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How Refrigerated Trucking Got Started

When you eat an orange in the middle of winter or see piles of fresh fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, it’s thanks to the inventor of refrigerated trucking—Frederick McKinley Jones. While Jones isn’t a direct part of Midwest Carrier’s history, his work ethic and values are similar to ours. And Jones is the entire reason we and other reefer companies can carry trailers of sensitive food hundreds of miles without spoiling. If you’re wondering when refrigerated trucks were invented and how they came about, here are some quick refrigerated trucking history facts.

  • Frederick Jones invented the first mechanical refrigeration unit for trailers in 1935.
  • Mechanical refrigeration—now used on boats as well as trailers—allowed food and blood plasma for transfusions to be transported to overseas soldiers during World War II.
  • Today, electronic door seals, remote temperature control and exact temperature monitoring allow thousands of tons of food to be safely transported thousands of miles.

Frederick McKinley Jones and Refrigerated Trucking

When Frederick McKinley Jones was a young boy, his mother passed away and his father sent him to be raised by a priest. Jones eventually ran away and left school after 8th grade, but discovered he was naturally gifted at understanding machines and mechanical devices. At 16, Jones became employed as an apprentice auto mechanic and later served in World War I. Jones was always reading and learning more about mechanics and electronics.

Jones returned home to Minnesota in 1930, he made a name for himself in his local town for creativity and problem-solving—with achievements like building a transmitter for the town’s radio station. Joseph Numero, owner of Cinema Supplies, Inc., heard about Jones’ mechanical genius and wanted to hire him to design and improve cinema equipment.

When Jones arrived, Numero initially was shocked to see Jones was an African American. Initially underestimated, Jones quickly proved to Numero he was smarter than any other person Numero had worked with before.

One day, Numero was golfing with a buddy who owned a trucking company. This buddy said he wished refrigerated trailers were a thing. Numero bet him $5 Jones could figure it out—and Jones took the challenge. So, in 1935, Jones invented the first mechanical refrigeration unit for trailers, which was made to sit on the trailer nose.

Serve and Create

A mechanical genius and hard worker who could fix or make anything, Jones worked on a 50,000-acre Minnesota farm after his auto apprentice job, fixing and maintaining equipment. No matter the mechanical issue, Jones served countless people by creating a solution.

At Midwest, we take a page from Jones’ serve-and-create approach. We’re capable of, responsible for and motivated by selflessly helping others; confident in our innovation; and eager to develop solutions.

Trust and Commitment

Jones was trusted to fix countless mechanical issues and invent many other things as well. He discovered how to connect sound to “moving pictures” (enter: modern-day TV) for his town’s local movie theater. When there was something to create, Jones was committed to figuring it out. He has 22 patents listed to his name today.

Like Frederick Jones’ refrigeration truck has left a legacy of quality that continues to expand and serve billions, Midwest is committed to honoring and expanding the legacy our own company is built on—from drivers to office staff, building absolute trust, positive culture and community with colleagues and customers.

Refrigerated Trucks Have Changed the World

Knowing refrigerated trucking history facts can give us an even greater appreciation for our food and how we get it.

If you’re looking to hire—or drive for—a reliable reefer company that serves and creates the way Frederick Jones did—putting people first—Midwest Carriers’ refrigerator trucks safely deliver temp-sensitive goods. From meats, cheeses, pizzas, coffee and even pharmaceuticals, we deliver critical cargo on time, on budget and on temperature.

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