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Complete guide to open-deck trailers

Some shipments don’t fit nicely on a pallet or take up a normal amount of space in an enclosed trailer. It could be bulky, like construction or mechanical equipment. Or maybe it’s extremely heavy or oversized. In those cases, open-deck trailers are the best tool for the job. Learn about various types of trailers, their advantages and how they compare to enclosed hauling.

What are open-deck trailers? 

Open-deck trailers are completely open on top and around the sides. They’re designed to haul large loads or awkwardly sized shipments that don’t fit width-wise in enclosed trailers. You’ve probably seen them on the road hauling items like massive hay bales or full-sized construction equipment.

5 types of open-deck trailers

Open deck is a term that encompasses five types of trailers. Here’s a look at the types of trailers for hauling various goods and commodities.

Flatbed trailers

Flatbed trailers are the most popular style of open-deck trailers because of their versatility. Generally, they’re 48 feet long, but you can find some that are as long as 53 feet. They can haul freight up to 8½ feet tall with a total weight of up to 48,000 pounds.

You can use them for hauling a variety of construction equipment, including steel, coils and lumber. Another common use case for flatbeds is hauling freight to or from a shipping dock. That’s because they’re the perfect height for loading docks and easy to safely load with a forklift or crane.

Step-deck trailers

Step-deck trailers are similar to flatbed trailers, but instead of one flat surface for materials, they have two levels. The front level is a standard flatbed height to accommodate the connection point between the trailer and the truck. The backside of the trailer sits lower to the ground, allowing you to haul taller freight.

Using the lower portion of the trailer, you can haul goods up to 10 feet tall, whereas a standard flatbed trailer hauls goods up to 8½ feet tall. Generally, freight companies use these trailers to transport items like machinery and construction equipment.

Sliding axle or Landoll trailers

As the name suggests, these trailers have a sliding axle. This allows you to drop the rear side of the trailer to the ground, creating a loading and unloading ramp. These trailers can be 47 to 54 feet long and 95 to 103 inches wide.

You’ll also find a winch near the trailer’s front that you can use to help load the trailer. The most popular use case for these trailers is for equipment rental companies.

Beam trailers

The greatest benefit of a beam trailer is that it hauls equipment heavier than the 25,000 pounds accommodated by most trailers. That’s because the trailer itself weighs less since it’s just two beams, eliminating the weight of the trailer’s flooring. 

Beam trailers are good for transporting large materials like I-beams or turbine blades. They carry cargo that doesn’t require the added structure of trailer flooring for protection. Freight companies also find these trailers beneficial because they get very low to the ground.

Removable gooseneck (RGNs)

These trailers consist of two parts. The gooseneck is a piece of equipment that can be lowered to the ground and serve as a ramp. Machinery can then be driven directly onto the trailer for transport. Then there’s the trailer floor, also known as the deck, which is where the freight is stowed.

Some people in the freight industry call these trailers lowboys because once you remove the gooseneck, the trailer sits on ground level for easy loading and unloading.

The most common size for these trailers is 48 feet long. They sit just 20 inches off the ground, allowing you to carry freight up to 12 feet tall. They’re commonly used for hauling large equipment, like bulldozers or combines for farming.

Advantages of open-deck trailers

Using an open-bed trailer has many benefits. Compared to enclosed trailers, they are:

  • Lighter, so you can haul heavier goods
  • Generally less expensive
  • Simpler to maintain
  • Capable of carrying taller, bulkier goods 
  • Easier to load and unload since their decks are lower to the ground.
  • More versatile

Disadvantages of open-deck trailers

There are a few points to keep in mind before buying an open-deck trailer. For instance, they:

  • Can only haul equipment that doesn’t need protection from the elements
  • Don’t offer the security of an enclosed trailer
  • Can’t function as storage space while not in transit

Transport larger, bulkier freight

The greatest benefit of using open trailers is that it enables you to carry larger, bulkier freight. This versatility opens up more opportunities for you, and increases the likelihood of business success.


Is open deck a flatbed?

A flatbed is a type of open-deck trailer, but there are also many other types, including step-decks, removable goosenecks (RGNs), sliding axles and beams.

What’s the difference between step-deck and drop-deck trailers?

Step-deck and drop-deck trailers are the same type of trailers. People just use different terms for them.

What are the dimensions of an open-deck trailer?

The term open-deck trailer encompasses five trailer types. Commonly, these are 48 to 53 feet long and 95 to 103 inches wide, but it depends on the type of trailer you select.

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