Types Of Trailers In Trucking

What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About Different Types Of Trailers:

Simply put, the type of trailer a driver pulls will depend on the type of freight being hauled.

The trailer being pulled could affect a driver's pay, as loads that require special attention will generally require specific skills and equipment, and additional time.

Hauling specific types of trailers, such as tankers full of Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT), can require a variety of experience, CDL endorsements, and permits.

You may find better home time opportunities with certain types of freight like dry van , intermodal , LTL , and flatbed

What Effect Will Types Of Trailers Have On Drivers Home Time?

  • Some specific types of trailers carry freight that tends to keep drivers away from home longer, while some will get them more home time.
  • Hauling dry bulk goods, like sugar, grain, or sand tend to be more localized routes. These types of loads generally won't need to travel far to reach their destination. Often hourly, regional types of jobs.
  • Refrigerated temperature-sensitive cargo is often carried from the West Coast to the East Coast. Hauling from the produce capital of California and other points West. The trucking company will then try to work the driver back west to do it all over again. These types of jobs tend to keep drivers on the road for longer stretches of time.
  • Hauling boxed trailers will generally give truck drivers more flexibility for getting home more often. Many of the larger trucking companies will operate local, regional and over-the-road divisions, making it easier for drivers to get home time.
  • Flatbed jobs also provide many local and regional opportunities to get drivers home more often. If not nightly, then on weekends.

How Does Trailer Type Affect Truck Driver Pay?

Generally, the more complicated, risky, or involved the load is for the driver, the higher the pay rate will be.

Different types of trailers and freight will require different levels of attention, experience, and effort by the driver.

Some types of freight may also tend toward local, hourly, positions, which operate on a different pay scale than over-the-road (OTR)

See Also: Truck Driver Pay.

Generally, trailers will fall into 1 of 5 categories:

  • Dry Van (Box Trailers):

    The most commonly used trailer in trucking, enclosed to protect its cargo from the elements of weather and the road. Freight is typically loaded on pallets, or stacked on the floor. Easy to load and unload, most loading docks are built to accommodate them. Dry van jobs tend to give drivers, especially new ones, more job opportunities.

  • Flatbed Trailers:

    With many variations and uses, flatbed trailers are generally box trailers without the top and sides. Often used to carry large, bulky items, as well as construction material and equipment that won't fit in dry vans. Flatbedding is generally a more physically demanding job in the industry, requiring more effort and equipment to secure the load.

  • Tank Trailers (Tankers):

    Used mainly to carry bulk liquids, dry goods like grain, or gasses. Requires driver interaction for unloading, and typically needs to be washed out when empty. Requires a specific Tanker endorsement, as well as a Hazmat endorsement if carrying hazardous materials.

  • Refrigerated Trailers:

    Used for temperature-sensitive freight, usually food related. An attached cooling unit, running on either diesel fuel or electric, keeps things cool and requires monitoring by the driver. If hauling liquid, may require a tanker endorsement.

  • Specialized Trailers:

    Includes car haulers, cattle and other livestock, intermodal containers, and logging trucks. Very specific classes of trailers that will typically be handled by more experienced drivers.

Most of the larger trucking companies will haul loads using varous types of trailers, and some have entire divisions dedicated to one type or the other.

You can read more about the various types of trailers in trucking here:

Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part VI: Dry Van and Refrigerated Companies

Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part VII: Tankers and Flatbeds


Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.


Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations


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.


Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier


Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.


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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.


When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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