Driving a vehicle means being aware of your fuel gauge, whether you’re in a small car or operating a semi-truck across multiple state lines. In some cases, those semi-trucks have a refrigeration unit, also known as a reefer unit. A reefer unit on a truck means that attention needs to be diverted to not just one but two fuel tanks – the one for the vehicle and the one for the reefer. Today’s What Is It Wednesday article will dive into what reefer unit refueling is and how to plan for reefer unit refueling.
What is reefer unit refueling?
A reefer, or refrigerated unit, is a type of trailer used for transporting perishable goods at specific temperatures. It includes a dedicated fuel tank for its refrigeration system, distinct from the vehicle’s main fuel tank. The reefer unit requires fuel to keep the refrigeration system running and maintain the necessary cold environment for the cargo. Thus, just as they keep an eye on the vehicle’s fuel gauge, reefer operators need to be diligent about monitoring the fuel levels of the reefer unit.
The logic is straightforward – if you run out of fuel for the reefer, you run out of cold, thereby putting your cargo at risk. Running out of fuel can be detrimental to the safe delivery of temperature-sensitive goods such as food products, pharmaceuticals, and other perishable items.
How often do I need to refuel my reefer?
A typical reefer fuel tank can accommodate up to 50 gallons, whereas larger railcars may feature tanks with a capacity reaching 200 gallons. Depending on various elements, such as the operating mode, the type of cargo in the trailer, and the surrounding air temperature, the rate of fuel consumption for most reefer tanks ranges between 0.4 and 1.1 gallons per hour. In some cases, daily refueling may be needed, though that could stretch to two or three days depending on weather and internal temperatures.
Running a reefer’s fuel tank dry causes more problems than just a temporary halt in refrigeration. It can also result in difficulties restarting the refrigeration unit. This is because the engine can lose its prime when the tank runs out of fuel, forcing a service callout which can be quite costly. There is also the risk of spoilage for the cargo being transported, which can lead to significant losses for businesses.
Depending on the size of the reefer unit, the external temperature, and the temperature inside the truck could determine how often you should refuel the unit. The harder the reefer unit has to work to maintain the desired temperature, the more fuel it will consume. Temperatures in these trucks have the ability to drop as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit, but the average temperature is typically between -13 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most reefer units are designed to operate efficiently for up to a couple of days on a full tank under typical conditions, but it’s recommended for drivers or fleet managers to monitor fuel levels closely and establish a refueling routine based on their specific operational circumstances. For example, some choose to refuel every day to ensure continuous operation, while others might refuel every other day based on their fuel tank’s capacity and usage rate.
The Difference in Reefer Fuel and Diesel
Reefer units are typically powered by diesel fuel, the same type of fuel used in many trucks. The fuel used in the reefer unit is stored in a separate tank from the truck’s main fuel tank. The term “reefer fuel” is often used to differentiate between the diesel fuel used for the truck engine and the fuel used for the reefer unit, but chemically, they are the same.
While the fuel is the same, taxes on the diesel fuel used in reefer units may differ from the fuel used to power the truck’s engine. Typically, reefer re-fuelers will prefer to use off-road, or dyed, diesel in the reefer since that product is tax-exempt. In the United States, for example, reefer fuel is often exempt from federal and state road taxes because it’s not used to propel the vehicle on public highways. This is why you’ll often see a separate “reefer fuel” pump at truck stops. This pump dispenses dyed diesel fuel, which can cost $.30-$.50 less than “clear” taxable diesel fuel.
Whether you need reefer fuel to prepare for the approaching holiday season or it’s a part of your daily operations, Mansfield can help. Call us today to schedule your refrigerated unit refueling. Our team will come to your location on regularly scheduled visits to ensure your reefers never run out of fuel.