Refrigerated Transportation: 4 Ways to Reduce Fuel Costs with Reefer Monitoring

According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), fuel is far and away the top vehicle-based expense for motor carriers, accounting for anywhere between 34% and 39% of total costs in recent years.

Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking

Source: ATRI, An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking, 2015 Update

A good reefer tracking solution will include a vehicle management portion that allows fleet managers to increase productivity and decrease operating and maintenance costs. When it comes to fuel costs, advanced usage reports and summaries, refuel events and geofence fuel usage reports all combine to enable cost savings through optimization.

Here a 4 ways a reefer monitoring solution can deliver ROI through reduced fuel consumption:

1. Detecting rapid fuel loss: Fuel theft not only causes an immediate operation cost, it can put a shipment at risk of spoilage if there’s not enough fuel to keep the cargo at the right temperature before delivery.

A good reefer management solution will offer the ability to read data from fuel sensors and send alarms in the event of a rapid fuel loss.

Users can help detect theft with ORBCOMM's ReeferTrak Rapid Fuel Loss report.

Users can help detect theft with ORBCOMM’s ReeferTrak Rapid Fuel Loss report.

2. Detecting improper fuel invoicing: Sometimes there’s an inconsistency between how much fuel is put into the tank and how much is invoiced. Detecting the discrepancies can further reduce fuel costs.

A good reefer management solution will be able to import electronic refill records from fuel suppliers and compare with the fuel measured by the fuel sensor in the vehicle. Mismatches due to overcharging, error or bogus invoices can be investigated and resolved. With ReeferTrak’s Refuel Transaction Analysis, our customers can identify any discrepancies between fuel invoices and actual refills.

ReeferTrak demo3. Eliminating unnecessary continuous run usage: Unless you are carrying pharmaceuticals or temperature sensitive produce, carriers can achieve greater fuel savings by running in start/stop mode rather than continuous cooling mode. Switching to start/stop mode can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 50%.

A good reefer management solution will track whether the refrigeration unit is operating in continuous or start/stop mode. It will allow the dispatcher to switch between modes by sending a command directly to the vehicle or messaging the driver to change mode.

4. Detecting extended reefer usage: A carrier expects that a trailer will be cooled, loaded, sealed and immediately start on its journey. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes shippers will cool the trailer, load it partially and then leave the reefer running until they are able to fully load it. Other times, the reefer trailer is used as a storage facility. One of our users even found one customer that was shipping dry product, but was using the trailers to cool down their docks! In all these cases, the carrier is left with the fuel bill to keep the reefer cool.

A good reefer management solution allows the carrier to track the usage of reefer at the yard. It can track when the reefer was turned on, when cargo doors were opened for loading and how long the reefer was left on while still in the shipping yard.

Fuel savings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reefer monitoring benefits. To discover 4 other ways to measure the ROI of a reefer management solution, download our white paper or schedule a demo with us.

Mark Kuiack

Mark Kuiack is Director of Digital Marketing for ORBCOMM. He is responsible for the strategic direction of ORBCOMM's web and social media presence, and has over 15 years of experience in marketing and writing about various technology applications.

Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: ,
4 comments on “Refrigerated Transportation: 4 Ways to Reduce Fuel Costs with Reefer Monitoring
  1. Avatar Luke Smith says:

    Your advice to track whether a refrigeration unit is operating continuously or if it has a start/stop mode sounds like a great way to economize on refrigerated freight. I would assume that continuous usage would cause the components to wear out faster as well as use up extra fuel. My uncle has been thinking of hiring a company to handle refrigerated freight for him – I will recommend that he look for a company who monitors things like this.

    • Mark Kuiack Mark Kuiack says:

      Thanks for your comment Luke. Indeed, reefer tracking, monitoring and control has many advantages — too many to cover in a blog post ; ). Good luck to you and your uncle. Please feel free to contact us anytime through our website or directly via email at

  2. Avatar Vivian Black says:

    You made a great point about how you need to detect rapid fuel loss by having some sort of management solution. My husband is looking for a new way to transport between his two restaurants and he needs to get a refrigerated trailer. He will keep these tips in mind for when he buys one from a professional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign Up for Updates


Follow Us

ORBCOMM on Twitter