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How much do reefer loads pay?

A question often asked by independent truckers is, “How much do reefer loads pay?” When you’re considering whether or not accepting a particular load would be a good business decision, you’ll have to think through several factors. In this article, we will cover the main points of reefer trucking to help you make the right career choice.

And when you’re finished reading, explore more articles in our reefer truck article series:

What Is a Reefer Load?

Reefer is a term used by truckers to identify refrigerated trailers. Most reefers are 53 feet long. They all usually have insulated walls, floors, doors, and roofs as well.

Reefer loads are temperature-controlled environments. As such, they are used to haul perishable goods such as meat, produce, frozen foods, or pharmaceuticals.

What Are the Minimum Requirements to Be a Reefer Driver?

The first requirement for reefer driving is to have a CDL. To obtain a CDL, you’ll need to take written tests and skills tests that cover laws, policies, and truck operation procedures. To prepare for these tests, most people attend truck driving school for several months. 

In addition to the CDL tests, drivers must pass a drug screening, have a clean driving record, and pass a background check. 

What Is the $/Mile?

The standard formula for calculating reefer rates per mile is as follows:

Rate / Mileage = Per-Mile Freight Rate

But reefer rates per mile vary for several reasons. The average national rate is $2.97 per mile, but this rate will differ from one state to another. Other factors that affect the rate per mile include:

  • Distance the cargo is shipped
  • Time restraints
  • Freight weight, density, and classification
  • Diesel fuel costs and taxes
  • Emissions regulations

Freight classification is based on full truckload (FTL), partial truckload (PTL), load-to-load (LTL), intermodal, or expedited shipping methods. 

What Is My Load Worth?

When asking “how much do reefer loads pay,” the type of cargo plays a significant role in the overall rate. For example, during the produce season, large volumes of fruits and vegetables are shipped from agricultural areas. This increases the demand for reefer shipping, so the rates increase accordingly. 

Hauling pharmaceuticals will often bring higher rates today, as well. These loads require a high level of expertise. Time is a crucial factor as well as temperature control when hauling pharmaceuticals. Even a slight change of just two degrees in temperature can damage a load of pharmaceuticals. 

On average, reefer drivers run fewer deadhead miles. They have fewer time-lapses between loads. If you drive refrigerated goods one way, but have an opportunity to haul dry goods going back, it’s as simple as turning off the generator to run a dry trailer. This option improves the overall worth of a reefer load.

What Are the Expenses?

Refrigerated truck costs can add up quickly, so you need to know what to expect. Some of the typical costs include:

  • Cooling unit maintenance
  • Trailer cleaning and repair
  • Spoiled freight costs
  • Additional insurance 
  • Lumper (third-party loaders or unloaders) costs

Of course, the lighter the load, the more money you’ll save on fuel. The ideal refrigerated truckload weight is 5,000 pounds.

How Often Will I Be Paid?

The payment method you use may vary depending on the company you haul for. Some companies pay CPM, which is cents per mile. Some short-haul companies pay by the hour. A third alternative is to be paid on a salaried basis. With this method, drivers are paid the same amount regardless of hours, mileage, or reefer loads rates.

Owner-operators are typically paid by percentage-of-load arrangements. They negotiate a percentage of the gross or net revenue for a load. Generally, reefer truck driving pays more than other trucking jobs. You will have added responsibilities, risks, and expenses, but the benefits may be worth it in the long run.

Are There Things I Can Do to Increase My Wages?

How much do reefer loads pay? There are several things you can do to increase your wages. Accessorial pay is the term used to describe bonus pay for completing extra tasks. The tasks can include loading or unloading trailers, operating a forklift, paying for tolls, or making non-dock deliveries, to name a few.

If you can make a few extra deliveries on your route, you can collect stop pay. Similar to detention pay, stop pay compensates for extra time spent at the site. You can also check into special incentive pay, dangerous load compensation, per diem reimbursement, or team driver pay. 

Benefits of Hauling Reefer Loads

Being a reefer driver is a big responsibility, but it has many rewards. The advantages include:

  • Longer hauls 
  • Year-round demand
  • Higher pay per mile
  • Flexibility to haul dry loads
  • Safer routes

Reefer trailers improve fuel economy, add stability in bad weather, and minimize road spray. All in all, reefer truck drivers enjoy more comfortable driving experiences due to the smoother ride provided by the trailers.

How to Find a Job As a Reefer Driver

Reefer drivers enjoy many perks, but the job also presents some challenges. For instance, some drivers dislike reefer loads because they take longer to pick up and deliver, resulting in significant downtime. 

However, with KSM, time-sensitive loads, including pharmaceuticals, are done by appointment with an average waiting time of 57 minutes. 

If you’re considering a job as a reefer driver, contact us today. KSM has signed contracts with several pharmacy load clients to secure high rates ($3.05 average) that are independent of the standard market rates. 

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