In the trucking industry, flatbed trucks play a crucial role in transporting a wide variety of cargo. Their versatility and ability to accommodate oversized or irregularly shaped loads make them indispensable for many businesses. However, not all flatbeds are created equal. Let’s explore the various types of flatbed trailers!
What is a Standard Flatbed?
The standard flatbed trailer, also known as a "straight" flatbed, is the most basic and commonly used type. It consists of a flat, rectangular platform without sides or roof. Standard flatbeds are ideal for carrying construction materials, palletized goods, machinery, and other similar cargo. Their versatility and ease of loading and unloading make them a preferred choice for various industries. 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. Standard flatbeds are ideal for carrying construction materials, palletized goods, machinery, and other similar cargo. 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. Standard flatbeds typically have a maximum length of 48 feet and a weight capacity of up to 48,000 pounds.
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 drop deck/step deck?
A drop deck, also known as a step deck, is a variation of the standard flatbed trailer. It features a lower deck, closer to the ground, and a higher rear deck section. This design allows for taller cargo to be transported while complying with height restrictions. Drop decks are commonly used for hauling heavy equipment, such as construction machinery, vehicles, or large generators. They offer a payload capacity of up to 42,500 pounds and are well-suited for projects that require loading from the rear or overhead.
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 Removable Gooseneck (RGN)?
The removable gooseneck (RGN) flatbed trailer offers enhanced flexibility for transporting tall or oversized cargo. It features a detachable front section called the gooseneck, which allows for easy loading and unloading of heavy machinery like bulldozers, cranes, or industrial equipment. RGN trailers provide a low deck height, making them suitable for hauling taller loads without exceeding height regulations. These trailers often have multiple axles to distribute the weight evenly and can handle up to 42,000 lbs or even more if multiple axles.
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 Stretch Removeable Gooseneck (RGN)?
For loads oversized in length, a Stretch RGN comes to the rescue. This type of flatbed trailer can be extended to accommodate extra-long cargo. It provides flexibility in hauling items such as steel beams, pipes, wind turbine components, or aerospace parts. Extendable flatbeds can stretch from their standard length of 48 feet up to 74 feet, depending on the specific model. However, it's important to note that longer trailers require additional permits and may be subject to certain restrictions on certain roads.
What is a Conestoga?
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 Low Boy?
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 Double Drop?
Double Drop trailers are like step decks, but they have a lower gravity center with a step on the front and rear end of the 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 Hotshot?
Hotshot 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. Hotshot 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
What are the challenges of working with flatbed trailers?
While flatbed trailers offer numerous advantages, they also come with their own set of challenges. Securing and tarping the cargo properly to prevent shifting or damage during transit is of utmost importance. Moreover, flatbed drivers must be skilled in load balancing and securing techniques, as well as navigating different road and weather conditions. Furthermore, transporting oversized loads often requires obtaining permits and complying with regulations, which adds complexity to the logistics process. Nevertheless, with proper training and adherence to safety protocols, these challenges can be overcome and flatbed trailers can be a profitable specialization.
Ready to START, DRIVE, & ACCELERATE your trucking business? Check out our course here!
Interested in being notified when more free resources are available? Subscribe down below and you'll be the first to know!
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.