Let’s say you have heavy, oversized equipment to transport. A crane, a backhoe, or a front loader. Maybe it’s steel bridge beams, a pre-built home, wind turbines, or other heavy machinery or construction materials. None of which can fit in a standard enclosed shipping truck or be loaded through the back of one. To transport heavy, over-dimensional cargo, you need a flatbed truck.
What is flatbed shipping?
Just as not all cargo is the same, so too not all shipping trucks are the same. Different cargo requires different types of trucks. Flatbed shipping is the transportation of oversized cargo and uses an open flatbed truck instead of an enclosed truck.
Cargo that exceeds an enclosed truck’s height, weight, or length capacity can be shipped with a flatbed transport truck, but there are different types of flatbed trailers. Each carries different legal load capacities and utilizes unique designs to accommodate special freight.
The Most Common Types of Flatbed Trailers
- Standard Flatbed Trailer – Load capacity up to 48,000 pounds. Widely used and highly versatile.
- Lowboy Trailer – Load capacity up to 80,000 pounds. They are used with freight that exceeds the height and weight limits of a standard flatbed trailer.
- Step Deck (or Drop Deck) Trailer – Load capacity up to 48,000 pounds. Designed with a lower and upper deck and used for cargo that exceeds height limits of a standard flatbed trailer.
- Stretch Double Drop Trailer – Load capacity up to 45,000 pounds. They are used for cargo that exceeds the length restrictions of a standard flatbed trailer. Provides support to prevent overhang issues of long loads.
- Removable Gooseneck Trailer (RGN) – Load capacity up to 42,000 pounds. They are designed to haul freight that is both long and tall.
- Conestoga Trailer – Load capacity up to 45,000 pounds. They are designed with a tarping system to protect cargo during transportation.
What can be hauled in a flatbed truck?
Since a flatbed truck is designed to be versatile and accommodate various freight, it can carry heavy loads that are oversized in length, height, or both. This can be useful for almost any business at one time or another, but several industries depend on flatbed transport to haul the essentials of their trade. Construction, agriculture, automotive, landscape, military, aerospace, and energy are a few industries that rely heavily on flatbed shipping.
A Few Huge Categories of Huge Cargo
- Building and Construction Materials include metal piping, beams, steel frames, concrete, bricks, lumber, scaffolding, trusses, and scrap metal.
- Large, Heavy Equipment – Includes bobcats, cranes, backhoes, caterpillars, Humvees, tanks, tractors, plows, planters, combines, and mowers.
- Transportation and Performance Shipping – Performance parts, cars, trucks, wind turbines, and solar panels.
This is only a small list of what is possible to haul with a flatbed truck, but it gives an idea of the expanse of products that can be hauled using this type of transport.
In addition, it is possible to put a shipping container on a flatbed trailer as long as loading equipment is used. This addition of placing a shipping container on a flatbed makes it seem like almost anything can be hauled with a flatbed truck. But, like all shipping, flatbed shipping has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of flatbed shipping
Ease of loading and unloading
A flatbed truck is open, making loading and unloading versatile. Cargo is loaded from the sides or up above. An enclosed truck can only be loaded from the back.
More efficient transportation
A flatbed truck can hold more cargo, cutting down on the number of trips needed for shipping freight. The number of trips cuts down driving time and gas consumption, resulting in cost savings and faster delivery.
The openness of a flatbed truck makes for an openness in the type of cargo that can be hauled. This versatility is one of the key advantages of flatbed transport.
Disadvantages of flatbed shipping
Dangers of loading and unloading
The loading and unloading process in flatbed shipping is more hazardous than in enclosed shipping. Loading massive, out-sized cargo onto a flatbed truck safely requires specialized equipment and training.
Dangers in transporting
There are added risks to hauling oversized cargo. Doing it safely requires both specialized equipment and specially-trained truck drivers.
The risks involved in flatbed shipping mean more regulations. More regulations mean more scrutiny of flatbed trucks and their drivers. The added regulations and scrutiny require more training, more support, more planning, and more investment.
Unlike an enclosed truck, the open construction of a flatbed truck makes it susceptible to bad weather. Cargo can be damaged in transport, and shipping can be delayed. It is also a more seasonal form of shipping, especially in the north, to accommodate unfavorable weather conditions.
Importance of flatbed trucking expertise
Finding freight shipping services that specialize in flatbed trucking is an important safety consideration. Flatbed trucking takes expertise in this type of material transport to ensure safe loading and unloading, safe transportation of goods, and adherence to safety regulations and standards.
Anyone with a cellphone can search for flatbed shipping companies near me and obtain a list of flatbed trucking companies. Understanding the essentials of flatbed shipping can help sift through this list of flatbed trailer transport companies. One of the most important essentials for this mode of transport is safety.
A Few Safety Considerations
With the open design of flatbed trailers securing cargo becomes essential. The heavy and oversized nature of most freight carried on a flatbed truck makes this securement essential and a matter of life and death. Improperly secured loads can cause injury or death to workers during loading or unloading and to truck drivers or others on the road during transport.
A combination of binders, chains, cargo straps, and winches help properly secure cargo to the flatbed. Training drivers and workers to use these items is imperative to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
The open construction of flatbed trailers and the heavy, specialized nature of the cargo being hauled can cause load instability. Checking the stability of the cargo while on the move is imperative. Drivers need to understand how to make the cargo stable and how to keep it stable. Unstable cargo can tip over, causing injury and death. It can also make it difficult for a truck driver to maneuver the truck, causing accidents.
Checking and Correcting Shifting
The non-uniformity of the cargo transported with a flatbed truck can cause it to shift during transport. Checking on the securement and stability of freight throughout the transportation is important. This can take time and must be accounted for in planning flatbed shipping. Truck drivers must also be trained in the expert use of securement equipment to keep themselves and others safe on the road.
Complying with Regulations
Flatbed trucking is more heavily regulated than enclosed trucking because the risks are greater. These regulations and standards are in place to keep drivers, workers, and others on the road safe. Understanding and complying with the regulations takes extra time and effort for flatbed shipping companies, but the importance cannot be understated when it prevents fatal injuries.
Flatbed trucking and supply chain management
With the extra safety considerations and weather interruptions of flatbed shipping, a company’s supply chain management strategy planning and operation becomes even more important.
To successfully ship that crane, or steel bridge beam, or backhoe flatbed transport needs the support of a well-planned supply chain strategy. Cutting corners means cutting down on safety. The use of supply chain technology and personnel that understands that planning is the key to safe transportation means that cutting corners is unnecessary.
The flatbed truck and driver are the foundation of heavy, over-dimensional cargo transportation. Still, the support of a smooth supply chain management operation with well-trained workers makes safe flatbed shipping possible.