The Magazine for LCV Fleet Operators
When it comes to buying a refrigerated van, it’s not exactly black and white. There are a variety of different van types and models... Refrigeration: the right van for the job

When it comes to buying a refrigerated van, it’s not exactly black and white. There are a variety of different van types and models with specifications suited to different uses. So how do you choose which refrigerated van is best for your business? Devon-based Refrigerated Vehicle Rental recommends starting by answering five questions.

1  What temperature do you need in your van?
This is definitely one of, if not the most important question you need to be asking. Different vans are capable of maintaining different temperatures, so depending on your cargo you ought to select one that is an appropriate temperature for the contents.

Producers that need refrigerated vans to transport their products have an average temperature that their vans need to be. The panel shows a breakdown of some of those sectors and what temperature their produce must be stored at during transit.

2  Chiller or freezer vans?
So, depending on your cargo, you might need a different type of van. There are four main categories when it comes to refrigerated van types:

  • Insulation-only van: these vans may be better for businesses transporting items that won’t spoil or perish during transit, but just needs a small amount of extra insulation (often Styrofoam) as they don’t technically comprise of any chiller or freezer compartments. This means they aren’t the best option for food-based products. 
  • Chiller conversion van: fitted with the same insulation as the above, these vehicles also often contain a chiller or refrigerator that are able to achieve temperatures of between 0°C to 8°C, making them very suitable for chilled food, flowers and pharmaceuticals alike, able to be kept the same temperature throughout the journey. 
  • Semi-freezer conversion van: these are great for transporting frozen goods at temperatures the average chiller van can’t quite reach. They’re fitted with slightly thicker insulation and the freezer units can achieve temperatures of -10°C up to -15°C. Some are also capable of undergoing defrost cycles which are ideal for some businesses upon delivery. 
  • Full-freezer conversion van: this type of van also benefits from the thicker insulation and potential defrost. The main difference here is that the full freezer conversion has reinforced side and rear doors and temperatures can reach as low as -25°C.

3  Distance and drop frequency
Not only will this affect the type of van you might choose, by opting for the best possible mileage, fuel consumption and longevity, it will also affect the installations within your van.

If you’re making lots of drops and your doors will be open for a while at a time, it might actually be worth selecting a van type capable of providing temperatures cooler than what you require, as you’ll be letting heat into the van every time the doors are left open.

The alternative if you would rather keep to a temperature you know, is to install strip curtains in your van. These curtains can help control and regulate the temperature of your van by creating a barrier between areas of cool and areas of humidity.

If you’re making a lot of stops and your van doors will be opened regularly, choose a van that either already has these installed or is capable of doing so in the future.

4  Load and wheelbase requirements
Wheelbase determines the distance between the front and rear axles of your van. It can affect the space available to store and transport goods. Wheelbase is generally categorised as LWB (long wheelbase), MWB (medium wheelbase) and SWB (short wheelbase).

The wheelbase of the vehicle affects the load and how much you can store at any one point, particularly if you’re using pallets to transport your goods, so it’s important to choose what’s more appropriate space-wise for your products.

Long wheelbase vehicles have a larger surface area due to being that extra bit longer and, therefore have more square footage to play with. However, they can’t usually carry more in payload than the equivalent medium or short wheelbase van. So it is essential to consider what’s more important for your refrigerated vehicle, volume or weight capacity.

5  Used or new? Buy or rent?
Much can be said about all the options here. Although with a new van there is more of a guarantee of smooth operation and longevity, there’s nothing to say that a used van can’t do the same if it’s been looked after properly.

And renting could be an ideal solution with different rental contracts to suit your business. RVR currently offers six rental types: daily, weekly, weekend, monthly, seasonal and contract. This allows customers to pick and choose the ideal van to use for a job only for the time they need it. 

Exeter-based Refrigerated Vehicle Rental specialises in the rental of refrigerated vehicles from 3.5-tonne vans to 18-tonne rigid trucks.

Refrigeration needs for different sectors
Drinks – to keep drink cool during transit, they should ideally be stored within the range of 0°C to 8°C. 

Flowers – to ensure the freshness and quality of flowers during transit, they should be stored between precisely 5°C to 7°C to maximise their short life span. 

Ice cream and frozen goods – when transporting items like these that must remain frozen during transit, you should be looking to store them in a vehicle capable of achieving -18°C to -25°C. 

Medicine and pharmaceuticals – storing these at a cool temperature avoids spoiling and aids in preserving the hygiene of the products. A van with back-up power and multiple compartments capable of producing various temperatures is recommended. 

Meat, fish, dairy and poultry – to ensure no cross-contamination, a multi-compartment vehicle is recommended. If all else fails, a low temperature, but not quite to freezer levels, is ideal for preventing spoilage.