Dry vs Reefer LTL Shipping: Advantages and Disadvantages


There are a number of transport options for shipping your business’ freight from warehouses and hubs to your customer’s door. So how do you choose the type of shipping that will work best for your products and bottom line?

In this article, we’ll go through the two most common forms of shipment: dry and reefer transport. What are they? What are their advantages and disadvantages? And how can you use them for your business?


What is Dry Shipping?

Dry shipping is the most trusted and popular form of goods transportation. Dry shipments are held in an enclosed trailer, unlike a flatbed shipment that’s exposed on the back of a truck.

This enclosed trailer space also makes dry shipping highly versatile for a number of products. Pallets or boxes can be filled with a variety of units that can then be stacked and shipped. Dry shipments are most commonly used to carry:

• Textile and clothing
• Non-perishable foods and beverages
• Plastics
• Building materials


What Are the Advantages of Dry Shipping?

Because dry shipment is such a common form of transport, dry trucks and trailers are highly available. This means that they can generally be adaptable to your timetable and location needs. They’re also in high supply, so the cost is usually lower than other forms of shipment.

Moreover, the enclosed trailer creates a barrier against bad weather and theft. This helps protect freight from a number of environmental conditions, so these trucks can travel across the nation without concern.

Dry shipments are easy to load and unload with a “drop and hook” load system. This means that drivers can easily drop an empty trailer and hook up an already loaded one. This saves time, effort, and money spent loading and stalling in hubs.

With regards to LTL shipment, dry shipping can be a strong advantage. LTL, or less-than-truckload, allows for smaller volume shipments. LTL companies can use smaller trucks to take volumes from a variety of clients. This means that you don’t have to fill up an entire truckload with your own products. Your goods will be placed on the same truck as others’ units to save money, fuel, and costs. For clients, LTL is generally less expensive and requires a lower minimum shipment quantity.

Dry shipments allow for LTL trucks to be filled easily. Dry shipped products are more common as they don’t require special handling or temperature controls. In this way, LTL companies often focus their services on dry shipments to ensure their costs are maintained.


What Are the Disadvantages of Dry Shipping?

The major challenge of dry shipping is that it can’t maintain a consistent temperature. Although these trailers protect from the external environment, they can’t guarantee that the contents inside will be entirely regulated. This means that it’s not ideal for sensitive materials like perishables or medicines.

If you have sensitive material, you’ll want to consider a reefer instead.


What is Reefer Shipping?

“Reefer” is the term used to describe a refrigerated LTL truck. These shipments carry refrigerated or temperature-controlled freight. This protects the goods from deteriorating, perishing, or damaging during transport.

Reefers can maintain an internal environment within a specific temperature range, depending on the products inside. For example, frozen fish could be shipped in a reefer with a temperature range of 0 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these fish couldn’t be shipped with chilled beverages, which are held at a range of 32 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite the name, reefers don’t only ship refrigerated goods. They can also maintain a warm or moderate temperature. For example, electronics may need to stay at room temperature to avoid breaking. A reefer could maintain a temperature range between 68 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the electronics don’t freeze or overheat in shipment.

Reefers often ship:

• Perishable food and beverages
• Medicines and pharmaceuticals
• Artwork
• Electronics

What Are the Advantages of Reefer Shipping?

Reefers protect your products better than dry shipments. If you sell any fresh products or temperature-sensitive items, reefers are necessary to keep them protected. This ensures your units are not subject to severe weather or spoilage.

With regards to LTL, reefers can carry a number of products within the same temperature range. Similar-temperature shipments from a variety of clients can be combined. This means that businesses that sell fresh produce don’t have to worry about filling an entire truckload with their goods; this can be especially useful for farmers or growers with weekly produce cycles. Nevertheless, LTL reefers can pose some organizational problems as well.


What Are the Disadvantages of Reefer shipping?

Firstly, filling a refrigerated LTL can be a challenge. You need to find products that are in the same temperature range, going to the same area, and on the same schedule.

Additionally, the supply of reefer trucks is not as high as dry ones. This means that access to refrigerated shipments can be harder to come by, more complicated, and more expensive.

Moreover, reefers don’t operate on a typical LTL schedule. Because of the time constraints on perishable items, reefers are on strict schedules that can be hard to coordinate. Combined with a lower number of trucks, this can create complicated limitations for reefer scheduling.

It also can be hard to maintain a consistent temperature for an extended trip. In this way, many transport companies have implemented real-time data tracking systems that allow for supervisors and customers to see the climate of their shipments down to the minute.

Furthermore, maintenance of reefer trucks and equipment can be expensive.

Because of these disadvantages, a number of LTL companies have chosen to stick to dry shipping and not offer refrigerated shipments.

But we don’t think this isn’t fair to clients who still need reefers to deliver their produce.


The Bottom Line

The type of basic transport you choose should be dependent on the type of items you’re transporting. If you want a cost-effective transport solution, dry shipments are the best option. If you want to ensure your products are delivered without spoilage or exposure to temperature changes, reefers or refrigerated shipments are a requirement.

You want an LTL transport company that can do both. You want a company that knows that your needs vary and change. Your LTL company should be able to grow with you, no matter the goods you need to be transported at any time.

At Redwood, we will find the perfect dry or reefer trucks for your freight. We work with you to understand your shipments and strategic goals. We offer personalized solutions with data analysis, real-time tracking, and a consultative team. This ensures your shipments go door-to-door efficiently and cost-effectively.

We know that what’s best for your company is what’s best for ours. Contact Redwood today for a dry or reefer shipment consultation.