Best Coolers for Truck Drivers to Take on the Road [Updated February, 2024]

In order to successfully deliver the cargo, the truck driver needs to stay calm, cool, and collected under all possible conditions. However, when the temperature hits summer maximums, keeping your head cool gets really challenging.

That is especially true if your truck does not have a built-in fridge. Luckily for you, there is a solution that will help you to save your sandwiches, water, or fruit from the heat and give you a bite of cold delight on the road. So, here comes the cooler.

You can choose from a range of cooler models offering a variety of sizes, materials, and features — at various price points.

The choice may be tough, especially if this is the first time you have heard about a truck cooler. That is why we would like to give you all required information and suggest a few options worth considering. We strongly believe that coolers can become true life savers in terms of protecting drivers' health.

A proper cooling appliance will help you to:

  • maintain proper eating habits,
  • keep a healthy diet,
  • access vital foodstuffs while on the road.

Keeping your food cool reduces the likelihood of food poisoning, which can completely wreck your system. Let’s begin by looking at the top of the list.


Contents:

  1. Why Are Coolers for Truck Drivers So Important?
  2. Types of Coolers
  3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Conventional and More Expensive Models
  4. Best Coolers for Truck Drivers
  5. Conclusion

Why Are Coolers for Truck Drivers So Important?

Direct Benefits of Coolers for Truck Drivers

Cooler for Truck Drivers

The benefits of coolers seem to be quite obvious.

  1. Coolers help to satisfy some of the driver's primary needs: preserving food and drinks during long trips, so you can have a snack anywhere you are, even with no convenience store or restaurant in sight. With a cooler, you need no longer worry about food quality. You are free to prepare meals in advance or fill up your cooler from a store to make sure you are never hungry, even in some completely desolate place.
  2. Coolers come in various shapes and sizes, and with a variety of features, so you can find the model that is right for the job.
  3. Coolers are portable, durable, and easy to maintain. They will save you big bucks in the long run. Read on to find out more.
  4. Coolers do not depend on a power supply to function. Even if your truck runs out of energy, the cooler will continue to run, providing you with fresh water while you wait for help to arrive. They put no additional pressure on the truck’s generator either, which helps to prolong its lifespan.

Why Truckers Need Coolers?

Semi Truck Cooler

All these benefits make it clear that a cooler can significantly improve the driver's quality of life on the road. The occupation is a challenging one, associated with a long list of disorders and medical conditions. A cooler helps to prevent many of them: obesity, food poisoning, heat stroke, and dehydration. This is a simple appliance that has very little effect on the truck’s power consumption and is exempt from FMCSA regulations and restrictions.

How Much Money and Time a Cooler Can Save?

We touched on savings above, and now it is time to delve deeper. Just imagine how much time you could save by taking food from home instead of looking for a restaurant, parking, waiting for an order, and finally eating a meal that is often not particularly healthy. The same applies to looking for a store to grab an energy bar from. The more stuff you have with you, the faster you will travel to your destination.

As far as money is concerned, it is clear that homemade food is cheaper than a meal at a restaurant. Food savings can get impressively big in the long run. The cost of maintaining a cooler is also low, as you only need to stock it with ice. Zero energy consumption results in fuel savings. The device itself is very cost-efficient.

Types of Coolers

Coolers for Work Truck

Although all coolers are basically similar, a closer look at the available options reveals they are, in fact, very different, and they differ in many ways. Let’s look at certain features you may find important when choosing a cooler for semi truck that suits your needs best.

Materials

Coolers for truck drivers come in a variety of designs and materials:

  • metal case,
  • plastic case,
  • soft, portable bag-type passive coolers made of:
    • canvas,
    • neoprene,
    • polyester.

Besides exterior design, they vary greatly in terms of thermal insulation materials, and sometimes that difference is critical.

Coolers for Truck Drivers: Material

Insulation

The thicker the insulation is, the longer it can preserve the temperature inside. The winning combination is good insulation on top of a rotomolded case, which gives the thickest walls. Foam-type insulation can be open-cell or closed-cell, the latter being much better.

  • Pressure-injected polyurethane is the number-one choice both for insulation properties and longevity. The downside is that it adds a lot of weight.
  • Styrofoam (extruded polystyrene) is used in cheaper coolers. It weighs much less than polyurethane, which makes these coolers easier to handle and carry around.
  • Soft coolers are usually made with closed-cell polyethylene (PE) insulation — it is soft and extremely lightweight.

Coolers for Truck Drivers: Insulation

Brands

Below we list the most popular makers, which manufacture the best coolers for truck drivers.

  • Igloo has made coolers since 1947, and today, it offers a broad variety of hard and soft coolers for any application.
  • Coleman is a recognized manufacturer of hard and soft coolers, both passive and thermoelectric, offering an unparalleled choice of capacity and materials.
  • Yeti offers hard and soft coolers in various formats, including wheeled and bucket-type models, along with a vast range of accessories and drinkware.
  • Bison: hard and soft square passive coolers with a capacity of 25–125 qt.
  • Orca: 20–140 qt. hard and soft coolers, not too many design options.
  • Canyon makes hard and soft premium coolers that can keep ice for up to eight days and longer, with many design options and useful features.
  • Orion is a subbrand of Jackson Kayak that includes passive hard coolers for outdoor activities and fishing.
  • Pelican offers hard, soft, and wheeled coolers, ice chests, and even backpack-type coolers with padded straps.
  • Engel: hard, soft and dry box coolers, live bait coolers, and portable freezers.
  • Otterbox offers rugged and versatile 25–45 qt. hard coolers, and backpack and shoulder bag-type soft coolers.
  • Grizzly makes an extensive family of hard coolers, from a modest 20 qt. to an insanely large 400 qt. model, as well as grab-and-go soft coolers that are perfect for fishing and outdoor activities.

Technical specifications

Passive coolers are the entry level, with no coolant or any other mechanical systems and relying exclusively on the ability of thermal insulation to prevent heat exchange between the inside of the cooler and the ambient air. They cannot cool down food, and their only function is to try to keep pre-cooled foodstuffs cold for as long as possible.

Compressor coolers allow cooling down to 22 ℉ regardless of the ambient temperature or the volume of the cooling chamber. Compressor-type cooler refrigerators use a cooling agent (the safe freon gas R134a), which turns from the liquid to gaseous state in an evaporator. Meanwhile, the evaporator takes heat from the inner compartment of the cooler and thus cools it. The compressor transfers the gaseous cooling agent to the condenser, where the heat taken by the evaporator dissipates. At this stage, the cooling agent returns to the liquid state and goes to the evaporator where the cycle begins again.

Coolers for Truck Drivers: Technical specifications

Although thermoelectric coolers allow cooling by 15–30 ℉(depending on the thermal insulation of the cooler walls) below the ambient temperature, they have a very distinct advantage: besides cooling, they also can heat food up to 149 ℉. This technology is based on the Peltier effect: direct current passing through an area where different metals contact generates heat or cold depending on polarity. This heating and cooling efficiency can be improved with heat exchangers and fans. The technology is ideal for cooling small and medium-sized chambers up to 40 quarts.

Absorption coolers ensure cooling by 25–30 ℉ below the ambient temperature. They are completely quiet and can be powered by gas or electricity. This is why these coolers are sometimes referred to as “gas coolers”. A concentrated ammonia solution is heated in a boiler and evaporated. The high pressure in the condenser turns the gas into a liquid and then transits into a vapor when mixed with hydrogen. The process takes heat from the cooling chamber. After that, the gaseous ammonia is absorbed in the absorber, and the saturated solution returns to the boiler where the cycle repeats.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conventional and More Expensive Models

Packed with the same basic features, best coolers for truck drivers can vary greatly in price, and it is only reasonable to ask whether the more expensive models are worth it. Well, with coolers, the cost is easy to justify.

First, hard-sided premium coolers can keep ice frozen for much longer than budget-friendly models. Although ice bags are an affordable item, it can be a pain to drain the cooler and replace ice every day, not to mention the need to buy ice.

Second, high-end hard coolers offer greater durability and longevity, which allows them to last for decades in contrast to cheaper options, which may need replacement after a couple of years. Rotomolded models have the best possible strength and top the rankings of the bear-proof models.

Although the more expensive models are cool in both senses of the word, the cost is often justified only if you have a specific need, as prices can get really steep. Conventional models often do the job quite well and the value for money can be reason enough to choose them as your travel companion.

Cooler for Semi Truck

Best Coolers for Truck Drivers

Best Electric Coolers for Truck Drivers

Even the best truck cooler obviously is no replacement for a conventional refrigerator, but you can get pretty close with the following cooler types:

  • electric,
  • thermoelectric,
  • iceless.

Although often classified as mini fridges, they cannot be relied on to keep perishable foods, such as meat or dairy, fresh for long, they can still protect your drinks, vegetables, fruit, sandwiches, snacks, treats and other longer-shelf life items from heat damage and keep them safe and fresh.

Best Electric Coolers for Truck Drivers

Electric coolers for truck drivers can also be used both to maintain an ideal cold temperature and to heat food or keep it warm.

K-Box Electric Cooler and Warmer

The K-Box cooler is an electric, iceless, and really compact plug in cooler for truckers. It can use either vehicle power or a regular wall adapter, so it can be plugged in inside the truck or in your home.

This electric cooler for truck drivers is spacious and can hold up to 48 cans. Its capacity is 34 quarts and the space inside can be divided into two compartments with a special divider that can be removed when not needed.

Best Electric Coolers for Truck Drivers: K-Box Electric Cooler and Warmer

YAPASPT Electric Cooler Bag 25L

According to our rankings, YAPASPT is the second-best power cooler with polyester fiber used as the cooler fabric. It promises both durability and water resistance. A special thermal insulation lining keeps an ideal temperature, cool or warm as needed, even when the unit is not plugged in. The cooler can be folded up to be only 5.5 inches thick, but it usually holds up to 26 quarts. Same as other truck coolers, it can be plugged into any 12V plug or an inverter.

Best Electric Coolers for Truck Drivers: YAPASPT Electric Cooler Bag 25L

Best Thermoelectric Coolers for Truckers

Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless 28–40 Quart Electric Plug-in 12V Coolers

This model is thermoelectric and iceless, and has a capacity of 40 quarts. With its eight-foot-long power cord, it can be plugged into any truck's 12V socket. The Igloo uses a special convection cooling technology and can keep the temperature up to 38 degrees below the temperature outside. The fan is quiet, so it will not disturb the driver.

Best Thermoelectric Coolers for Truckers: Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless 28-40 Quart Electric Plug-in 12V Coolers

Coleman 40 Quart Portable Thermoelectric Cooler

As an iceless cooler, the Coleman 40 keeps food up to 40 degrees below the ambient temperature, which means your drinks and food stay fresh in summer and cool in winter. A 12V plug with an 8 foot power cord allows powering it from your truck outlet.

A perfectly organized storage tray can hold fifty-eight 12 oz. beverage cans (40 U.S. quarts).

What makes this cooler unique is a door that opens from either side. According to the user manual, it reaches the minimum temperature within 3 hours and still keeps the food cool while unplugged.

Best Thermoelectric Coolers for Truckers: Coleman 40 Quart Portable Thermoelectric Cooler

Best Iceless Coolers for Truckers

AstroAI 26 Quart / 24 Liter, 12V Cooler

As all coolers for truck drivers, AstroAl can cool the food inside to 40 degrees lower than the surrounding temperature without any ice packs.

This cooler is a fair bit smaller than the others mentioned here, but it still has a capacity of about 26 quarts. There is a special divider inside, which may be helpful for organizing space more efficiently and keeping certain food items separated.

Like all truck driving coolers, it uses a 12 volt plug, but connecting it to the 24 volt socket inside the truck is not recommended.

The manufacturer assures that the cooler is environmentally friendly, as its semiconductor chip does not contain freon or damage the ozone layer.

Best Iceless Coolers for Truckers: AstroAI 26 Quart / 24 Liter, 12V Cooler

Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless 12V Cooler Bag

This iceless cooler for truckers is advertised as using extremely little power, even less than a truck's taillight. It can be plugged into a 12 volt socket as it comes with a special 12 volt DC adapter.

The Koolatron uses the special Iceless technology, and it can maintain an ideal temperature 40 degrees below the temperature outside.

The cooler has many exterior and built-in pockets; it is easy to carry and clean as it has flexible shoulder straps and durable fabric covers.

This cooler has a capacity of 25 quarts and holds over 23 cans. It can also be folded up when empty to save space in the truck.

Best Iceless Coolers for Truckers: Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless 12V Cooler Bag

BougeRV CR22 23 Quart Portable Freezer

t’s an all-round compressor refrigerator really, it’s just that it has no problem reaching 32°F and keeping it there. If necessary though, it will freeze to -5°F. What you get is a temperature range from -8 to 50. So it’s all-round and very versatile. As a refrigerator, you don’t need ice, but it makes it. It runs on 12-Volt DC or 110-Volt AC. So you can stick it in your truck, your car, home or in the kitchen, even in the garden. It only uses 36 Watts (or 45 in fast freeze mode!).

The CR22 holds 23 Quarts of inner space and could take up to 20 550-ml bottles. You could consider the 30-quart version, but personally, I like the more compact 23-quart freezer: it’s so much more… portable; you get an amazing amount of space, without taking up so much room in the car. It weighs 39lb, so it hardly needs a winch to get it out of the car and the floor of the car isn’t made from aluminium. The robust, designed unit has sleek lines and discrete side handles, so you’re not likely to cut yourself anywhere and if the family make use of it better than you would like, it must be tough: this doesn’t feel like a product that’s only going to work for a summer: owners are a little way on from new purchases, are still reliably frosty after many years.

Bouge RV

Conclusion

As you can see, the variety of available options is striking: the list of brands alone runs longer than a dozen. Also, although we try to give you several useful tips in this article, the only person who knows which kind of cooler specifically suits their needs best is you, so try browsing Amazon on your own or just go for one of our top picks. We also recommend reading the article on cooking equipment for truck drivers.

It ought to be noted that all the trucks in HMD’s fleet have spacious mini-fridges and you might not even need a cooler after all. However if you decide that you need one as an extra option be sure we will not object.

Check out the other attractive bonuses we offer at HMD:

  • a sound benefits program (Health, dental, vision, 401k, Paid Time Off),
  • a safety/productivity bonus,
  • orientation, clean inspection pay and a referral bonus.

Did you like the article? Then read our article on comparing owner operator vs company driver.

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