How to haul cars in a reefer or a moving van

 We're not saying it's right, but we know people do it!

Well, first of all... a disclaimer:

If you have a reefer and want to haul cars:

I've heard of several guys hauling cars in a reefer to get the backhaul to pay.  I honestly don't know what the regs are on it.  You'll want to check whether this is cool with DOT and whatever agency oversees the transport of food designated for human consumption!

Basically, whether it's a moving van or a reefer, you're going to need a set of really, really long ramps to get the auto up into the trailer.  The first time I ever helped a guy do this, we sold him a set of modular sixteen foot ramps to make his 48 inch deck height.  He said that it worked, but he still had trouble getting the front tire up onto the ramp before the front air dam and ground effects hit the ramp.  So basically, he had to carry a virtual lumberyard around with him to get those front tires up.  On some cars, he also had an issue with getting the rear tires up into the trailer before the car high-centered on the rocker panels, so had to do the same thing on the ramp.

Not very convenient!

The next time, he went with an 18 foot single piece ramp.  We thought that would cure a lot of those problems, but he said it was still an issue.  The truck after that, we went with a 20 foot modular, which is basically four ramps, with pyramid supports in the center.  These worked better, but still had issues on really low cars.

Now, of course, we sell race ramps to help with the load angle, and another product called "humpers" to help with the transition into the trailer.  But back then, this customer had to go back to the lumberyard for really super low-pro cars.

Side Note:  If you want to avoid buying expensive aluminum auto loading ramps for your reefer...

If you want to avoid the cost of  ramps, you can always pay for a local towing company to send out a ramp truck to pick up the car on the ramp, and then back their truck up to yours to get the car in that way.  When you get to where you're going, you reverse the process.  The downside of this method is waiting around for them to show up-- plus the risk that some other guy will cause damage.  And of course, you lose $200 or so off the top of the deal.  If you do it ten times, you could have paid for a nice set of ramps!

The fact of the matter is that transporting cars is extremely challenging even when you have a trailer that has been built for it.  If you're going to try to transport cars in a dry van or a moving trailer, there are some serious challenges you're going to face.  Not insurmountable, but better you go into this with your eyes open.

Once you get the car into the trailer, you'll need to tie it down securely.  If it moves around in there and rubs up against something for 1,700 miles, you're going to have a very, very, very unhappy customer.  We recommend e-track in the floor, preferably vertical, but we have wheel straps for horizontal as well.

Some companies don't want to put e-track on the floor of the trailer if they're going to be moving fork trucks in and out of the trailer.  In a dedicated auto hauler, the e-track on the bottom deck is recessed into the wood floor.  I haven't heard of a way to do anything like this in a reefer!  If you're not willing to make this mod to your reefer, then you're going to need some e-track along the side wall, low, and bolted securely to structural members.  If you go this route, then you're going to need to side strap with basket straps or lasso straps.  (Although we had one customer who hauled Wal-Mart executives and swore our Corvette strap worked great.)

Lastly... if you're going to haul cars, you really need to think like a car hauler.  The key to hauling cars is... Not.  Damaging. Cars.  A belt buckle scratching the paint as you try to wriggle your way into a car to unload-- well that could cost you more than the whole trip.  You've got to study up and do it right and avoid damage claims at all costs.  I could also do a whole chapter about customer service... returning customer calls promptly, avoiding auto transport brokers, but I'm just trying to get some nuts and bolts down as a reference.
  • no belt buckles!
  • no jeans with rivets!
  • no sweatshirts with zippers!
  • no rings, wristwatches, bracelets!
  • protect the seat
  • do a complete inspection when you pick up the vehicle and take pictures
  • note any dings or scratches

Here are some resources to help you figure out the costs of getting set up to haul cars in a reefer or dry van trailer with a 48 inch or higher load height.  

E-Track, Connectors and Hardware, Wheel Straps and other useful things.

Big Aluminum Ramps

Trucker's Report Bulletin Board:  Hauling cars in a reefer

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