Flatbed trailer types

Written by kyla chele cambrooke
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Flatbed trailer types
Drivers can select from a number of trailers to haul cargo. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Flatbed trailers hauling cargo on the highways may look similar, but each type of trailer has its own features and benefits. Before you purchase a trailer, in considering the various shipments you may haul take into account the weight, dimensions and contents. Also, you need to know the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for transporting shipments. Once you have gathered this information, you can narrow the search down for the most appropriate flatbed trailer.

Standard Flatbed

Many people purchase a standard flatbed when the load height does not matter. The most popular size standard flatbed is 48 feet long. However, manufacturers make standard flatbeds from 45 to 53 feet long and the bed height ranges from 60 to 62 inches tall with an 8 feet 4 inch maximum height for the cargo. Drivers who haul content that exceeds a height of 13 feet 6 inches must obtain an oversized load permit.

Dropdeck Trailer

Haulers also use dropdeck trailers to transport shipments. The dropdeck trailer length is 48 or 53 feet. The trailer has an upper deck that is 10 ffet or 11 feet long and a lower bed height of the trailer that ranges from 38 to 40 inches. The dropdeck trailer allows for transport of higher loads without the purchase of an oversized permit. Other names for the dropdeck trailers include single-drop and step-deck trailers.

Double-drop Trailer

A double-drop trailer has a raised front deck with the "well" or middle section of the bed ranging as low as 22 to 24 inches. The utility trailer's load height can reach up to 11 feet 6 inches. Drivers opt for a double-drop trailer when they need to haul very high loads without obtaining a permit. Double-drop trailers tend to cost more than standard flatbed and dropdeck trailers.


A triaxle trailer features three axles and resembles a dropdeck trailer. Drivers can transport heavier cargo with a permit when a trailer comes with three axles. The trailer spans 48 feet long.

Specialised Flatbed Trailers

When a shipment is unable to fit traditional flatbeds, haulers can opt for a customised trailer. Since specialised flatbed trailers come customised, the trailers have a variety of specifications and capacities. Specialised flatbed trailers are not commonly available and they cost more than other trailers.

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