If you are searching for a trailer for shipping and logistics, you will need to start by understanding the different types of trailers.
This can help you make an informed decision on the right type for your freight as different types of trailers are designed for different shipping demands.
The common types of trailers used in shipping and logistics
This is the most common type of semi trailer. It features a long rectangular box placed on wheels to protect the cargo from harsh weather and other elements.
The trailer can back right into the bay of the dock enabling fast and efficient loading and unloading. This trailer is commonly used in the retail sector.
It is usually full-sized and enclosed, making a perfect for transporting skidded or boxed freight. The design of these trailers makes them a good option for the safe and dry transport of delicate items.
Some dry van models enable an intermodal shipping container to be attached to them, putting them in the middle of the van or flatbed.
The length of the dry van trailer is usually 53 feet but at times it can be 48 feet. Other features of the trailer include:
- Can only be loaded and unloaded using a forklift
- Requires a loading and unloading dock
- Has a height of 4 feet
- Can haul a maximum of 45,000 lbs. However, many of them limit the weight to 43,000 lbs.
This is another type of trailer that is common on the roads. It has the shape and cargo capacity of the dry van but has a refrigeration unit that can be set at a certain temperature.
This makes it a good choice for hauling beverages, flowers, and fine arts. The floors of the refrigerated trailers often have a metal corrugated floor, making it possible to nail the loads on the floor.
The van is required to adhere to the regulations of the rigorous airflow that help to stabilize the internal temperature.
The power of the reefer is derived from batteries in combination with diesel fuel and their fuel generation.
These types of trailers can’t haul as much weight as the dry vans. However, they are a good choice for keeping the cargo fresh, frozen or heated so that it doesn’t freeze.
In most cases, a reefer trailer has a length of 53 feet but can be 48 feet in some instances. Other features of the trailer are:
- Usually loaded from the back with a forklift
- Requires a loading and unloading dock
- The van has a height of 4 feet from the ground
- Has a maximum haul weight of 43,000 lbs but many stick to a weight of 40,000.
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This is another common type of trailer. It’s a workhorse that is commonly used in the transportation industry.
It is usually open, allowing for the loading of cargos of different sizes from the rear or the sides. This makes the trailers a good choice for delivering cargo to different sites
The trailer is a good choice for transporting large, heavy, and bulky items. While the trailer doesn’t provide shelter during cargo transportation, some transporters may tarp the goods to keep moisture and dirt away while on the road.
Chains, straps, and other bindings help to secure the cargo from movement.
While most of the cargos aren’t completely flat, they usually bow along the length, enabling them to support the heavier loads without any breakages. Other features of the flatbed trailers include:
- Have a length of 48-53 feet
- Can be loaded from overhead, forklift rear, and forklift side
- The dock height off the ground is 4 feet
- The loads require tarps.
This type of trailer has the same look as the flat deck trailers and enables the transportation of heavy equipment and taller loads or machines that require height clearance.
The trailer usually has two deck levels-upper-deck and lower-deck.
While the upper deck reaches the height of the flated, the lower deck is usually one and a half feet lower. The upper deck makes a ¼ of the trailer while the remainder consists of the lower deck.
Step-deck trailers are usually safer for pickups with forklifts as they are closer to the ground. Other features of the trailer are:
- Has the main deck (bottom) of 2.5-3 ft from the ground. A standard flatbed is usually 4 feet
- The top deck to step is 4 feet from the ground
- Has a length of 53 feet
- Loading and unloading is only done from the top or side
- Loads can’t be loaded using load levelers.
Double drop trailers
This is specialized equipment that is commonly used to carry very heavy or very tall pieces.
The double drop trailers have a lower center of gravity as compared to the step-deck trailers. This makes it possible to haul taller materials that are 1 to 1.5 meters from the ground.
If you find the height clearance of a step-deck trailer to be insufficient, you can use a double drop to provide the extra clearance for the oversized loads.
These trailers are also available in the removable goose decks types that make it easier to drive machines into the truck’s deck. Some of the features of the trailer include:
- The main deck is usually 28 to 29 feet
- The middle of the main deck is known as a well
- Loading can only be done from the top or side. Can’t be done from the rear.
This trailer is a good choice for oversized freight of more than 10 feet.
The term HotShot refers to moving a load over a short transit, sometimes to areas that are remote or hardly accessible. Some of the characteristics of such trailers are:
- Pickup trucks that have trailers of 20 to 40 feet and can carry materials of us to 18,000 lbs
- Used to haul partial/smaller loads
- Can be used to deliver freights to hard-to-access job sites such as mountains with sharp turns where regular trucks may be unable to pass
- Have the same look as the step decks/flat decks.
Expandable drop-deck trailers
If you need a trailer that can be used to haul exceptionally long freight, you should consider the expandable drop-deck trailer.
This trailer features a middle section that can be extended from 38 feet to 65 feet, making them suitable for hauling freight that is longer than the limit of the traditional size trailers.
These trailers have a maximum capacity of 43,000 pounds and can accommodate a height of ten feet. These trailers are commonly used to transport machinery and very long materials.
Removable Gooseneck Trailers (RNG)
Just like the name suggests, the trailers feature a gooseneck that is used to secure the trailer to a tractor.
The trailer’s front can be removed so that the front of the trailer is placed on the ground to create a ramp for the loading and unloading of equipment. This makes RGN trailers a good choice for carrying large machinery from one point to another.
This is usually very common and consists of 2 or 3 axles, depending on the needed capacity. RNGs make it easy to use carriers that are hauling big equipment.
You only need to drive the equipment on the RGN and to drive it off after reaching your destinations. This will ensure that you will not need cranes or forklifts to load and unload.
These trailers are used in a similar way to the double drop trailers, and therefore, have a similar weight and height restriction.
The applications of these trailers will often depend on the space needed. If a load is more than 30 feet, the space provided by the wells of the trailers becomes insufficient.
If space is a problem, you should consider the expandable RGN. It works in the same way as the double drop and is also built for freight that is extra long.
It can expand for over 50 feet enabling the specialty trailers to have enough capacity to haul massive material, and equipment.
The trailers can have a high weight capacity depending on the axles used. They have a maximum weight of 42,000 pounds for the 3 axles and 150,000 pounds for the 15 axles.
Choosing the right trailer for your shipping needs
Selecting the right type of trailer can mean the difference between making a profit or loss and compliance with federal and state regulations. Here are a few factors you need to consider:
- Your needs
You will want to ensure that you select a trailer that meets your needs. Consider the type of loads you will be hauling. What is the average length of the trip?
Consider the size of trailer you will need depending on the average amount of cargo you will be hauling.
Also, consider how you will load and unload the trailer depending on the loading decks configurations. Ensure that you are plan for the expected growth of your company.
- Type of load
If you will be carrying bulky and stackable cargos such as bar steel, steel coils, pipes, and other cargo that can be loaded from the side, you should consider getting a flatbed.
These trucks also offer a lot of versatility if the load doesn’t need to be protected from elements. If the cargo you will hauling is heavy such as steel, ensure that the floor rating of the trailer is enough for the weight you are hauling.
The maintenance of the trailer is also a key consideration. A reefer usually has higher maintenance than a dry van. Its fuel cost will also be higher due to the refrigeration unit that the trailer comes with.
Studies indicate that the average cost of truck maintenance is usually 15 cents per mile. To help cut down these costs, you will need to choose a trailer with durable components.
- Fuel efficiency
The material used to make the trailer will impact its fuel efficiency. Choose a trailer that is made of lightweight material that also enables it to carry heavy loads.
The material will help bring the fuel cost lower especially when carrying a lighter load and on the return trip.
Aerodynamics components are also worth considering and so you may need to research further especially now that the technology seems to be changing every day and is a requirement in some states.
You will want to consider the government regulations, safety equipment, and insurance during your buying decision.
If you will be doing cross-state business or even crossing to Canada, you should ensure that the trailer has the right specs such as model, size, style, suspension configuration, and axle.
One of the states with stringent regulations is California.
One of the requirements is that refrigeration units on the trailers should pass emission testing.
Depending on the type and size of the trailer, there are some aerodynamic equipment that may be required in the state.
Buy or Rent?
Consider if you should buy or rent the trailer. Buying will cost you more at the beginning but the maintenance cost will be lower.
If you don’t have enough money to buy a trailer, considering renting. You can find a daily, weekly, or monthly rental package for renting a trailer.
It also has an advantage in that you will get advice from the rental company on a trailer that meets your needs.
A good trailer can offer you services for over 15 years. However, you will need to ensure that it meets your business needs.
This is why you need to take time, do your homework, and talk to professionals who can help you understand the cost benefits of different trailers. But with this guide, you should have a good idea of how to pick the right trailer that meets your needs.
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