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What Is Reefer Intermodal?

August 25, 2022 Kevin Baxter

Reefer intermodal

As warm temperatures continue across the U.S. with summer still going strong, shippers are finding more products require temperature-controlled shipping options to arrive intact. And while the first temp-controlled thought tends to be truckload, reefer intermodal is an option to consider as well. Reefer intermodal refers to the transport of refrigerated containers and/or trailers via a combination of railroad for the long-haul and truck for the first and/or last mile. Reefer is a common term in freight shipping, referring to just about anything temperature-controlled. After all, it's short for refrigerated. But the first thought many shippers have when they hear "reefer" is a truck. While there are plenty of reasons to ship temperature-controlled freight via truck, those who don't consider reefer intermodal are missing out on significant capacity opportunities, both using the same refrigerated trailers trucks carry, and using refrigerated intermodal containers. 

Why use a reefer container?

A reefer container is vital for products that require a consistent temperature, such as perishable foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and more. However, during especially hot summer months, even products not always associated with temp-controlled shipping may require reefer transport. On the food front in particular, canned goods and some types of beverages that don't require chilling during the shipping process can be damaged by prolonged exposure to heat. In a normal summer, those types of loads could be shipped via dry container or trailer, but if summer is too hot - and with dangers of containers getting held up due to equipment shortages and other supply chain challenges - refrigerated options are necessary. So if anything, there are more reasons to use a reefer container - or trailer - than normal. Shippers should use reefer containers to ensure their temperature-sensitive goods get where they need to go, and don't need to be discarded due to heat damage - or cold damage in the winter. The freight market knows this, too. Combine the increased need for refrigerated options with the fact that the food and beverage freight market continues to chug along, somewhat oblivious to consumer spending pressures.

If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.

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