History of the Refrigerated Truck

While having truck refrigeration is very common today, there was a time when people were still trying to figure out how to design a functional refrigerated truck.

Why Were Refrigerated Trucks Needed?

Before cars and trucks were first invented, trains were used as transport refrigeration. This was not the most efficient way to transport things, as it took a long time.

Refrigerated trucks were an alternative to using trains as transportation. They were great ways to transport things that needed to be kept cold because they were faster than trains were. Having trucks deliver cooled items faster meant that any food that was being transported would stay fresh for longer.

Food items such as meat would need to be carried in refrigerated trucks. However, it was difficult for inventors to come up with good ways to keep trucks cold. The technology that we have today for refrigerated trucks took decades to develop.

When Were the First Refrigerated Trucks Made?

The first models of what are now refrigerated trucks were developed in the 1920s. These were made to transport and distribute ice cream. Soon, refrigerated trucks would also carry other food products, such as meat and dairy.

Different models of refrigerated trucks used different methods to cool the truck. There is a difference between refrigerated trucks and insulated trucks. Insulated trucks are just built to keep a temperature in as long as possible, whereas refrigerated trucks are actually fitted with a refrigeration system.

These refrigeration systems have changed over time, but they were first created by putting ice in the truck to keep things cold.

Since the development of refrigerated trucks in the 1920s, their technology continued to expand rapidly in the following decades.

Refrigerated Train Cars

Before refrigerated trucks, trains were used to transport food that needed to be kept cold, such as meat. To do this, train cars were essentially converted into oversized ice boxes.

The earliest models kept ice in the train car, but that would not work very well as the temperature did not last, and the ice would discolour the meat the car was carrying. Eventually, insulated train cars started to be used, but they would only really work when the weather was cold.

Early Models

To improve upon the use of those ice boxes and insulated train cars, people started to develop van refrigeration. These started as similar to the technology that was used in the train cars.

First, ice was used, and then they began to use dry ice. The ice would have to be cut out of bodies of water. However, in the 1940s, more modern methods of refrigeration were developed. They started to use fans to circulate the cold air from the ice around the van or truck, and were able to keep the contents more evenly cold.

Later in the 1940s, mechanical refrigeration systems became used in the trucks, which is similar to what we see today.

Modern Refrigerated Trucks

Vehicle refrigeration is very common today. It might be strange to think about how food was able to last long enough to be transported with earlier versions of refrigerated trucks.

If you drive around for a while, you’re probably going to see several trucks that have refrigeration to transport food. Like many other technological advances, it took inventors a long time to develop the early technology into the advanced versions that we have today.

Most modern refrigerated trucks use a combination of insulation and refrigeration systems to keep food cold. This is the most effective way to transport cold foods currently, but there will likely be even more advanced methods in another 100 years!