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A Guide to the Various Types of Trailers and Their Uses

On average, about 51 million tons of freight is transported across the United States every single day. How does all of that freight get moved so quickly? The answer, most often, is that it’s hauled by trailers. 

However, there are many different types of trailers and they serve different purposes. So, if you have a load of freight that you need to transport, how do you decide which type of trailer to use in the process?

You’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for an in-depth guide to the common types of trailers and when they should be used. 

Flatbed Trailer

Recognized as one of the most commonly used trailers, a flatbed is level, low to the ground, and open on the sides and the top. This openness makes it easy to load and unload freight. 

However, the downside to that is that it offers your freight no protection from the elements. If you need to shield your freight, you can secure a tarp to the flatbed trailer to keep the cargo protected. 

Flatbeds are a popular option for transporting building materials like lumber and steel. They can generally hold up to 48,000 pounds, but you can customize it to fit the specific needs of your load. And, because there are no sides, they can accommodate oversized loads.

Curtainside Trailer

A curtainside trailer starts with the base of a flatbed. Then, a structure of beams is added to the tops and the sides so that tarps can hang like curtains over the freight. 

This curtain system keeps cargo protected, but it can be easily removed to make loading and offloading simple. 

There are two primary types of a curtainside trailer: Conestoga trailers and Tautliners. The difference is in how the curtain system operates. Conestoga trailers use a sliding tarp system, while Tautliners uses a roof and rear doors in conjunction with the side curtains. 

Curtainside trailers are perfect for hauling anything from building materials to fruits and vegetables, thanks to the weather protection the curtains provide.

Dry Van

If you’ve ever taken a road trip and driven on an interstate, you’ve likely seen a dry van. This type of trailer is completely enclosed with sides, a roof, and a back. 

As a result, it’s a great option for freight that needs protection, if you don’t want to worry about the additional costs of added tarps like you’d have to on a flatbed trailer. And, if you would prefer storage options for your shipment, you can add shelving to the walls of the truck.

However, because of its rigid sides, a dry van cannot accommodate oversized loads and it isn’t temperature controlled. Keep that in mind when deciding if a dry van is right for your needs. 

Refrigerated Trailer

A refrigerated trailer, also known as a reefer, is used to haul temperature-sensitive freight. It looks much like a dry van, however, it includes a reefer unit, which is an insulated box that keeps the space temperature controlled. 

Reefer trailers are primarily used to transport frozen foods or medicines that need to remain cool for safety. Much like dry vans, the walls of a refrigerated trailer make it impossible to carry oversized cargo. 

Removable Gooseneck Trailer

If you have a large load to move, a removable gooseneck trailer is likely your best bet. The bed of a removable gooseneck sits very low to the ground so that you can transport tall objects with ease.

It also includes a dropped down section in the bed, which sits even lower, to accommodate very tall equipment. If you’re worried about height limitations with your freight, a removable gooseneck can give you peace of mind that you won’t violate any regulations. 

And, as its name suggests, there is a detachable section of the trailer used to create a ramp so that very heavy mechanical equipment can drive directly onto the bed. 

Lowboy Trailer

A lowboy trailer shares some similarities with removable gooseneck, as it also has a drop in the bed. This makes it another great choice for hauling machineries like excavators and bulldozers. 

Because there are no sides on a lowboy, it can accommodate wide loads, as well as tall pieces of equipment. 

The primary difference between a lowboy trailer and a removable gooseneck is that no part of the bed is detachable. This means that you can’t drive equipment directly onto the bed of a lowboy. 

Water Tank Trailer

As you might be able to guess from its name, if you need to haul water, a water tank trailer is how to get it done. However, if you are intending to ship potable – or drinkable – water, your water tank must meet certain FDA regulations. 

Sometimes, water is hauled to help in environmental situations, like firefighting or dust control. In those cases, the shipping regulations are not as strict. 

Tips for Choosing the Right Types of Trailers 

If you choose the wrong kinds of trailers for your freight, you put yourself at risk of losing out on profit by wasting time and money. And, you could even risk violating shipping regulations, which can turn into a legal headache. 

Before you choose the best trailer for your cargo, consider the following:

  • The size and weight of your load
  • How far it will need to travel
  • How much protection your freight needs
  • How much you’re willing to spend
  • Regulations around your particular type of freight

If you take the time to really think about all of those aspects, it will make it much easier for you to select the right trailer to meet your needs. 

Prepare to Ship Your Freight

Now that you know more about the different types of trailers, you can make a decision and ship your freight. Revisit this post as needed when you have different types of cargo to ship. 

Want to learn even more about all things transportation? Read through our blog to learn everything you need to know about maintenance and repairs on the road.