Flatbed Trucking 101

Flatbed Trucking 101: What You Need to Know

Depending on the product you need to haul, a flatbed trailer may be your best option. However, this form of transport isn’t simple. There are multiple forms of suspension, a variety of widths, deck surfaces, and finally a variety of heights from the road surface. The product you’re hauling may define your shipping flatbed choice.

Determine the Deck Level You Need

It’s a good idea to take a look at the route you expect the truck and trailer to follow. If your driver will be mostly on main highways, overpasses, bridges and train trestles will likely be high enough to reduce worry about clearing the obstruction. However, not every highway has been updated and many side roads or two lane highways can have obstructions that are not easy for large vehicles to clear. Before you make your final rental choice, know the risks of the route.

Single Drop Trailer

Transporting a product on a single drop trailer is a workable solution if you’re hauling a load that isn’t much taller than the truck cab. A single drop trailer is a design that includes a platform where the gooseneck hitch rides over the hookups, then runs flat all the way to the back of the trailer. If you’re hauling pallets or single stacks of product that aren’t too tall, this format will work well for your rental transport needs. According to the experts at Hale Trailer, “Flatbeds are a great, essential trailer without sides or a roof, commonly used for standard size loads.”

If you’re hauling anything with wheels, the items will obviously be locked in place and strapped down. However, should the vehicle or product come, there is a risk of rolling back down the length of the trailer and off the end.

Double Drop Trailer or Lowboy

A double drop trailer or a lowboy is an excellent choice for large items or for items that are at risk of wind movement as it passes over the top of the cab of the hauling rig. Again, anything to be transported will be tied down. However, a double drop trailer has an elevated platform to cover the gooseneck, a long low platform for product, and an elevated deck over the back tires of the flatbed. If you need to move something tall, awkward or at risk of wind motion, these flatbed trailer rentals can protect the product.

This can be seen in action in the transportation of airplane fuselages and windmill parts. These long single pieces can be made of metal or composites, and many of them are actually quite lightweight. Proper security is critical, but that extra wind protection offered by the lowered platform can also reduce the risk of loss or damage.

Structural Materials

Steel trailers are stronger down the length of the flatbed deck, but aluminum trailers are lighter and offer more fuel efficient. They’re also at less risk of corrosion. Take a good look at what you need to haul to see if an aluminum trailer will work for what you need to haul to reduce fuel consumption as your product is moved around the country.

Decking

Steel decking again offers tremendous strength across the span, but is extremely heavy. Composite decking also offers strength, but is much lighter. If you’re renting a double drop trailer to transport something with wheels, carefully check the weight limitations of the small ramp at the back of the flatbed, just before the raised section of the deck that covers the wheels. Even if you never mean to use this ramp, should your rolling cargo come free, the weight of it could be more than that ramp can handle.

When in doubt, go back to the manufacturer’s write-up on what the trailer can tolerate. Be ready to get your product weighed one last time once the trailer is loaded to reduce the risk of a load fail, loss of product and risk to other drivers on the road. Professional long haul drivers are some of the safest on the road, and you will want to make sure that your product loading method and securing protocols are effective and safe.

Licensing

To rent a flatbed, you’re going to need a truck that can haul it, and for that you’re going to need a driver with a CDL. Different states have different regulations on the three types of CDL, also known as License A, B and C. You can get a CDL to drive a bus, but it may not cover driving a rented flatbed trailer. Your rental professional can help you follow the rules over the route you have planned.

Securing the Load

You likely have employees with experience loading and securing products to trailers, but if not, consider hiring someone to come in and check out your final configuration before the load is on the road. If a load is out of balance or at risk of a back and forth motion, the act of slowing down can actually shift the load, putting the driver, other travelers, the truck and trailer, and your product at risk. A shifting load can also add drag as the driver accelerates. Get this right before the product leaves your facility.

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