Refrigerated vehicles play a key role in the global food supply chain. Before the birth of modern cooling technology in the 1920s, much of the produce grown on farms couldn’t be transported more than 75 kilometers without spoiling. But once mobile refrigeration was pioneered (by the ice cream industry, naturally), the ability to move food under controlled temperatures made seasonal products available all throughout the year, no matter where you lived.
Nowadays, 90% of supermarket food takes a ride in a refrigerated truck or van, and refrigerated vehicles are vitally important to the flower industry and the pharmaceutical sector as well. If you’re looking into buying one or converting your existing truck, first consider the following things.
Temperature control matters
Lots of products, from yoghurt to medicine, have to be kept at very specific temperatures when produced, transported and sold. If you know what you’ll be putting in your vehicle, you can find the one that best suits your needs. Are you moving various types of goods at once that all require different temperatures? Does your product need to remain frozen, or can it be chilled instead?
Modern refrigerated vans can be equipped with separate temperature control zones in their cargo area that you can adjust as required, making it possible to move things like fruit and ice at the same time. These zones can be completely separate from one another or created as-needed by using dividers and moveable walls, so make an inventory of what you’ll be transporting and ensure you can create an environment that works for each item on your list.
Types of refrigeration units
Direct drive refrigeration unit: Directly attached to the vehicle’s engine, a direct drive refrigeration unit only runs when your van or truck does, so if you turn off the transmission, it stops cooling. Typically found on vehicles with less storage space, they can be a good option if you’re making deliveries to a relatively small area. Some advanced models have batteries (or electrical standby technology) that power the refrigerated unit for a short period of time, so you don’t have to leave your truck idling while offloading goods, helping you save fuel.
Stand-alone diesel-powered refrigeration unit: Equipped with a separate power source for the chiller, these units run on diesel and keep things cool even when the vehicle isn’t running, so you don’t have to worry about anything melting if you need a break from driving. They usually have a larger carrying capacity and can be easily mounted on trailers, so they are often seen on big box trucks that make long haul journeys.
Types of refrigerated trucks and vans
There are four main types of refrigerated trucks and vans. The best one for you depends on what you’re transporting, and the temperature it needs to be kept at.
The cargo space on insulated vans is lined with a 50-millimeter-thick layer of Styrofoam or polystyrene. These vans do not have separate refrigeration units, but are designed to keep heat and air out of the cargo space, helping it stay cool for extended periods.
Chiller conversion vans
Good for flowers, beverages and baked goods, chiller conversion vans are equipped with a custom refrigeration unit. Usually, these vans are used for things that only have to be kept cool, though select models can handle frozen products and some are specially treated to resist bacteria.
Often used to transport frozen food, semi-freezer vans typically have insulation that’s around 75-millimeters thick and can get as cold as -15 degrees Celsius. Most newer models also have defrosting options, eliminating the need for a separate heater.
Outfitted with insulation that’s up to 100 millimeters thick, full-freezer vans do the trick when you have goods that must remain frozen solid. They often feature specially designed back and side doors that are heat-resistant, and they can reach temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius.
Cargo size and space
Converting a truck or van into a refrigerated vehicle impacts the remaining amount of cargo space. Insulating a van can cost you 10 centimeters of interior space, while a full freezer conversion can result in the loss of 20 centimeters. Keep this in mind when comparing refrigerated and non-refrigerated versions of the same model, or you might find that you don’t have the room you were counting on.
If you’re transporting cargo on pallets, make sure you get a van that can hold one or two of them side-by-side without leaving too much unused space. A perfectly filled truck or van offers the most efficiency when making deliveries, boosting your revenue.
Don’t forget about the future, either. As your business grows, you might need more space or sections that can be set to different temperatures. Investing in a quality vehicle that can evolve with your needs can prevent you from having to replace it before you really need to.
Tradus offers insulated trucks, vans and refrigerated trailers from all the top makers, including Iveco, Mercedes-Benz and Renault, along with refrigerating units from trusted brands like Thermo King and Carrier.