5 Keys to Reefer Durability

October 3, 2019

As a refrigerated carrier, you know that your company’s reputation and profitability rely on protecting your cargo. But between careless forklift drivers and the considerable weight of refrigerated goods, your trailer’s strength is tested daily. The stakes are high, so it’s important to invest in equipment that can stand up against these extreme demands.

Here are five things to look for when purchasing a reefer to ensure a strong, durable and long-lasting trailer.


1. Proper Panel Insulation

The panels of your reefer house one of the most important components of the trailer: the insulation. Insulation helps to maintain the cooled (or heated) air inside of your trailer, keep cargo at proper temperatures, and provides structural integrity for the trailer body. Panel thickness and insulation will vary depending on your operation and geographic location, so it’s important to spec your panels correctly. For instance, a reefer hauling frozen pizzas in Florida is going to need thicker panels and more insulation than a reefer hauling the same frozen pizzas in Michigan. The warmer the climate, the more insulation your reefer will require to hold proper temperatures.

Another thing to consider with your reefer panels is the insulation technique. There are two common processes for installing foam-type insulation: mandrel foaming and panel foaming.

With mandrel foaming, the trailer’s shell is built and then put on a mandrel for the foaming process, so the entire trailer is foamed at the same time. The problem with this process is that it forces the foam to travel around corners, altering the shape of the insulating gas bubbles. This leads to voids and uneven areas with diminished insulation, which can significantly impact the useful life of your reefer.

Panel foaming, however, is considered the worldwide standard for the most efficient construction of refrigerated trailers. Each panel is inserted into a foam press machine and filled with a precise mixture of insulating foam. As the panels exit the machine, a thermal scan confirms the consistency and fill of the insulating foam. This helps to ensure thermal consistency, even distribution, and very flat walls to ensure extremely thermally-efficient panels.

Be sure to talk to a trailer expert for advice on the right insulation specs for your reefer.


2. Modular Assembly

Another important factor in a trailer’s durability is the way that it’s assembled. Panel-foamed trailers are assembled through a modular construction process. The sidewalls are attached to the roof and floor and sealed at the joints through a bonding process to help protect against moisture and bacteria. This also helps to eliminate gaps between construction areas and creates a continuous blanket of insulation at all connection points. If a roof or sidewall panel gets damaged, modular construction allows for quick and easy replacement of the panel with an equally durable and thermally-consistent panel.


3. Floor Construction

Much like the foundation of a home, your reefer’s floor needs to provide support and insulation, while helping to keep out moisture. When considering a reefer floor, look for one with a high-performance design that will protect cargo by helping to maintain proper temperatures. Also, it’s important to ensure that your reefer floor is not constructed with wood materials as these can deteriorate in moist environments. Composite sills can be used in place of wood to provide maximum support, defense against moisture intrusion, and corrosion resistance. Finally, a highly-durable thermoplastic sub-pan can help prevent road debris from damaging the underside of the floor, which can allow water to seep in, adding undue weight, and causing corrosion or other damage to the trailer.


4. Rear Frame Strength

Life on the road is tough, so you want the skeletal structure of your trailer to be strong and durable enough to protect your cargo and stand the test of time. The rear frame is a critical piece of this skeletal structure. When purchasing a new reefer, make sure that the rear frame is engineered for maximum strength. High-grade stainless steel helps protect against the rigors of loading and unloading at dock bays. Be careful, however, because not all stainless steel is the same. Rear frames must withstand the stresses of constant racking during travel and dock impact, which can affect smooth door operation, sealing of the door perimeter, and can diminish the appearance of your equipment. Rear frames are also highly susceptible to corrosion, so it’s important to look for rear frames that are made from corrosion-resistant materials, like high-grade stainless steel.

When spec’ing a rear frame, be sure to compare the stainless steel strength and frame construction designs to be sure you’re getting the value you deserve.


5. Interior Protection

Loading and unloading cargo from trailers can be rough on sidewalls, so it’s important to have proper interior sidewall protection that can withstand daily wear and tear. A hole in the wall of your reefer can damage the insulation, which can cause your reefer unit to have to work harder to maintain proper temperatures. When spec’ing your trailer, look for a strong, impact-resistant trailer liner to help protect against punctures and other sidewall damage.

In addition to protecting your trailer’s insulation, the liner should also protect against moisture absorption. Due to their permeable nature, most traditional reefer liners cannot effectively protect against thermal degradation, or “outgassing”. This phenomenon occurs when insulating cell gas escapes from the foam insulation and air migrates into the cells. As more of the insulating cell gas escapes and more air and water vapor gets into the cells, the polyurethane foam loses its insulating capacity. For the greatest protection against outgassing, spec your trailer with a reefer liner that is designed to seal the trailer’s insulation, extending its useful life.

Another important feature to look for in your trailer’s liner is the ability to protect against stain and odor-causing bacteria. On an unprotected surface, bacteria can double in number every 20 minutes, making it more challenging to effectively clean surfaces and equipment. A trailer liner that is infused with antimicrobial technology can help to disrupt and prevent the replication of bacteria that cause stains and odors.

Scuffbands can also help protect sidewalls by providing an extra layer of protection along the bottom of the walls where damage from forklifts and pallet jacks is most common. Scuffbands are available in various heights and materials, such as lightweight thermoplastics, HDPE plastic and extruded aluminum.

Your refrigerated trailer is a big investment and it needs to be able to stand up to the daily challenges of hauling temperature-controlled goods. To ensure an extended useful life and maximum return on your investment, keep these five things in mind when purchasing your next reefer.