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What Are Common Trucking Trailer Types?

You’ve decided on a power unit but still need to determine what types of trailer equipment you will use to start your trucking business. Well, there’s a variety of equipment types with unique features that vary on their weight capacity, volume, and ability to transport goods over the road. Let’s review some of the primary types of equipment and what they can carry.

What is a Dry Van trailer?

The standard Dry Van is an enclosed box trailer, without temperature control. Dry Vans are the most common equipment type on the road and are used to haul freight that is boxed, crated, or palletized, and not temperature sensitive. Most Dry Vans are 48 to 53 feet long but come in a variety of sizes. Below are common specifications of dry vans.

Common Lengths: 28’, 32’, 36’, 40’, 42’, 43’, 45’, 48’, 53’

Common Widths: 96” – 102” (8’—8.5’)

Common Heights: 12.5’ – 13.5’

Maximum Pallets: 26 pallets (Standard Pallet Size [non-stackable] 48 x 40)

Weight Capacity: 43,000-45,000 lbs

Trailer Specifications: Swing Door, Lift Gate, Roll-Up Door, Air-Ride

Freight Example: Palletized Packaging Products

What is a Reefer trailer?

Standard refrigerated trailers, commonly referred to as a reefer, is used to transport freight that requires certain temperature conditions. Refrigerated or frozen food items or medicine are examples of the types of freight transported in reefers. There is a refrigeration unit at the front of the trailer which is used to control the temperature. Below are common reefer specs:

Common Lengths: 28’, 32’, 36’, 40’, 48’, 53’ (53' is most common)

Common Widths: 96” – 102” (8’—8.5’)

Common Heights: 12.5’ – 13.5’

Maximum Pallets: 24-26 pallets

Weight Capacity: 43,500-44,000 lbs

Trailer Specifications: Swing Door, Lift Gate, Roll-Up Door

Freight Example: Frozen Food Products

What is a Standard Tanker trailer?

Standard Tankers are used to haul liquid goods, such as milk, water, or oil. It is not uncommon for the material to be labeled as hazardous, or hazmat, which requires a special CDL endorsement to haul. Many tankers are hauling material that require extremely strict safety regulations.

Common lengths: 40’, 42’, 43’, 45’ 48’, 53’ (48' and 53' are most common)

Common Widths: 96 – 102 inches

Common Heights: 10.5 – 11.5 feet

Weight Capacity: 6,000 – 7,000 gallons

Freight examples: Gasses, Chemicals, Milk, Oil

What is a Flatbed trailer?

Flatbeds are designed to accommodate cargo that normally wouldn’t fit inside of dry vans. They are also designed to transport freight that is intended to be loaded or unloaded at the top or the side of the trailer. If material needs protection from the weather, drivers will often have tarps and straps which they can use to cover the load being hauled on the flatbed trailer. These tarps come in different sizes, the most common being 4ft, 6ft, and 8ft. There are variations of flatbeds which we will discuss a little further down.

Common lengths: 26’, 40’, 42’, 45’, 48’, 53' (48' and 53' are most common)

Weight Capacity: 48,000 lbs

Freight Examples: Lumber, Steel Coils, Fencing Products

What is a Conestoga trailer?

Conestoga trailers are flatbeds that have a rolling, retractable tarp-on-frame system which is used to protect freight from the elements. Conestoga trailers offer versatility by offering the benefits of both dry vans and flatbeds.

Common Lengths: 48’-53’

Weight Capacity: 42,000-45,000 lbs

Freight Example: Specialized loads, machinery, lumber, palletized loads

What is a Step Deck trailer?

Step Deck trailers are another form of flatbed trailer used for hauling taller freight since the longer, lower deck of the trailer sits at a lower height. A typical flatbed trailer is 5 feet tall, which freight should not exceed 8 feet 6 inches in height. Step deck trailers typically have a lower deck height of 3 feet 6 inches, meaning freight cannot exceed 10 feet in height. Due to step decks being lower to the ground, they make loading or unloading freight with forklifts or ramps easier. Step Decks have upper deck ‘steps’ that are usually shorter in length than the bottom deck. More details about step decks include:

Common Lengths: 48’, 53'

Weight Capacity: 42,500 lbs – weight must be heavily considered because step-deck equipment tends to weigh more than normal flatbeds.

Trailer Specifications: Upper deck - 11 feet long, Bottom Deck – usually 37+ feet long with lower deck height of 3’6”

Freight Examples: Tractors, Construction/Building Materials, Other Large Goods

What is a Double Drop trailer?

Double Drop trailers are like step decks, but they have a lower gravity center with a step on the front and rear end of trailer. Double drop deck trailers’ lowest deck is 22 inches, meaning freight height cannot exceed 11 feet 8 inches.

Common Lengths: 48’, 53’ (bottom deck 24-30’)

Weight Capacity: 40,000-42,000 lbs

Freight examples: Industrial Equipment, Heavy Machinery, Excavators

What is a Removable Gooseneck trailer?

Removable Goosenecks, also knowns as an RGN, is another type of flatbed and has a front goose neck that detaches and lowers to the ground, which allows freight, such as heavy equipment, to be driven onto the trailer. This type of trailer is used for heavier shipments depending on the number of axles on the trailer.

Common Lengths: 40’, 42’, 45’, 48’, 53' (48' and 53' are most common)

Weight Capacity: 42,000 lbs (up to 150,000 lbs if Stretch RGN)

Trailer Specifications: Removable Gooseneck (also known as RGN - the front gooseneck detaches, allowing the trailer to be lowered to the ground to create a ramp)

Freight examples: Heavy Equipment, Cars, Bulldozers

What is a Low Boy trailer?

A Low Boy trailer is generally used for taller and heavier freight. Freight that is taller than the legal limits will typically use a low boy instead of a regular flatbed trailer. Low Boy trailers can carry freight up to 12 ft tall. This trailer type is commonly used to haul heavy equipment because of its weight capacity and loading/unloading capabilities. A low boy trailer is extremely versatile for many different types of freight.

Common Lengths: 24’-30’

Weight Capacity: 2-axle 40,000 lbs, additional axles 80,000 lbs

Trailer Specifications: Three types of Low Boys – Removable Gooseneck, Fixed Neck, and Fixed Gooseneck

Freight Examples: Heavy Equipment (Bulldozers, Excavators)

What is a Hot Shot?

Hot shot is a term used for describing different types of van or flatbed equipment but is usually referencing a shorter flatbed trailer typically 30-40 ft. These types of loads are not hauled by 18-wheelers but are instead hauled by one-ton pick-up trucks. Hot shot trailers are usually a great option for shippers with smaller shipment sizes that are lighter or require minimum trailer length. This transportation service typically costs less than regular flatbed transportation.

Common Lengths: 30-40’

Weight Capacity: <16,500 lbs

Freight Example: Light Crated Products, Single Woodchipper

Are you interested in learning more about equipment and technology, or perhaps sales and marketing in trucking? Are you thinking about starting a trucking business, but not sure how to get started? Check out our course on How to START Your Trucking Business!

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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC - Copyright 2023 - does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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