Detailed Total Analysis: How Profitable Are Reefer Trucks

If you want to become a truck driver and you wondering in which type of trucking services to get involved in, you need to find the service that will give you the higher profit margins on an annual basis.

Being the head of the trucking business makes you person that is responsible for everything including the success and failures. You need to open your eyes widely to catch every glitch, to cut the expenses that can kill your profit, to have proper maintenance of your trucks or to maintain FMCSA good safety rating or to… or to… There are too many things that you should be aware when you are in this business.

The burden on your shoulders can be lighter if you find a way to increase your profit. How to succeed in that?

  • Every trucking service has its own margins of profit and its own cargo specifications
  • Every trucking service has different start up investment
  • Each trucking service will make different amount of profit for you
  • Each trucking service requires different maintenance

When you are sailing in these waters you need to calculate your expenses and your profit to have clear view of the annual profit. I can make a suggestion for you to give you directions how to choose the service that in long term will be nothing but profitable for you.

What is Reefer Truck?

When we talk about increasing your transportation profit we should focus on the reefer trucks service. A Reefer is slang for Refrigerator truck which is vehicle specially designed to transport temperature sensitive cargo.

Reefer trucks are specially cooled with a cooling system that uses carbon dioxide like a cooling agent or they are cooled with a system that uses diesel engines. In fact, the reefer trucks are just a Class 8 trucks that is connected with reefer trailer.

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Don’t mix ventilated vans with reefer trucks, because ventilated vans use just a system for ventilation to cool the space a bit to transport in most of the cases fruit from place to place but in a short run.

Ventilated van cannot achieve low level temperature for cargo that needs to be kept in constant low temperature during the transport, for that case the reefer trucks are specially designed.

In the past, the transport of temperature sensitive cargo was not in the level like today and that was all because of the technology limitations in that point.

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The beginning of reefer trucks start with placing blocks of ice in the trailer to cool the goods for a while, it was very useful but not for long routes; we know that the ice would melt in some point and the cargo would stay not protected.

There was a second wave in 1925, when were designed the first mechanical reefer trucks. They were used and placed in public by the ice cream industry.

Since the year of 1925 the technology takes a swing in this area and developed reefer trucks that are modern and resistant to the influences of the external conditions.

In 1939, USA has 2000-2500 mechanically cooled reefer trucks and the number today is count in millions.

What is the investment in Reefer Trucks

We know that when we buy some product the price can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, from size to size, model to model and shop to shop, the same thing applies to reefer trucks.

I will return in the part where I mentioned the investment, actually that every trucking service has different start up investment. Starting a business with reefer trucks is more expensive than other trucks. Let’s see how more money you will need to buy reefer trucks.

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The price of this type is 30% higher than buying let say box truck. In other words, if a box truck cost $90,000 a reefer truck with same specifications (size, power…) will cost $100,000 or more.

  • The first option is to buy new and to take care of them from the beginning to maintain the proper condition of your reefer trucks fleet from the beginning. For new one, of course, you need to spend more money but you will not have headaches’ for additional repairs or unexpected situations.  The price can be between $50,000 to $120,000 per truck; the price depends on the size, power, additional equipment (extras in the truck).
  • The second option is to buy used and spend less money. This option does not have to be that black if you consult with a professional and do a proper inspect of the reefer trucks condition. The price can vary between $20,000 to $60,000 depending on the size, power, condition and other factors.
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What Is The Return On Investment

If you are used to working with dry van truck, box truck or flatbed truck and you never tried to work with reefer truck, it is time to start!

Do not worry about the money that you will spend in the beginning; reefer trucks will give you three times more money at the end of the year. Below you can see the advantages of reefer truck services over other services.

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  • You can haul refrigerated goods and goods that can also be carried by box trucks but with box trucks, you can’t transport goods that are meant to be carried by reefer truck.
  • Refrigerator truck can transport almost anything and because of that, you won’t have downtime. You will always have cargo to transport while others are waiting
  • You can get higher cost per mile transporting temperature sensitive cargo.
  • You do not have to worry about the economy; Why? Simple, you can survive without the latest TV model but not without the food in one way or another you have to eat. There will be always need for transportation of food, no matter how bad is the economy in that moment.

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So YES, you are having a bigger expense in the beginning but at the end of the year, you will get more than $30,000 increased income on an annual base.

Summa Summarum you invest $10,000 more but you get 3 times more that you spend when you bought a reefer trucks and you get $20,000 per truck more profit just because you work with temperature sensitive cargo.

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Since you have it, next year will be at least $30,000 per truck more profit than other trucks. We did some math, but this is a very COOL WAY to make more money, right?

Things to know before buying a Reefer Trailer

Reefers have a special cooling system that keeps the goods in proper conditions to maintain healthy products from the start point to the final destination.

Because it is based on temperature adjusted system you need to train your truck drivers to be very careful over controlling and monitoring the condition of the goods. They need to make checkups in every 2 hours and if it is necessary to adjust the temperature to prevent the products from spoiling.

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When we are cautious, train your drivers to be careful with the reefer fuel tank level. If you do not have enough fuel in the reefer fuel tank the cooling system can be corrupted and stop working. If something like this is a case you have to refuel the tank and wait for reefer to cool the space where the goods are placed and pray to be cooled in time before they spoil.

That is why you need to buy a reefer trucks that are properly maintained, ensure that is in good condition if you choose to buy used truck. Also, it is important to choose a reefer trucks that will have new controlling temperature options.

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Installing reefer trucking units can be a lot of help and peace of mind.

  • Temperature management system is based on temperature sensors that will allow you to set temperature parameter and get notifications in case of over crossing those commands. You, of course, will make 2 hours checks, but in the meantime if something goes wrong the alarm system will notice you for the unproven condition inside of the reefer truck. That will give you an opportunity to protect your load with reacting and adjusting the temperature on time, before it is too late.
  • Web based reports at the moment will allow you to monitor the fuel level in the reefer trucks tank to make sure that is in proper level to keep the freight in good condition.
  • You will get power to control the reefer trucks temperature from any place and from any internet connected device
  • You can place the temperature report control to the client
  • You can provide better maintenance on your reefer trucks
  • Reefer trucking units are build with GPS antenna that will help you to provide better safety rating by controlling your truck driver driving behavior.


As an involved person in the trucking industry, you know that there are always positive and negative sides in each segment of this business. However, the reefer trucks require special attention like

  • Detail cleaning of the reefer unit after every unloading
  • It is loud and difficult to sleep in or next to
  • Constant temperature checks
  • More frequent inspections

But positive sides can overweight the negative in any time. It is always good to have open job possibilities, chance to get the great load quotes, bigger earnings per mile even if that means that you need to spend more time to clean your reefer truck from your previous load to get rid of the smell.

lf you transported onion, you need to clean and ventilate the space very deeply, because your new load can absorb that smell. Imagine to transport candies after the onion and if you did not clean the space properly they will absorb the smell and no one likes onion flavored candies, at least I think so…





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