Everything You Need to Know About Refrigerated Trucks and Chiller Vans

So you’re thinking about renting or buying a refrigerated truck or chiller van. Smart move. These temperature-controlled vehicles open up a whole new world of opportunities, whether you want to transport perishable goods for your business, move items across the country, or just have more flexibility and convenience. But before you dive in, it’s a good idea to understand exactly how refrigerated trucks and chiller vans work and what options are out there. This article will give you an overview of everything you need to know about refrigerated transportation, from the different refrigeration systems and temperature ranges available to costs, licensing requirements, and more. By the end, you’ll have a solid sense of whether renting or buying a refrigerated truck or chiller van makes sense for your needs. Let’s get started!

What Are Refrigerated Trucks and Chiller Vans?

Refrigerated trucks and chiller vans, also known as reefers, are temperature-controlled vehicles used to transport perishable goods like food, medicine, and flowers. They allow you to safely deliver temperature-sensitive cargo over long distances.

  • Refrigerated trucks are typically larger freight vehicles outfitted with a refrigeration unit, while chiller vans are smaller vehicles more suited for local deliveries. Both maintain an optimal temperature range to preserve the quality and freshness of transported goods.
  • Reefers can refrigerate down to -20°F or chill up to 60°F using a mechanical refrigeration system powered by the vehicle’s engine or an auxiliary power unit. Sensors monitor the temperature and automatically adjust to maintain the desired range.
  • Perishable goods often have a limited shelf life, even when properly refrigerated, so reefers allow you to expand your delivery range and serve more distant customers. Some reefers also have heating units for transporting frozen goods.

Using refrigerated transport is essential for food safety and quality control. It allows you to uphold proper storage temperatures for perishable goods from pickup to delivery. Reefers give you flexibility and open up new market opportunities.

With the right equipment and procedures, you can ensure your temperature-controlled cargo arrives in peak condition.

Types of Refrigerated Vehicles: Trucks vs. Vans

When it comes to keeping things chilled during transport, you’ve got two main options: refrigerated trucks or refrigerated vans, also known as chiller vans. Which one is right for you? Let’s break down the pros and cons.

Refrigerated trucks, or reefers, are best for large-scale operations. They can maintain temperatures as low as -20°F and haul up to 26 pallets at a time. However, reefers require a special license to drive and can be pricey, often starting around $75,000 used. They’re also quite bulky, so maneuvering and parking in tight spaces may be difficult.

Chiller vans, on the other hand, only require a regular driver’s license and tend to be more budget-friendly, with used models around $25,000. They have a smaller capacity, holding up to 8 pallets, but their smaller size makes them easier to drive and more versatile. Chiller vans can maintain temperatures of 35-45°F, suitable for chilled and frozen goods.

For smaller businesses, chiller vans are probably your best bet. They’re affordable, easy to operate, and can meet the needs of most chilled transportation. As your business grows, you can consider upgrading to a reefer for larger volume needs. Either way, with proper refrigeration, you’ll be equipped to safely transport temperature-controlled cargo.

Uses and Applications of Refrigerated Vehicles

Transporting Perishable Goods

Refrigerated trucks and vans are commonly used to transport perishable goods that require temperature control, like:

  • Fresh food – Fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, etc. Temperature control prevents spoilage during transport.
  • Medicine – Some medicines and vaccines must be kept within a certain temperature range to avoid potency issues.
  • Flowers – Many flowers wilt or die if exposed to excess heat during transport and storage.

Mobile Cold Storage

Some businesses use refrigerated vehicles as temporary cold storage. For example:

  • Catering companies may store perishable ingredients in a reefer truck during an event.
  • Food trucks and mobile kitchens rely on refrigerated vans to keep ingredients fresh.
  • Farms and agricultural businesses can use refrigerated trucks when cold storage space is limited.

Efficient Delivery Routes

Refrigerated vehicles allow businesses to plan efficient delivery routes without worrying about perishable goods spoiling. Companies can:

  • Make longer deliveries without compromising product freshness.
  • Combine multiple customers on one delivery route.
  • Store goods in the vehicle during stops without temperature regulation issues.

Emergency Response

Refrigerated trucks and vans play an important role in emergency response. They are used to:

  • Transport and store temperature-sensitive medicines and medical supplies.
  • Preserve perishable food for disaster relief efforts.
  • Transport remains after mass casualties while maintaining appropriate temperatures.

In summary, refrigerated vehicles have many essential uses and applications in transporting and storing temperature-controlled goods. Their ability to regulate temperature allows perishable products to be kept fresh during transport, provides mobile cold storage solutions, enables efficient delivery routing, and supports critical emergency response efforts.

Choosing the Right Refrigerated Vehicle

When it comes to refrigerated vehicles, you have a few options to choose from depending on your needs. The two most common types are refrigerated trucks, also known as reefer trucks, and refrigerated vans, known as reefer vans or chiller vans.


Reefer trucks typically have a larger cargo area, ranging from 12 to 53 feet in length, so they’re good for transporting large volumes of goods. Reefer vans are smaller, usually less than 30 feet, so they’re better suited for tight loading docks and smaller delivery routes. Think about the amount of refrigerated cargo you need to haul to determine the right size for your needs.

Temperature control

Both reefer trucks and vans allow you to precisely control the temperature to keep your cargo at the proper temperature. Reefer trucks often have more advanced systems that can cool to lower temperatures, so they may be better for frozen goods. Reefer vans typically only go as low as 35 F, so they’re ideal for chilled and perishable goods.


In general, reefer trucks will have a higher upfront cost than reefer vans. However, reefer trucks typically get better fuel economy, especially over long distances, so they may save on fuel costs. Reefer vans are more affordable to purchase and maintain but have higher fuel costs. For small businesses making local deliveries, a reefer van is probably the most budget-friendly option.


Reefer vans are easier to drive and more maneuverable in tight spaces than the larger reefer trucks. If you’re making deliveries in residential areas or cities with narrow streets, a reefer van is the more practical choice. Reefer trucks can be more difficult to navigate and require an experienced driver.

In the end, evaluate how you’ll be using the refrigerated vehicle to determine which type is right for your business. Either a reefer truck or reefer van can help you efficiently transport temperature-controlled cargo, so choose the option that best fits your needs and budget.

Maintaining Your Refrigerated Truck or Van

To keep your refrigerated truck or van running efficiently and reliably, regular maintenance is key. ###Routine service

Schedule routine servicing with a certified mechanic every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. They will check components like the refrigeration unit, seals, hoses, and more for any signs of wear or damage. It’s best to catch any issues early and perform preventative maintenance.

  • Check and refill refrigerant levels. The refrigerant is what keeps the refrigeration unit cold. Low levels mean it has to work harder and less efficiently.
  • Inspect door seals and gaskets. Make sure the doors seal properly to maintain temperature control inside the cargo area. Replace any worn or damaged seals right away.
  • Clean condenser coils. The condenser coils release the heat from the refrigeration unit. Built-up dirt and debris reduce airflow and efficiency. Have the coils cleaned once a year or every 20,000 miles.
  • Change air filters. Clogged air filters reduce airflow to the refrigeration unit and engine. Replace every 3-6 months or as recommended in your owner’s manual.
  • Lubricate hinges and locks. Apply a spray-on lubricant to door hinges, locks, and any other moving parts to prevent sticking and ensure smooth operation.

Additional tips

  • Run the refrigeration unit for a few minutes before loading cargo to pre-cool the space. This will help it maintain the proper temperature once loaded.
  • Minimize the number of times doors are opened when possible. Opening doors releases cold air and allows warm air in, which the unit then has to re-cool.
  • Defrost the refrigeration unit regularly if operating in very humid conditions. Excess moisture buildup reduces efficiency.
  • Consider installing additional insulation or using insulated blankets to improve temperature retention.
  • Choose a reputable dealer or repair shop with experience servicing refrigerated vehicles. They will have the proper training, tools, and parts for your specific truck or van.

Following a consistent maintenance schedule and these helpful tips will keep your refrigerated truck or van running in tip-top shape for years to come. Be sure to also follow the recommended maintenance from your vehicle’s manufacturer for maximum performance and uptime.


Now that you know the basics about refrigerated trucks and chiller vans, you’re prepared to transport temperature-controlled goods efficiently. These vehicles allow businesses to safely move perishable products over long distances while maintaining ideal temperature conditions. Though the initial investment in refrigerated transport can be significant, the ability to tap into new markets and reduce waste ultimately pays off. If you’re moving into a new sector like food production or pharmaceuticals, refrigerated trucks are a must. And for established companies, expanding your fleet enables growth into new regions and product lines. The cold chain is the backbone of many industries, so keep your cool – literally and figuratively! With refrigerated trucks, the opportunities are endless.