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Dry Van vs Reefer Trailer Trucks: Which Mode of Transportation Is Ideal for Food?


There are many different trucking options available for moving perishables. Among all the trucks used to transport perishables, reefer trucks and dry van trucks are the most popular. In this blog, we'll discuss the differences between these two trucking systems, along with the best option for shipping perishables.


What Are Reefer Trailer Trucks?


Two trucks on the highway with a container on the back

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Reefer trailer trucks are insulated, refrigerated trailer trucks that have an internal climate control system to regulate temperature, humidity, and airflow. Due to their cooling features, these vehicles are ideal for transporting perishable items that are temperature-sensitive, such as ice cream and frozen meats.

Refrigerated trailers or reefer container trucks often have metal walls, ceilings, and roofs. Additionally, they have cooling equipment like evaporators, compressors, and condensers installed. Due to their capacity to prevent spoilage, they play a crucial role in the cold shipping process and are the lifeblood of the food sector.


What Are Dry Van Trucks?


A truck driving on the highway with houses on the left and bush on the right

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Dry van shipping is the most popular type of freight transportation used in the trucking industry. These trailers have an enclosed box specifically designed to shield cargo from the elements while being transported.

Dry van loads consist of consumables such as foods, beverages, clothes, and automobiles. They are frequently used due to their usefulness, size, and adaptability. Unlike a reefer unit, they are devoid of any climate control or other modifying features. They typically only have a steel wall and a hardwood floor and lack any insulating features.


Dry Van vs Reefer Trailer Truck: What’s the Difference?


Knowing the difference between a dry van trailer truck and a reefer truck can help you make an informed decision about which option to choose when shipping perishables. Here is how the two differ from one another:


1)  Refrigeration


A man adjusting the temperature on a fridge container

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The first obvious distinction between dry van trucks and reefer trailer trucks is that the latter is refrigerated. Since reefers have a cooling system, they can prevent spoilage of temperature-sensitive products which dry vans are unable to do.


2)  Cost


A side view of a white lorry and refrigerated trailer

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Since they contain several more parts to ensure that products are kept in a temperature-controlled environment, reefer trucks are significantly more expensive than dry van trailers. Typically, dry van trailers only have a steel wall and a wooden floor. Reefers, on the other hand, have more expensive components such as evaporators, compressors, condensers, and more.


3)  Versatility


Fresh meat and vegetables with some nuts

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Dry vans can only be used to move goods that don't need to be kept at a specific temperature, such as non-perishable dry foods. On the other hand, due to their capacity to regulate the temperature according to the requirement, reefer trucks can be used to transport nearly anything.


4)  Moisture Regulating Capabilities


Some water droplets on a glass showing the moisture

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Since dry van trucks have hardwood floors, there is a constant risk of moisture getting into the cargo which is not ideal when transporting food. However, reefers are very dependable and can regulate moisture, which helps to prevent food spoilage.


5)  Convenience


A fleet of trucks at a depot being loaded with fridges on the back

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Dry van trucks have a drop and hook option that enable convenient transfers at the loading dock. Shippers can drop one trailer, pick up the next, and carry on with the delivery process rather than having to unload and load cargo onto a new truckload. This saves a lot of time, which is crucial when transporting food. Reefers on the other hand lack this feature, which makes loading and unloading significantly more time-consuming.


Which Trucking System Should You Choose for Transporting Food?


A blue and red truck next to each other with two men in the background

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When selecting a trailer, you should always consider the type of food that you're going to be transporting. Dry van trailers are ideal if you need to transport dry foods that don't require temperature control such as biscuits and chips. On the other hand, reefer trailers are the best option if you have to transport temperature-sensitive products like frozen meats and ice cream.




When it comes to shipping perishables, reefer trailers are the clear winner. Since these trailers always carry a risk of malfunctioning, you must take precautions to ensure that the temperature of your products remains stable to avoid spoilage. One way that you can do this is by using dry ice packs. To shop for dry ice packs that you can use for shipping, check out Nice Packs.


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