With produce season in full swing, what better time than now to talk about hauling refrigerated freight! Trucker Tools recently chatted with owner operator Travis Griffin, an Air Force veteran and father of two who is based in Illinois and hauls reefer throughout the Midwest. During our conversation, Travis offered some great advice for truckers who are new to hauling reefer on how to have a long, successful career running refrigerated cargo. According to Travis, it begins and ends with paying close attention to temperatures, minimizing OS&D and giving a little extra when it comes to interacting with customers.

1. Maintain Proper Temperatures

Any trucker who hauls reefer will tell you that to do it well, you have to pay close attention to your temperature settings and the temp inside the reefer. Doing so will allow you to get the freight there in good shape and avoid filing a claim. From meat and medicines to fruits and vegetables, each load will have its specific temp requirements and it’s your responsibility to make sure those requirements are met.

“Always maintain the proper temperature,” says Travis. “You want to minimize your O, S and D. That’s overage, shortage and damage, which will cost your company.”

Always maintain the proper temperature,” says Travis. “You want to minimize your O, S and D. That’s overage, shortage and damage, which will cost your company.

2. Keep Your Fuel Topped Off

“You also want to make sure that you always have fuel in your reefer because that can cause a claim, too,” advises Travis.

If you run out of fuel, the reefer won’t be able to keep the cargo at the proper temperature, which will trigger a claim. Even a slight temperature deviation can make food unsafe to eat. Fruits and vegetables are particularly fragile and their quality can suffer if you run out of fuel and the temp goes too high (or low).

3. Have a Positive Attitude

As an owner operator or a company driver, your interactions with shippers and receivers directly impact your livelihood. That is why Travis says he makes a point to be pleasant and accommodating when he interacts with shippers and receivers. If you get noticed, you want to make sure that it’s for good reasons.

“Always show up clean, with a smile,” Travis said. “Everyone notices that. Also, always have a great attitude and be flexible.”

4. Go the Extra Mile with Customers

“Always give a little extra, even if you don’t feel like it,” recommends Travis. “For example, I’ll ask, ‘Do you need me to doing anything else? Do you need me to move around some trailers for you?’ Something simple like that.” 

Always give a little extra, even if you don’t feel like it,” recommends Travis. For example, I’ll ask, ‘Do you need me to doing anything else? Do you need me to move around some trailers for you?’ Something simple like that.

Travis says that if you go into a shipper or receiver facility that is cluttered and you’ve got the time, ask the staff there if they would like you to move around some trailers for them. It’ll make it a lot easier for other drivers to get in and out and will leave a lasting positive impression on the customer.

5. Keep Your Reefer Clean

One of the requirements for hauling food according to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is that you must keep your reefer clean to prevent cross-contamination. That means you must clean your reefer thoroughly between loads. During summer months or in warm climates, Travis recommends that you have some sympathy for the people washing out your reefer.

“If it’s a really, really hot day, leave your reefer running when it’s empty and you take it in to get a wash,” Travis says. “That way, the guys that are washing out your trailer aren’t suffering from the heat.”

6. Get To Know Your Customers

According to Travis, it’s important to get to know your customers and the people who staff their loading and receiving docks. Getting to know your customers can often pay off for you in the long run.

“If you start small conversations, you can get to know everyone,” Travis said. “You want to start small and eventually they’ll call you by your first name and get to know you. Eventually you’ll get direct numbers to the guard shack.”

7. Follow Safety Protocols

“I’m hauling meat and right now with COVID-19, I wear a mask everywhere and I always wash and sanitize,” reports Travis. “We have to fill out forms about COVID-19. You have to be very knowledgeable and watch where you go and who you’re around right now.”

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, you may have to follow specific sanitization protocols when hauling produce, meat and other foods. If you go into a truck stop while on a reefer load, Travis recommends that you try to keep everything super clean and try not to cross contaminate anything.

For more on Travis, follow him on YouTube and Instagram.

To find out why Trucker Tools’ free driver app is Travis’ go-to when he’s on (and off) the road, read Five Ways Trucker Tools’ Driver App Saves Time and Money — with Trucker Travis Griffin. To download Trucker Tools’ free driver app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/web/carriers/.

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