Flatbed services ensure a variety of goods make it to their final destination. Whether you’re looking to transport large construction materials or heavy machinery, flatbed truck services offer transportation options for a wide variety of large items. Learn about how flatbed transportation works, some of the pros and cons as well as important details on transportation rates.
What Is Flatbed Trucking?
Flatbed hauling transports goods that do not fit inside an enclosed trailer. These goods might be especially tall, oddly-shaped, or oversized to the point where they need the open space that a flatbed offers.
What Is Commonly Transported in Flatbed Trailers?
Flatbed trailer hauling is ideal for hauling bulky goods that do not need to be enclosed during transportation. No product is too large for a flatbed, which is one of the greatest strengths of this type of hauling. Some common products you’ll see on flatbeds include the following.
- Construction equipment
- Tow trucks
- Mobile homes
- Scrap metal
- Heavy machinery
- Oversized pipes
- Bald tires
- Steel coils
- Military equipment
- Shipping containers
What Are the Typical Dimensions of a Flatbed Trailer?
Trailers on flatbed trucks are generally 48 to 53 feet long and about 8.5 feet wide. They are made using durable aluminum with wooden floors. To carry enormous cargo, you might chain multiple trailers together.
What Type of Flatbed Trailers Are There?
There are several types of flatbed trailers, each with a different use case and weight capacity to meet the demands of various types of freight.
- Legal Flatbeds: these are some of the most common trailers in the transportation industry since they are so versatile. You can load flatbed trucks from the top, sides or rear. It can accommodate freight up to 48,000 pounds.
- Step Decks: can also be called drop deck trailers. These have a top and bottom deck and are ideal for transporting goods that are too tall for a traditional flatbed trailer. These can haul up to 48,000 pounds.
- Double Drops: generally carries oversized freight. The lower deck height makes loading large goods simpler and helps you transport goods that are taller than 10 feet. This type of trailer has a middle section that the industry calls the well. The well is generally 25 to 29 feet long. These trailers can transport up to 42,000 pounds.
- RGNs: RGN stands for removable gooseneck. These trailers offer flexibility to drive large equipment onto the trailer or to transport tall products. That’s because the front part is detachable so that the trailer can drop to the ground and have a built-in ramp. These trailers can have up to 20 axles to allow for heavier loads.
Are Additional Accessories Required for Flatbed Shipping?
To safely haul freight, flatbed hauling companies have several additional accessories. These accessories include the following:
- Pipe stakes
- Corner protectors
- Coil racks
Without these accessories, you might jeopardize the safety of the freight or risk causing an accident due to unsecured freight.
What are Flatbed Hauling Services Rates on Average?
The national average flatbed hauling service rate is $3.46 per mile as of June 2022. However, the total price of transporting goods via flatbed will depend on several factors.
- Freight weight
- Fuel costs
- Accessories required
- Supply and demand
- Load-to-truck ratios
If the load is oversized and requires a pilot or escort car, that could cost more. And the farther the load must be transported, the higher the rates will be.
What Is the Flatbed Trucking Process?
To ensure the safe transportation of goods, flatbed trucking companies must follow this process for preparing the freight.
Because flatbed trucks are well known for moving heavy, large freight, they often require forklifts and cranes for loading. What you might not know is that the driver is responsible for balancing the load. The weight must be distributed over the axles to prevent handling issues and the potential for an accident.
Securing & Tarping
Once the driver has balanced the load appropriately, they are also responsible for securing the load. You must keep it steady throughout the trip. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) outlines rules for securing flatbed loads.
Most truck drivers secure loads using nylon straps with a winch tightening system. But if the load is something like large machinery, you should use thick steel chains to ensure the cargo does not move.
Because flatbed trucks are exposed to the elements, tarping can help protect sensitive materials from wind and rain. Most transportation companies use forklifts to place the tarp over the flatbed because these tarps are so heavy. Then the company anchors them to the sides of the flatbed.
Maneuvering to Destination
Flatbed trucks can be more challenging to maneuver than traditional semi-truck trailers. You might be dealing with an extra-wide or extra-long load. Cornering too quickly could cause the cargo to shift and change its balance, which can lead to accidents if you aren’t careful.
Unloading cargo from flatbed trucks is also unique because it could involve large machinery to remove goods from the trailer. It all depends on the size and type of freight you’ve transported. But you’ll need to have the proper tools and facility to unload the trailer safely.
Advantages of Flatbed Hauling Services
Flatbed hauling services have many outstanding advantages for truck drivers.
- Always in demand since this is a popular form of freight transportation
- Generally involves only one delivery location
- Lower trailer maintenance is required since there is no inside to clean out or paint
- Rates are higher than standard enclosed freight rates
- Involves more physical labor, which reduces the amount of time truck drivers sit
Disadvantages of Flatbed Hauling Services
While flatbed hauling services offer outstanding work for truck drivers, they also present unique challenges.
- The work is riskier and involves greater responsibility for the truck driver who is in charge of balancing and securing loads
- This type of trucking has more regulations than standard dry van trucking
- Requires unique skills and physical abilities
Flatbed Hauling Service vs Dry Van Service
While a dry van is the most common type of trailer since they protect the freight from the elements, flatbed hauling comes in at a close second due to its versatility and ability to haul oversized loads.
Since flatbeds are not enclosed, they are ideal for moving large freight, oversized loads, and heavy materials. Shippers find flatbed trucks less limiting, especially for tall goods that won’t fit inside an enclosed trailer.
Dry van advantages include the following:
- Lift gate for easier loading and unloading
- Ideal for shipping a variety of commercial goods
- Same-sized trailers and loading dock
But here are some of the limitations of dry van freight:
- Not temperature-controlled
- Mostly made from wood
- Can trap moisture inside the trailer
- Must be loaded and unloaded from the rear
Each type of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages, meaning it’s best to evaluate each load and decide what type of transportation will be best for it.
Ideal Transportation for a Variety of Goods
Flatbed hauling offers a solution for transporting a wide variety of goods due to its flexibility and open format. With so many trailer types, you can haul extremely large goods and heavy products. While it does require added skills and has extensive regulations, the higher pay and large demand for these drivers make it an attractive career option for truck drivers.
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