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How Old is Too Old for a Reefer Trailer?

How Old Is Too Old For a Reefer Trailer - Customer Series

If you aren't asking carriers about the age of their equipment, you may want to start. In today's freight market, you have a lot of choices between carriers. But remember, the equipment they use matters.  The last thing that anyone wants is for your freight to suffer due to a faulty reefer trailer. 

replacing equipment

A good carrier should have a robust trailer replacement plan and we recommend every 4-5 years — let's look at why.


In the industry, we often refer to reefer trailers as though they are a single unit, but a reefer trailer is actually a combination of a trailer and a reefer unit. The gold standard is generally agreed upon as Utility and Great Dane trailers and ThermoKing and Carrier reefer units. 

What sets these units apart is their quality. According to an article on the Great Dane website, traditional reefers can lose up to 25% of their insulating capacity over time, with many experiencing a 10% loss in the first year alone. In contrast, premier trailers reduce insulation off-gassing, resulting in less insulation loss and safer temperatures for your products.

Not all trailers are created equal, so be sure to ask carriers about the type of reefers they use


Units that receive regular maintenance from trained reefer technicians enjoy a longer lifespan and better performance than those that don't. If you want your products shipped at a consistent temperature, the maintenance record of a trailer is crucial.

Reefer units require routine servicing from technicians who are well-versed in their workings. However, the first line of defense in any good maintenance plan is diligent drivers who conduct thorough pre-trip inspections.

Check your carrier's SMS scores online for any patterns that might indicate negligence in maintenance or driver diligence. SMS, which stands for Safety Measurement System, is a national measure by the FMCSA that provides insight into a company's overall safety practices based on information from roadside inspections and crash reports in the last two years.

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New Technologies

While reefers have been in use since the 1940s, the technology has evolved significantly. Advances in materials, efficiency, and safety features all affect the performance of reefer trailers, reefer units, and the carrier's ability to guarantee the temperature of your load. 

At K&J, we have seen an improvement in customer outcomes by utilizing technologies such as remote reefer temperature monitoring, remote reefer fuel monitoring, door warnings and alarms, and two-way remote commands.  

We spoke with Pete Halverson, President of Thermo King of Sioux Falls about the advances he's witnessed. He said,

In recent years there has been an increase in the use of telematics. In fact, in 2024 all new Thermo Kings will come with two years of telematics included. Carriers can monitor the temperature, fuel level, location, and even how long the doors have been open. Newer reefer units are much more fuel efficient and have solar capabilities to save on battery life. The units that K&J uses are the S-600 units which are the gold standard for 'green' sustainability. 

Marti Sidel, General Manager of Mid-States Utility of Sioux Falls, shed light on how some refer models are moving towards greater efficiency through electrification of components. 

Our  Vector unit now only has one belt versus a standard unit which has three. Fewer parts can cause fewer maintenance issues. It is an all-electric compressor which is huge; all electric components. The maintenance is basically zero on a Vector unit.

In the end, high-end reefer technologies are a win/win: they provide customers with a wealth of data points at their fingertips and also translate to cost savings for carriers.

Are your carriers spec'ing trailers with technology that  can safeguard your load?

SO How Old is Too Old for a reefer trailer?

At K&J, we have our trailers on a 4-5 year sales cycle. This allows us to provide the most reliable equipment and utilize the newest and best technology for our customers, as well as the ability to sell or lease out the older trailers while they still have value. 

We believe that investing in new, high-end equipment is well worth the cost. If our customers, drivers, and technicians are happy, so are we. Over the years, our excellent equipment has become one of our calling cards, and we are proud of it.

Curious how we can partner with you to haul reefer or dry van freight? We would love to start the conversation.