If the refrigerated unit breaks down while the reefer is loaded, the load can be lost, which may also lead to expensive costs.
To prevent equipment failures, carriers have to regularly maintain their reefer units.
Though the modern refrigerated units have become more operationally sophisticated, fuel-efficient, and more durable and reliable, these advances still can't take the place of a disciplined reefer trailer maintenance strategy.
Scheduling regular reefer maintenance can help fleets find and fix problems before they become serious issues. It helps to avoid breakdowns and it saves you money.
Find below reefer trailer maintenance tips that the driver and fleet manager need to take to keep their equipment in good condition.
Who is responsible for the reefer trailer maintenance?
When it comes to maintaining the refrigerated equipment there are two responsible parties:
- The reefer truck driver - the driver who needs to have special knowledge about operating a reefer truck.
- The fleet manager - the fleet manager needs to make sure that reefer trailers don't have any issues by the time when they go out on the road.
Before opening the trailer doors and starting working on the unit, you must switch off the refrigerated unit because the unit may start at any time unless switched off.
Another thing to remember is that the refrigerant is always under pressure in the entire system. If escaping the refrigerant may result in frostbite.
Only trained professionals trained in working with refrigerant systems and equipped with special gauges and connecters should ever attempt to open up the service valves or other fittings to charge or discharge the system.
The high-pressure lines, compressor surfaces, condenser, and related parts will be hot unless the unit has been shut down for some time.
Always avoid touching them unless you know the unit has had plenty of time to cool.
How often should a reefer trailer be serviced
Older reefers require routine servicing every 1,000 hours but newer ones can go much longer without a service.
For TRUs shipped with extended life oil filters, oil change intervals occur at 3,000 hours or two years, whichever comes first.
The recommended inspection and service cycle for conventional units is:
- inspection at 750 hours.
- inspection plus scheduled maintenance at 1,500 hours.
- inspection again at 2,250 hours.
- inspection, scheduled maintenance, and oil change at 3,000 hours.
- and so on.
Hybrid units don’t require the 750- and 2,250-hour inspections.
Reefer trailer maintenance for drivers
Clean the interior
Because reefers transport a variety of perishable goods and to prevent product cross-contamination, the driver must clean the interior of the reefer trailer after each delivery.
While hauling food, the residue from that load can spread substances across the trailer floor and contaminate your next load.
That's why, after each delivery, the driver needs to sweep the inside trailer floor to remove dirt, rocks, pallet wood, leftover products, shrink wrap, and anything else that could potentially block proper airflow.
Consistently sweeping and washing the interior ensures each delivery travels in a sanitary environment.
When arriving at the loading dock, the driver needs to make sure that the fuel tank is full.
If the tank doesn't have enough fuel, the cooling unit will draw any buildup from the tank into the lines causing major mechanical issues.
Because of this, most shippers won’t let carriers move their cargo if the tank is less than ¾ full.
Reefer unit and trailer pre-trip inspection
The driver needs to perform a pre-trip inspection on the reefer unit to make sure that everything works correctly before heading out on the road.
A crucial component to inspect is the temperature control panel.
The reefer unit microprocessor performs a number of checks in an automatic sequence to help the driver fix any problems that may lead to losing a load.
He needs to make sure that after the reefer unit pre-trip inspection the temp must remain within a specific range as stated on the Bill of Lading.
The driver should also check the exterior and interior for other malfunctions.
On the exterior, check the:
- Check tire pressure to reduce flats.
- Check all lights to make sure they work.
- Check the trailer body for damage.
- Check the engine for unusual noises.
- Check the belts and hoses for any faults and look for oil leaks.
In the interior, check the:
- Check air chute for holes.
- Check walls for cuts or holes.
- Check drains for clogs.
Inspect the refrigeration unite:
- Manually measure and calibrate the refrigeration unit.
- Make sure the compressor works properly.
- The driver must understand how to condenser and evaporator functions so that they can identify mechanical problems over the road.
- During the inspection, the driver should look for any oil leakage from the engine and compressor.
- Check the refrigerated units belts and hoses for existing cracks.
Regular professional inspections can help you catch small problems before they become major disasters.
Reefer trailers maintenance by fleet managers
Perform routine service
While roadside breakdowns happen unexpectedly, most of them can be avoided.
Scheduling regular maintenance help fleets to find and fix minor problems before they become serious issues.
The fleet manager needs to:
- Check the sealing interior punctures and cuts to avoid moisture intrusion in the insulation.
- Check the completion of the compressor load capacity test.
- Examine the condenser and evaporator coils.
- Inspect the bulkhead and air chute.
- Clean the fuel screen.
- Inspect the water pump, air cleaner housing and tubing.
- Check the unit and engine mounting bolts for proper torque.
- Check switches and electrical connections.
- The evaporator coil should also be inspected for restrictions and cleaned as necessary.
- Check the belts for inadequate tension or cracks and glazing between the ribs
Reefer trailer service intervals
When, on hybrid and conventional refrigerated units, the 1,500-hour mark comes, the inspection steps need to be performed.
Note that some of the steps such as checking the gearbox and compressor seal only concern conventional units because hybrid units don’t have these.
With hybrid units, the insulation resistance of high-voltage wiring must be checked with a megohmmeter.
At 3,000 hours, additional scheduled maintenance includes an oil change and replacing the oil, air and fuel filters. Synthetic oil can extend oil change intervals to 4,000 hours.
At 4,500-hour service intervals, the breather should be cleaned and the valve lash gap should be adjusted.
The coolant should be replaced at 6,000 hours if standard coolant is used, or at 12,000 hours if extended life coolant is used. As a preventive measure, the water pump and thermostat may be proactively changed at the 12,000-hour mark.
Although the previous measures are common to both hybrid units and conventional units, at regular intervals, conventional systems also require belt changes and extra compressor attention.
Complete maintenance records are kept for each unit, and the tool helps to determine when it’s time for a unit to be serviced.
The key rationale for maintenance on a refrigeration unit is the same as the importance of maintenance on a truck - reliability.
The more disciplined an owner is in adhering to a schedule of service and preventive maintenance, the better the reliability of the equipment.
Reliability helps avoid over-the-road and after-hours repairs, as well as load-loss claims, the expense of which can easily eclipse the cost of proactive maintenance initiatives.
A commitment to proper maintenance also helps ensure the longevity of the equipment and a lower cost of ownership over time - savings that can go straight to the bottom line.
In short, a solid equipment maintenance program is essential to running a cool refrigerated transport operation.