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Specialized Trailers In Trucking

Last Updated: Mar 22, 2016

What New Drivers Need To Know About Hauling Specialized Trailers:

Out-of-the ordinary trailers like cattle haulers, logging trailers, intermodal containers, and car carriers may require special sets of skills.

There is generally a high demand for experienced drivers for these specialty types, meaning a higher rate of pay.

Hauling specialized freight will generally be more "hands-on", and require more of the drivers attention.

Types Of Specialized Trailers:

Aside from the main categories of trailers in the trucking industry, there are a few types that are very specific in their use. They will often require specialized training and more experience.

In return, these types of jobs usually pay higher wages.

Car Carriers:

Auto haulers can be open or closed, based on the load.

Most commonly, auto trailers will be open, carrying multiple cars. Multi-car shipping is a cheaper option for the shipper. Usually used by used car dealers and auction houses.

To adhere to weight regulations, the weight and position of each vehicle on the trailer must be taken in to consideration. The driver is usually also responsible for loading, securing, and inspecting the cars for damage.

Shipping autos in an enclosed trailer is generally an option used to move 1 or 2 classic or antique, high-end vehicles. Used by collectors and brokers. The Holy Grail of car carriers is driving for a NASCAR team, but someone probably has to die and leave that job to you in their will.

A large percentage of car haulers are owner-operators, and get paid by percentage, per mile, or per car.

Safe, experienced car haulers are usually in high demand. Many develop relationships with car dealers that they carry from company to company.

Logging Trailers:

Generally logging, or timber trailers look like flatbeds with a series of upright posts around the outside.

Most sawmills are located well within 200 miles or so of the logging location, so timber haulers will generally get the benefit of more home time. There will also be state and local laws governing forestry hours of operation.

Logging trucks are often specifically built for heavy-duty off-road work through unpaved forest roads. It will involve a lot of driving through the woods, as that's where the trees usually are. Nearly half of a drivers miles will be spent driving an empty trailer back through the woods.

Regulations on length, width, and height of loaded log trailers vary from state to state. Many trailers specifically designed for logging are equipped with on-board scales. It is the drivers responsibility to ensure that the load is secure before transporting it.

Many of the trailer beds are designed to swivel, to ease loading and unloading. Unloading often consists of just letting the logs roll off the trailer.

In addition, many of the sawmills will have log trailers equipped with their own crane and grapple system.

Cattle Haulers:

Cattle carriers, or bull haulers, are responsible for getting livestock or other animals to their destination in one piece. Hauling living things adds another dimension to the job of driving. Specialized cattle hauling trailers and equipment are required for this industry.

Cattle trailers are usually mostly enclosed, with enough openings to allow for air to get in and flow through.

Hauling livestock is generally going to be a trucking job reserved for someone who has experience with the animals. Very often, drivers will have to set up the "chutes" A path of metal guides that form a path from the barn to the trailer., keep the cows moving onto the trailer, and get them going when they won't.

Added to that is the responsibility for cleaning out the trailers. Depending on the shipper , some loads are "hands-off", where a driver just waits to get loaded without all the dirty work.

Because of shortages, there are increasing numbers of jobs for drivers with little or no experience handling cattle, but will require additional amounts of training.

The industry also experiences certain periods of downtime, both seasonal and due to economic factors, so hauling cattle may be a more sporadic job for truck drivers with no farm experience.

Cattle haulers are covered under the USDA's "28-hour Law", which says that transporters (the driver) are required to stop to provide animals with food, water, and rest at least once every 28 hours of the trip.

Cattle hauling is potentially a better paying driving job because of the specialized experience and extra work need.

Containers, or Intermodal Trailers:

Simple, corrugated steel boxes with doors at one end, usually 20 or 40 feet in length. First developed by the U.S. military in the 1950's.

"Intermodal" meaning that the container can be used across several different modes of transport, like truck, rail, or ship.

Shipping containers are detachable from their chassis, making them stackable for trips on trains or ships.

Freight may be on pallets or floor-loaded, and driver may be required to load palletized cargo.

Since many containers will be traveling overseas by ship, they first need to be moved somewhere near the coastline, and shipping ports. The variety in hauling distances for containers gives new drivers many job options.

Intermodal or container jobs could offer more home time, depending on the company. Many operate dedicated local or regional container divisions.

Fun Fact - Each year an estimated 10,000 shipping containers fall into the sea; of these 10% are expected to contain chemicals toxic to marine life.


The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.


Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.


Transporting freight using two or more transportation modes. An example would be freight that is moved by truck from the shipper's dock to the rail yard, then placed on a train to the next rail yard, and finally returned to a truck for delivery to the receiving customer.

In trucking when you hear someone refer to an intermodal job they're normally talking about hauling shipping containers to and from the shipyards and railyards.

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