Reefer VS Dry Van Trailer: Which is Right for Your Cargo

Freight shippers have to make the right choice when choosing between a dry van and a reefer trailer in cargo transportation. Although both are essential in efficiently transporting goods, their differences can significantly affect the cargo’s quality and safety. We will look at the differences between reefers and dry vans to assist you in making appropriate choices for your shipments’ needs.

What is a Dry Van?

Dry vans are unique vehicles that stand out in the transportation industry’s vast environment. A dry van is an enclosed trailer to protect cargo from external elements. These vans offer a safe environment for goods that don’t need controlled temperatures, and they are frequently used to transport a wide range of goods, from textiles to electronics.

Benefits of Using a Dry Van

The security that a dry vehicle provides is one of its main benefits. The sealed container protects Goods from external elements, theft, and damage while in transit. Furthermore, dry vans are adaptable and can hold a wide range of goods, which is why many shippers like using them.

Drawbacks of Using a Dry Van

However, dry vans come with their limitations. The lack of temperature control makes them unsuitable for transporting perishable goods. A dry van might not be the best option if your cargo needs a particular climate or is sensitive to temperature changes.

Also Read: Freight Brokers VS Dispatchers

What is a Reefer?

On the other end of the spectrum, we have reefers. Reefers are equipped with a cooling system for refrigerated trucks or trailers, allowing precise temperature control during transportation. These are essential for shipping perishable items, such as food and pharmaceuticals.

Benefits of Using a Reefer

Reefers shine when it comes to transporting goods that require a controlled environment. Maintaining specific temperatures ensures the integrity and freshness of perishable items. This opens up opportunities to reach wider markets with products that have stringent temperature requirements.

Drawbacks of Using a Reefer

However, the advantages of reefers come at a cost. The sophisticated temperature control systems increase operational expenses, and the specialized design limits their versatility compared to dry vans.

The Difference Between Dry Van and Reefer Trucks/Trailers

The differences in dry vans and reefers are evident in their design and features. While dry vans focus on providing a secure enclosure, reefers prioritize temperature control. The choice between the two depends on the nature of the cargo and the transportation requirements.

Reefer vs Dry Van Weight

Weight considerations play a crucial role in transportation logistics. The weight of the chosen trailer impacts fuel efficiency and may be a determining factor for shipments with strict weight restrictions.

The weight capacities of dry vans and reefer trailers should be compared to ensure the vehicle suits the cargo you plan to transport. Dry vans can carry up to 45,000 pounds in cargo.

Reefer trailers are made as sturdy and light as possible, allowing you to transport the most cold chain cargo without going above the federal GVWR, which is 90,000 pounds with a third axle or 80,000 pounds with two axles.

There is more to the GVWR than just the trailer’s weight. This combined weight includes:

  • The truck
  • The driver
  • Personal property
  • Truck fuel
  • Reefer fuel
  • The trailer
  • Product in the trailer

Reefer vs Dry Van Dimensions

In addition to weight, the dimensions of the trailer are vital. Knowing the size limitations is essential for planning efficient transportation and ensuring that the chosen trailer can accommodate the cargo.

Standard reefer trailer dimensions:

  • Reefer trailers come in lengths between 48 and 53 feet.
  • A reefer’s external width is 8 feet and 6 inches.
  • A reefer’s interior width is 8 feet and 1.5 inches.
  • The fifth wheel height is 46.5 inches, or 13 feet and 6 inches externally.
  • The door height is 9 feet and 2 inches, and the interior height is approximately 8 feet and 7 inches.

The most typical dry van dimensions are:

  • 53′ x 8’6″ x 8’6″ trailers with a capacity of 26 pallets.
  • 48′ x 8’5″ x 13’6″ trailers have a capacity of 24 pallets.
  • 28’ x 8’ x 9’ can carry 22,500 pounds and 14 pallets.
  • Box trucks have 24′ x 8′ x 6′ dimensions and can transport up to 10,000 pounds of cargo.

Reefer vs Dry Van Rates

Cost is a significant factor in decision-making. The rates for using a reefer are generally higher due to the added expenses associated with temperature control. Understanding the cost implications is crucial for budget-conscious shippers. According to DAT Freight & Analytics, dry van linehaul costs range from $1.75 to $2.00 per mile as of October 2022, and the cost of a reefer van in October 2022  ranges from $2.00 to $2.25 per mile.

Also Read: How To Find Loads For Trucks

Can a Reefer be Used as a Dry Van?

While reefers specialize in temperature-sensitive cargo, they can be used for non-perishable goods. However, this might not be the most cost-effective choice, and it’s essential to evaluate whether the added features align with the needs of the cargo.

Dry Van or Reefer? Which Should You Choose?

The ultimate decision between a dry van and a reefer depends on various factors, including the nature of the cargo, transportation requirements, and budget constraints. Assessing these elements will guide you in making the right choice to ensure your goods’ safe and efficient delivery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a dry van transport perishable goods?

No, dry vans are not suitable for transporting perishable goods. Dry vans lack the essential feature of temperature control. As a result, they cannot maintain specific climate conditions needed to keep perishable items fresh. These vans are more suitable for non-perishable goods that do not require a controlled environment during transportation.

Why are reefers more expensive to operate?

Reefers, or refrigerated trucks/trailers, tend to be more expensive than dry vans. The primary reason for this higher operational cost is the specialized cooling systems equipped with reefers. They are maintaining and controlling specific temperatures for perishable cargo demands advanced technology, which increases fuel consumption and overall operating expenses. While reefers are essential for transporting goods with strict temperature requirements, the added complexity of their systems contributes to the higher costs associated with their operation.

Are there size restrictions for dry vans and reefers?

Both dry vans and reefers have size restrictions that shippers need to consider. The dimensions of the chosen trailer are crucial for efficient transportation planning. Exceeding size limitations can lead to logistical challenges, making it essential for shippers to understand and adhere to the specific size constraints of dry vans and reefers.

Can a reefer be used for non-perishable cargo?

Reefers can be used for non-perishable cargo, but it may not be the most cost-effective choice. Reefers are designed primarily for maintaining specific temperature conditions, making them ideal for transporting perishable goods. Opting for a reefer might result in unnecessary expenses if your cargo doesn’t require temperature control. In such cases, a dry van, which lacks specialized cooling systems, maybe a more economical and practical choice.

What factors should I consider when choosing between a reefer and a dry van?

When deciding between a reefer and a dry van, several factors should be considered. First and foremost, assess the nature of the cargo. A reefer is likely the preferred choice if it is perishable and requires precise temperature control. Consider transportation requirements, including the distance and conditions of the journey. Budget constraints are crucial; reefers generally have higher operating costs. Evaluate the cargo’s sensitivity to temperature changes and weigh the pros and cons of each option to make an informed decision that aligns with your specific shipping needs.