What is the Difference Between a Fridge Box and a Reefer Container?


reefer container temperatures

The shipping of temperature-sensitive commodities is on the uptick. Fresh food products, pharmaceuticals, and technology solutions have seen a dramatic rise in the retail space. From computer microchips that require temperature-controlled shipping to vaccines that help prevent diseases, the global community has become increasingly dependent upon the cold supply chain. However, there is some confusion about the differences between a refrigerated container and a reefer box.

If you have ever wondered about these differences too, you are in luck today!  Let's take a look at some of the main differences between a fridge box and a reefer container...


Why is Cold Storage Shipping Necessary and Growing?

Aside from knowing the differences between these two methods for shipping cold products, the fact is that both are needed.

There are all sorts of products that require a temperature-controlled environment and not all of them require the same environment. Thankfully, growing federal and international shipping regulations have increased the need for higher-quality temperature control and monitoring. In turn, this has spurred growth within the industry over just the span of a few years. Some of the most common commodities that require advanced tracking and monitoring within the cold supply chain include frozen food, dairy products, produce, medical supplies, and electronics.

Anytime your local grocer receives a shipment of perishables, it is achievable thanks to temperature-controlled shipping. From food to medications, all sorts of cold storage products rely on one form of temperature-controlled shipping or the other.


What is a Reefer Truck?

The term ‘reefer’ is used to describe a full-service or dedicated refrigerated truck or container with temperature control equipment. A reefer can be set from temperatures ranging from 50 degrees to minus 20 Fahrenheit. This allows carriers to keep the product within its desired storage temperature for the duration of transportation. Most temperature-controlled shipments are LTL or less than truckload, with multiple products that require similar temperature control being shipped together – usually to multiple stops.


Are there any Disadvantages of Shipping with a Reefer Container?

When the market is hot, the availability of reefer units is just as cold as the products they ship.

This supply and demand issue causes the cost of reefer shipments to accelerate rather rapidly. Beyond the cost increase, trying to schedule perishable shipments on the schedule of a shipper is also becoming a challenge. The transportation industry is rapidly increasing their production of new reefer containers and trucks in order to meet the rising need, this, in turn, should hopefully reduce some of the shipping costs.

Another challenge with reefer shipments is route planning for LTL shipments. For example, if a manufacturer of frozen food products has 10 pallets of products that have to be shipped to 5 different customers, in 3 different states, the shipment will likely have to be sent to a depot to be routed to at least three different LTL routes. This isn’t very efficient and tends to increase the time of delivering cold storage products.


What is a Fridge Box?

Reefer refers to a container or vehicle that is dedicated to holding refrigerated or other temperature-controlled commodities during shipment. Opposite of that, a fridge box is an individual refrigerated box that can hold up to two pallets of products.

A fridge box is usually loaded onto a dry-goods trailer while maintaining the desired temperature zone during transport. They are incredibly well engineered – with seal technology and equipment that can keep the environment within one degree or the required temperature for the products... for up to a five-day period.

A fridge box is also much easier to maintain and offers shippers more flexibility to move smaller amounts of cold products. This type of cold-storage shipping device is typically used for considerably smaller products, like electronics, medications, or other cold-storage pharmaceutical products. One of their greatest benefits is their portability. Most shippers will use a fridge box to keep smaller volume products cold while shipping dry goods in the same LTL container. As such, fridge boxes tend to be less expensive than reefers because they don’t require fully equipped trucks. The fridge box has been a big help in the reduction of cold supply chain supply problems – and gives shippers and carriers alike improved opportunities for moving cold-storage products.


Final Thoughts

The cold supply chain is growing and there is a need for more reefer box truck drivers. In fact, those already in operation are increasing their volume of reefer trailers and fridge boxes. Meanwhile, shippers still face challenges when trying to navigate this competitive industry.

Are you in the latter group? Feeling challenged by the hurdles associated with reefer and temperature-controlled shipments? An experienced 3PL can significantly improve your LTL supply chain operation.


Take time to contact a professional third-party logistics company if you’d like to learn more about how to efficiently ship your cold storage products with improved customer service and reduced costs.