Flatbed Trailers

What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About Flatbed Trailers:

  • Literally, a "flat bed" with wheels, with no sides or top, used to carry large or bulky freight, like construction equipment.
  • Drivers are responsible for making sure that the load is secured properly, as well as covering it to protect it from the elements, when necessary. Will require constant monitoring of the load securements.
  • Will require constant monitoring of the load securements and condition of freight.
  • Pulling flatbeds is a more physical job for the driver, as strapping and tarping the load will take a certain amount of strength and effort.
  • Flatbedding will typically pay better due to the added effort and experience needed.

About Pulling Flatbed Trailers:

  • See this very interesting forum conversation about A Week In The Life Of A Flatbed Driver
  • Pulling a flatbed can be extremely dangerous also. See this conversation about The Life, Death, And Resurrection Of My Truck Driving Career where a new driver rolled over his flatbed truck when a load of lumber worked itself loose.
  • We have a ton of great flatbed photos in our forum conversation called Flatbed Variety
  • Will require the driver to be outside in various types of conditions in order to check and secure the load.
  • Drivers will be responsible for securing the freight with straps, chains, and/or tarps. Some of the equipment could be relatively heavy, and will take a certain amount of physical effort.
  • As a physical requirement of flatbedding, drivers will normally be required to lift 100 pounds from the ground to be sure that they will be able to handle the weight of the tarps.
  • Many flatbed trailers will be "spread-axle" to better adjust and distribute the weight of the freight. Different states will have different laws regarding spread limits and weight on each axle. In addition to total weight of the vehicle, weight is also measured per each axle.
  • The driver will be responsible for checking for any damage to the load before and during transporting it. In addition, the driver will need to continually double-check the load securement.

Types Of Flatbed Trailers:

  • Standard Flatbed:

    Average, ordinary flatbed. Essentially a box trailer with no sides, roof, or doors. Often used to haul construction equipment or materials and steel products and machinery.

  • Dropdeck (Step-deck or Single-drop) Flatbed Trailers:

    Typically used to haul over-height freight. Step-decks have a bed that drops lower than standard flatbed trailers after the point it clears the tractor, allowing for up to 2 feet of extra overhead clearance.

  • Double-drop Flatbed Trailer:

    Similar to single-drop trailers, double-drops have a center portion that drops lower than both ends, creating a "well" and allowing for even taller freight to be carried. These have much lower ground clearance than usual. The well also shortens the usable length of the trailer considerably. Often used to carry freight that requires a crane to load and unload.

  • Lowboys:

    Flatbeds that are exceptionally low to the ground and often used to haul unusually large, tall, or heavy loads.

  • Stretch, or extendable, trailers:

    For loads too long to fit on a standard 48-foot trailer. Can extend up to 80 feet. May require special permits and routing depending on the size and tye of freight. Stretch trailers can be found in all varieties of flatbeds.

  • Covered Wagon or Side-Kit Flatbeds:

    Simply a regular flatbed trailer fitted with stakes and panels to enclose it, and covered with a tarp. It then resembles an Old West covered wagon.

  • Curtain Side:

    Similar to covered wagon , but tarp opens along one side to better facilitate loading and unloading.

Changes To FMCSA Regulations Re-defining Tank Vehicles:

Recent changes in FMCSA regulations mean that drivers pulling liquid freight over 1,000 gallons, regardless of trailer type, hazardous or otherwise, will be required to have a tanker endorsement:

"Tank vehicle means any commercial motor vehicle that is designed to transport any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank or tanks having an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is either permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis." Hauling more than 1,000 gallons of liquid, regardless of trailer type, will require a driver to have a tanker endorsement.

FMCSA Definition of Tanker Vehicle

Covered Wagon:

A flatbed with specially fitted side plates and curved ribs supporting a tarp covering, commonly referred to as a "side kit". Named for the resemblance to horse-drawn covered wagons.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • CSA:

    Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

    The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle


    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

    What Does The FMCSA Do?

    • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
    • Data and Analysis
    • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
    • Research and Technology
    • Safety Assistance
    • Support and Information Sharing


    Department Of Transportation

    A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

    State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.


    A stepdeck , also referred to as "dropdeck", is a type of flatbed trailer that has one built in step to the deck to provide the capabilities of loading higher dimensional freight on the lower deck.


    Operating While Intoxicated


    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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