Which Type of Trailer is Right For You?

When shipping freight over-the-road, a shipper can choose from a variety of trailer options: dry van, flatbed, refrigerated and more. Each transportation mode has advantages and disadvantages to both the shipper and the carrier hauling the freight.

Carriers determine the pros and cons of the various trailer types based on wait times, freight availability and haul length. Today we will be covering the good and the bad, and everything in between, about the three most popular trailer types.


Dry Van


  • Dry van trailers are versatile and used for all kinds of freight: from non-perishable food to building materials.
  • Cargo is secure and protected from bad weather, damage and theft. There is no need to use straps, chains or other covers.
  • The “Drop and Hook” load mode will save drivers a huge amount of time and effort. This means less time spent loading and unloading (drop an empty trailer, hook up to a loaded one).
  • Many dry van trucking companies provide regional and short hauls in addition to long hauls.


  • Sometimes, a driver has to help handle freight during the unloading process.
  • Waiting at the dock for load/unload will consume a carrier’s time and money.
  • Retail stores set an appointment for loading/unloading, and this procedure may take a while.
  • Hardwood floors in most dry van trailers are vulnerable to moisture that can come from freight or through open doors, which limits the trailer’s life span.
  • Dry van drivers earn on average 20% less pay per hour compared to flatbed drivers, so turnover is high.



  • Flatbed drivers earn more per mile than most other trailer types, which helps driver turnover.
  • There are countless opportunities for pick-up and delivery each week.
  • Flatbed drivers don’t need to back into docks and unload the freight.
  • The demand for flatbed driver’s special skills is high, which often leads to high rates.


  • Transporting oversized loads requires special hauling and maneuvering skills.
  • Flatbed driver has a responsibility to secure loads properly. Poorly secured freight is a threat to the driver and other motorists.
  • Climbing on top of oversized loads to attach chains and straps can be dangerous.
  • Hauling and securing oversized loads is extremely complicated during bad weather conditions.

Refrigerated (Reefer)


  • There is always a demand for fresh products and the reefers that transport them.
  • Reefer trailers can easily haul both refrigerated and dry goods.
  • Refrigerated trailers tend to haul long, coast-to-coast distances. Long hauls mean more profit.
  • Freight is protected from weather conditions, theft, spoilage and damage.


  • Refrigerated truck drivers have additional responsibilities: cleaning trailer after every load, controlling thermometer and cooling equipment, and filling second gas tank with fuel.
  • There’s a constant noise from the motor.
  • A long wait time on shipping docks for loading or unloading is common.
  • Breakdowns lead to unavoidable product spoilage.

Outside of the three listed above, there are also other shipping options like multi-modal and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping options. It is important to consider all options whenever you are making a decision on which trailer might be the best fit for your shipment.


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