If you are in the market for a temperature-controlled light commercial, there are plenty of rental businesses that specialise in fridge and freezer vans.
If, however, your business has a more permanent need for temperature-controlled transport, there are a few things to be aware of when looking for a van.
What are you carrying?
Temperature-controlled vehicles don’t only transport foodstuffs. Pharmaceuticals, flowers, ice cream, drinks, there can be many tasks that require specific temperatures to be maintained throughout the day. It may also be important to consider the physical size and shape of the goods to be carried, and how they are to be stored on-board. Manufacturers can provide refrigerated conversions of existing panel vans, or they can be built into dedicated box bodies, to be fitted to a chassis cab.
What does it weigh?
As with any light commercial vehicle, it is important to know the available payload of the van and how much you will need to carry. An insulated body conversion and a refrigeration unit will add weight to the unladen vehicle, reducing the amount of payload on offer. This may require a larger van to carry the same weight of goods.
Also, you may require racking or some form of internal storage, which again will have an effect on final payload capability.
What temperature do you need?
Many temperature-controlled conversions can be built to deliver two or even three different temperature compartments, for ambient, chilled and frozen goods. Drinks for example might need to be carried at 0-8°C, while flowers will prefer 5-7°C. Ice cream and other frozen goods could call for a vehicle that can achieve -18–25°C, while medicines and pharmaceuticals can require a range of temperatures, calling for a multi-compartment conversion.
Increasingly, temperature-controlled providers are being tasked with proving that the required environment has been maintained through the day. Having sensors in each compartment ensures that the business can prove temperature consistency throughout the day. These sensors can be linked to fleet management systems to provide a paper trail back to the fleet manager.
Distance and drop frequency?
Distance is becoming an increasingly important consideration, especially where the base vehicle is battery powered. If the fridge unit is being run from the van’s traction battery, this will reduce available driving range. On the other hand, if the fridge is using a dedicated battery, this will cut into the available payload.
Drop frequency is important, as every time the doors are opened, the internal temperature will be affected, requiring additional cooling from the fridge unit. If the day involves multiple drops, with doors left open for any length of time, then it might be best to have a fridge unit that can cope with the chilling task. Strip curtains can also be used to maintain internal temperatures, even when doors are opened. However, these too will eat into available payload.