucks and containers acting like giant coolers, keeping everything from fruits and veggies to medicine at the perfect temperature. This crucial process ensures food stays delicious and medications stay effective, playing a vital role in our global economy.

And now from the orchard to your fridge or medications by your side, refrigerated shipping keeps it fresh. Cutting-edge tech delivering all your needs one delicious bite at a time!

What Is Refrigerated Shipping?

Reefer shipping is the primary method of temperature-controlled transport. It utilizes specialized containers to maintain optimal temperatures for perishable goods during shipment.

The real magic of these trucks are in their customizable compartments! Each space can be set to a different temperature and humidity. It’s like having multiple mini-fridges on the go. This means delicate flowers, which are freshly produced, and even medicines can all travel together safely. This ensures everything arrives in perfect condition all together.

While simple ice can be used for shorter distances, most refrigerated trucks employ advanced cooling systems. These systems typically involve a compressor and condenser working together to circulate liquid coolant, maintaining the desired temperature throughout the compartments.

Why Did Refrigerated Shipping Start?

We’ve been keeping things cool on the go for a long time! Back in the 1800s, people used ice and salt like giant freezers in trucks, but it wasn’t very reliable and often spoiled the food. 

Luckily, in the 1900s, we invented special “reefer” containers that were much better at keeping things cold. Today, thanks to even more amazing technology, we have fancy equipment that keeps track of the temperature and makes sure the food stays fresh the whole trip. Just as it was right before being  shipped!

Advantages of Refrigerated Shipping

Consumers increasingly expect products to travel far and wide, and refrigerated shipping helps perishable goods reach more markets. 

This means local businesses, like specialty food producers and restaurants, can now reach customers across the country and even the globe. 

So with that in mind, let’s look at the benefits of it –

  • Keeps Things Safe and Sound:

Imagine delicate flowers traveling alongside medicines, all in the same truck! That’s possible because refrigerated trucks have special compartments that can be set to different temperatures. This ensures everything arrives perfectly chilled and protected, following all the rules and regulations.

  • Makes the Supply Chain Smooth Sailing:

No one wants to waste delicious food or important medicine. Refrigerated trucks help prevent that by keeping things at the perfect temperature all the way to their destination. This means less waste, more happy customers, and a happier planet!

  • Adjustable Temperatures

Refrigerated trucks aren’t just for keeping things cold. They can be adjusted for warmer outside temperatures too, making them perfect for shipping sensitive goods in any weather.

  • Fits All Kinds of Cool Stuff:

From your favorite berries to life-saving vaccines, refrigerated trucks can handle a wide variety of temperature-sensitive goods. It’s like having a super flexible cooler that can travel long distances, keeping all kinds of things fresh and ready to use.

  • Suitability

Refrigerated containers come in various sizes to fit your needs and budget, just like how clothes come in different sizes! Here are the most common ones:

  • 21 feet high cube wide, 22 feet high cube wide: These options offer extra height and width compared to the standard 20 feet container, providing more space for taller items or larger quantities.
  • 40 feet, 40 feet high cube wide, 45 feet high cube wide: These are the biggest options, perfect for storing and transporting large volumes of food or other temperature-sensitive goods. The “high cube wide” versions offer even more space compared to the standard 40 feet container.

How Do You Ship Refrigerated Products?

Before you go ahead, you need to take some steps before sending the shipment. They are – 

Plan Ahead:

  • Coordinate with your shipping company and ensure you know when the package will arrive.
  • Keep products refrigerated before shipping to prevent temperature fluctuations.
  • Research the expected temperatures during transit and check weather forecasts for potential anomalies.
  • Inform the recipient of the delivery time and ensure they can be available to receive and store the products properly.

Choose the Right Packaging:

  • Use the right insulated packaging supplies, like box liners, gel packs, and foam/fiber insulators, based on your products, weather, and desired temperature.
  • Line your container with thermal protection materials like foil, foam, or bubble wrap.
  • Use “sweat-proof” cold packs if your products must arrive dry.
  • Secure your products with dunnage materials to prevent movement during transport.

Seal and Ship:

  • Seal your insulated box or pallet securely.
  • Consider using low-cost insulated pallet covers for bulk shipments.

Refrigerated Shipping With LTL and FTL 

Most refrigerated shipments are sent as Less Than Truckloads (LTL). This means several smaller shipments are grouped together in one truck, like carpooling for cargo. This way, everyone shares the cost and resources, making it more efficient and affordable, especially for smaller shipments.

However, if you have a very large shipment, Full Truckload (FTL) options can handle everything at once too. But don’t know where to look for them? 

Enter RailGateway: your trusted partner for reliable refrigerated transportation. Get in touch with our experts for all your shipping needs.

Refrigerated Transportation Best Practices

Here’s what companies do to keep temperature-sensitive cargo fresh during shipping:

  • Driver Training: Drivers learn how to operate refrigeration units properly, choosing between continuous cooling (more fuel) or cycling (less fuel but a wider temperature range).
  • Even Cooling: “Trailer chutes” spread cool air throughout the trailer, preventing some areas from getting too warm.
  • Temperature Monitoring: Trailers often have sensors that track internal temperature and send alerts if things get too hot or cold, preventing spoilage.
  • Regular Maintenance: Refrigeration units and trailers need regular maintenance to ensure they function properly and prevent breakdowns.
  • Backup Plan: Having a plan in place is crucial in case of equipment failure. This includes knowing where to get repairs and having a service provider on call to minimize spoilage.

By following these steps, companies can ensure their temperature-sensitive cargo arrives fresh and in good condition.

Types of International Refrigerated Shipping

Need to ship something temperature-sensitive beyond Canada? You’ll likely need refrigerated shipping by air or water:

By Air –

  • Pros: Faster than boats.
  • Cons: More expensive due to dry ice (hazardous) and gel packs (added weight).

By Ship:

  • Pros: cheaper than air. Refrigeration works similarly to trucks.
  • Cons: slowest option. Requires careful packaging due to long travel times. Some perishables, like non-frozen foods, might not be suitable.


  • International shipping involves more restrictions and higher costs.
  • Not all products can handle long journeys. Some may be sent unripe to compensate.
  • Delicate items face a higher risk of damage compared to sturdier options.

This explains why certain foods are expensive or hard to find outside their growing regions.


From the bustling ports to the vast open roads, refrigerated shipping forms the backbone of our modern world, ensuring the safe delivery of countless perishable goods. 

This intricate system facilitates global trade, providing consumers with diverse options and businesses with wider reach. However, this convenience comes with a cost. The environmental impact of maintaining this “cool chain” is a growing concern. 

Keeping things cool with refrigerated shipping comes with a responsibility to the environment. We need smarter solutions like new tech, efficient delivery plans, and even buying local and seasonal. 

Together, we can keep things fresh and the planet healthy. So let’s do our part in protecting mother 


How Do You Ship Refrigerated Medicine?

Secure your products gently in a well-insulated box or pallet lined with foil, foam, bubble wrap, or other thermal protection. A standard box won’t keep things cool enough.

How Long Does Dry Ice Last In Shipping?

Dry ice evaporates quickly! Expect 5-10 pounds to last 24 hours, while larger amounts like 8-10 pounds can hold up for 48 hours. When shipping, always use at least 5 pounds to ensure your items stay fresh throughout their journey.

How Do I Ship Frozen Food Overnight?

Keep it cool and cost-effective! Choose affordable options like insulated boxes, styrofoam, bubble wrap, or gel packs. Pick based on budget and shipping time, especially for subscriptions. Remember, cheap isn’t always best – prioritize keeping your products fresh!

How Do You Ship Something That Needs To Be Refrigerated?

To ensure safe and fresh delivery of refrigerated items, pack them tightly in an insulated container with coolant (gel packs or dry ice). Label clearly, choose a fast shipping service, and coordinate with both the shipping company and the recipient.

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