Types of Trailers

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Choosing the right shipping mode and type of trailers may be challenging even for experienced shippers.

Dry Van Trailers

Dry van trailers are closed box trailers without temperature control. The largest amount of the world’s cargo is moved by dry vans. These trailers are fully enclosed and protected, and they don’t have any temperature control. That’s why dry vans are used for moving commodities that are not temperature-sensitive: textile and clothing items, electronics, plastic, and building products, etc. They have doors on the back, so they can only be loaded from the rear. Usually, a dry van trailer is 53 feet in length, but in some cases, it can be 48 feet.

Commonly shipped commodities: Packaging, paper, dry grade food, beverages, plastics, clothing, building products, lawn/garden goods, chemicals, ink/paint, batteries, seed, finished products.

Dimensions:

  • Length: 28, 32, 36, 40, 42, 43, 45, 48, 53 feet
  • Widths: 96 – 102 inches
  • Height: 12.5 – 13.5 feet

Capacity:

  • 45,000 lbs
  • Max. Pallets: 26

Characteristics:

  • Can only be loaded and unloaded from the rear with a forklift
  • Dock required for loading and unloading
  • The deck height of a van is standard dock height: 4 feet from the ground
  • The maximum haul weight is 45,000 lbs, but dry van carriers prefer to stick around up to 43,000 lbs

Refrigerated Trailers

Refrigerated trailers (also known as reefers) are trucks with temperature control. These type of trailers have a refrigeration unit that can be set to an exact temperature, freezing, or be turned off completely.

Commonly shipped commodities: Food, beverages, flowers, or fine art, floral/nursery, produce, meat, dairy, chocolate/candy, lubricants, computer servers

Dimensions:

  • Length: 28, 32, 36, 40, 48, 51, 53 feet
  • Widths: 96 – 102 inches
  • Height: 12.5 – 13.5 feet

Capacity:

  • 43,500 lbs
  • Max. Pallets: 26

Characteristics:

  • Can only be loaded and unloaded from the rear with a forklift
  • Dock required for loading and unloading
  • The deck height of a van is standard dock height: 4 feet from the ground
  • The maximum haul weight is 43,000 lbs, but dry van carriers prefer to stick around up to 40,000 lbs

Flatbed Trailers

The flatbed trailer is a type open deck equipment with no sides and no roof, mainly used for transporting industrial commodities. The flatbed trailer is very versatile, making it a common asset for carriers. It is a basic form trailer, with no sides or roof, providing quick and easy loading and unloading.

Open deck equipment is the most flexible with loading/unloading. These trailers are commonly used for. Usually, a flatbed trailer is 48 feet in length, but in some cases, it can be 53 feet.

Commonly shipped commodities: Large equipment, building materials, and large machinery

Dimensions:

  • Length: 40, 42, 45, 48, 53 feet
  • Widths: 102 inches
  • Height: 58 – 62 inches

Capacity:

  • 48,000 lbs

Characteristics:

  • Can be loaded from any direction (overhead crane, forklift side, forklift rear)
  • The standard dock height is 4 feet off the ground
  • Loads often require tarps

In practice, ‘flatbed’ is often used as a general term for a few different types of open deck equipment.

Step Deck Trailers

Step deck trailer, or drop deck trailer, is an open type of trailer with two deck levels: an upper deck and a lower deck that drops down after clearing the tractor unit. Generally, step deck trailers can haul taller loads than flatbed trailers and often have ramps for unloading. They also tend to be safer for forklift pickups, due to the fact that they are closer to the ground.
The main deck of a step deck is lowered to adjust the center of gravity and allow the higher
material to be hauled.

Commonly shipped commodities: Large equipment, building materials, and large machinery (freight too tall for a regular Flatbed)

Dimensions:

  • Length: 48, 53 feet
  • Widths: 102 inches
  • Height: 38 – 42 inches

Capacity:

  • 48,000 lbs

Characteristics:

  • Can only be loaded/unloaded from the top or side
  • Load levelers can be used to even out the lower deck with the top
  • Certain loads can’t be loaded onto step-decks even with load levelers

Double Drop Deck Trailers

Double Drop trailers are similar to step decks, but they have a lower gravity center. This allows to load a shipment on a higher level and to be hauled 1 – 1.5 feet off the ground. Double Drop Deck is a longer piece of a trailer, called a “well”, in the middle that dips below trailer axles. The well ranges from 25 to 29 feet, making it ideal for taller, shorter freight. Double Drop Deck trailers usually have 2 or more axles, and a “Flip axle”, which can flip up and lay on the deck or flip down and create extra axle for balancing weight. Double Drop trailers are used for oversized freight that is taller than 10 feet.

Commonly shipped commodities: Large equipment, building materials, Large machinery, irregularly shaped or overweight freight (freight too heavy or tall for a Single-Drop deck).

Dimensions:

  • Length: 48, 53 feet
  • Widths: 102 inches
  • Height: 20 – 22 inches

Capacity:

  • 45,000 lbs

Characteristics:

  • Usually 28 – 29 feet on the main deck
  • Main deck (in the middle) is usually referred to as the ‘correct’)
  • The best option for oversized freight over 10 feet – a very low deck allows taking loads up to 12 feet legally.

Conestoga Trailer

Conestoga trailers are also known as a roll-tight or covered wagon. They have fixed fronts, but sides, top and rear push forward like an accordion to expose a flat deck.

Commonly shipped commodities: Specialized and oversized loads, steel products, machinery.

Dimensions:

  • Length: 48, 53 feet
  • Widths: 102 inches
  • Height: 8 feet 2 inches

Capacity:

  • 42,000 – 45,000 lbs

Characteristics:

  • Can be loaded from any direction (overhead crane, forklift side, forklift rear)
  • Offers weather protection of a van, with the loading flexibility of a flatbed

Other types of trailers:

Removable Goose Neck (RGN) Trailer

This trailer type got its name because of the shape. The front part of the trailer is removable and allows ramps to drop down so that equipment can be driven onto the front. RGN trailers are mostly used for moving heavy hauls.

Commonly shipped commodities: Large equipment, building materials, large machinery, irregularly shaped or overweight freight (freight too heavy for a Single-Drop deck, too
irregularly shaped for a Double-Drop Deck)

Dimensions:

  • Length: 40, 42, 43, 45, 48, 50, 53 feet
  • Widths: 96 – 102 inches
  • Height: 10.5 – 11.5 feet

Capacity:

  • 44,000 lbs

Tanker Trailer

Tanker trailers are used for moving liquids or dry but loose materials (like grain). The trailer is shaped as a large cylinder, so it can only haul one type of liquids.

Commonly shipped commodities: Oil, gas, liquid sweetener

Dimensions:

  • Length: 40, 42, 43, 45, 48, 50, 53 feet
  • Widths: 96 – 102 inches
  • Height: 10.5 – 11.5 feet

Capacity:

  • 6,000 – 7,000 gallons

 

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Dry Van Freight Services

Find the perfect carrier for every load through PLS’ extensive carrier network. With more than 45,000 qualified carriers, we secure capacity with the safest and most reliable trucking companies in the industry.
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Refrigerated Shipping

We know that if refrigerated shipments aren’t kept at their required temperature and aren’t monitored for timely transport, there are significant risks involved, both in terms of cost and safety.
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Specialized Shipping

We monitor your specialized freight shipments to ensure they are delivered to the destination on-time. If a disruption occurs, we will notify you in real-time so that you can alert your customers.

Flatbed Shipping

We have one of the most extensive flatbed trucking networks in the industry, allowing us to secure the capacity necessary to handle all of your flatbed shipping needs.
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