Different Types of Trailers

In 2022, trucks transported approximately 65% of American freight, which amounted to more than 13.1 billion freight tonnage. With the trucking industry expected to double by 2050, you can expect shipments to rely on freight trailers indefinitely. However, with such varying loads and trailers to help transport them, how does one select the right freight shipper and truck trailer types for the job? 

Understanding the names, characteristics and unique purposes of each of the most popular freight trailers on the United States roads helps considerably — especially when buying or hiring a trailer and discussing requirements with a leading logistics company for customized transportation.

15 Truck Trailer Types

This guide to 15 of the most common and widely used logistics trailers helps one better understand the types, their uses and extra insights — offering straightforward explanations.

1. Flatbed Trailer

Due to their level of versatility, flatbed trailers are some of the most commonly used trailers. These offer easy and convenient loading and offloading from each side as the trailer has no roof or box and is a long, level surface. The flat deck makes it easier to accommodate a wide variety of freight that you can load using a crane or a forklift from the side. You also get flatbeds in various sizes to accommodate your cargo better.

The types of loads typically carried on flatbed trailers are:

  • Heavy machinery and equipment.
  • Construction materials such as piping and lumber.
  • Oversized and unusually shaped freight.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 48 feet to 53 feet 
  • Trailer width: 8.6 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 8.6 feet 
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 48,000 pounds

2. Side Kit Trailer

Side kits allow for added versatility to the flatbed trailer style. Side kit trailers are a version of flatbed trailers with an easily removable structure of walls and stakes that help to contain freight. With its removable sides and tent-like tarp covering, a side kit trailer offers an affordable means to protect cargo from weather elements such as rain and sun while helping secure it. 

The types of loads typically carried on side kit trailers are:

  • Granular materials like coal and powder. 
  • Crops such as corn and watermelons.
  • Other general cargo.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 48 to 53 feet 
  • Trailer width: 8.4 feet 
  • Trailer freight height: 8.6 feet 
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 42,000 pounds to 45,000 pounds

3. Refrigerated Shipment and Reefers

Although more specialized than flatbed trailers, refrigerated trailers, also known as reefers, are crucial to modern-day food supply chains. These trailers are insulated sealed units that offer temperature control for goods that require advanced protection from the elements and are temperature sensitive. Even goods that may be safe over short distances, such as particular fruit, may need a reefer for long-distance hauls. 

Because refrigeration is powered either by an external power source or the truck’s engine, the reefer can accommodate many different goods, such as chilled or frozen, at a controlled temperature despite external weather conditions and temperatures. 

The types of loads typically carried in refrigerated trailers are:

  • Pharmaceutical products and consumables.
  • Dairy, meat, seafood and poultry.
  • Sensitive plants and flowers.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 48 feet to 53 feet 
  • Trailer width: 8.2 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 8 feet 
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 42,000 pounds to 45,000 pounds

4. Removable Gooseneck (RGN) Trailer 

If you need to carry tall and long shipments, a removable gooseneck trailer might be what you need. The RGN has three distinct advantages. The first is its drop deck that helps accommodate taller freight to avoid requiring height permits. 

RGN trailers tend to carry heavy cargo, such as bulldozers. The removable gooseneck lets you detach the front and drop the trailer to the ground. You can then load items using the ramp at the front of the trailer. Depending on the weight of the load, the RGN trailer also enables you to add additional axles to safely haul objects far too heavy for trailers with fewer axles.

The RGN is a specialty trailer, and the types of loads typically carried on RGN trailers are:

  • Large construction vehicles.
  • Heavy machinery.
  • Oversized vehicles.
  • Farming equipment.
  • Oversized boats.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: The main deck is typically 29 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 11.6 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 42,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds

5. Stretch Removable Gooseneck (RGN) Trailer

Much like the RGN, the stretch RGN trailer is tailored to hauling heavy and tall loads that other freight trailers cannot accommodate. The general design of the trailer is similar, with its detachable front allowing you to load and unload easily once the gooseneck is removed. Additionally, you can attach additional axles for heavier loads to handle the weight safely and legally. 

The primary difference is a unique mechanism that lets the stretch RGN extend its length to approximately twice the standard length to accommodate longer freight. 

The stretch RGN carriers similar freight as regular RGN trailers but accommodates much longer objects, such as:

  • Longwall mining machinery.
  • Off-highway trucks.
  • Large construction vehicles.
  • Heavy machinery.
  • Oversized vehicles.
  • Farming equipment.
  • Oversized boats.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 29 feet to 74 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 11.6 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 42,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds

6. Straight Truck

Straight trucks, also known as box or dry van trailers, are fully enclosed to protect nonperishable cargo. These logistics trailers are used for full truckload (FTL) transport and less than truckload (LTL) shipments because of the swift loading and offloading at loading docks via the rear doors.

Because of this and no specialized requirements, straight truck trailers offer affordable rates for transporting a range of non-perishable goods that require protection from the elements and secure storage but no temperature control.

The types of loads typically carried in straight trucks are:

  • Household and business appliances.
  • Clothing and shoes.
  • Printed materials such as books.
  • Parcels.
  • Furniture.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 26 feet to 53 feet 
  • Trailer width: 8.2 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 8 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 42,000 pounds to 45,000 pounds

7. Lowboy Trailer

There are three types of lowboy trailers — removable gooseneck (RGN), fixed gooseneck lowboy (FGL) and fixed neck lowboy. Depending on the precise shipment and the necessary accommodations and requirements, you’ll want to select between these types when transporting long, oversized, heavy items. These logistics trailers offer different flexibility, which makes for easy loading and offloading and can adapt to heavier loads.

The types of loads typically carried on lowboy trailer types are:

  • Agricultural machines.
  • Mining machinery.
  • Bulldozers.
  • Large vans and other vehicles.
  • Off-highway trucks and vehicles.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 24 feet to 29.6 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 11 feet to 12 feet 
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 40,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds

8. Extendable Double Drop Deck Trailer

An extendable double drop trailer is highly similar to the stretch RGN trailer as it has a comparable design and is intended to haul goods too long for standard double drop trailers. A stretch RGN can be called an extendable double drop deck trailer, but not always the other way around, as the removable gooseneck is a characterizing feature.

In addition to allowing for far longer freight, the double drop deck means the midsection of the trailer rests well below the truck and trailer axles, meaning you can haul taller items without experiencing abnormal height issues. 

The types of loads typically carried on extendable double drop deck trailers are:

  • Longwall mining machinery.
  • Off-highway trucks.
  • Large construction vehicles.
  • Heavy machinery.
  • Oversized vehicles.
  • Farming equipment.
  • Oversized boats.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 29 feet to 50 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet 
  • Trailer freight height: 11 feet to 12 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 40,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds

9. Single Drop Trailer (Step Deck Trailer)

A single drop trailer, also known as a step deck trailer, is much like a flatbed, except it has two decks at different levels. Most of the rear is lower than the shorter front deck, and it is ideal for hauling loads that would fit on a regular flatbed but pose height requirement issues. 

Like a flatbed trailer, this kind of freight trailer is open with no side kit. It is perfect for large cargo that does not require covering. You can either load the trailer from the sides using a forklift, or most step deck trailers have built-in ramps for convenient loading. 

The types of loads typically carried on step deck trailers are:

  • Tall machines.
  • Extensive piles of building materials.
  • Bulky and heavy freight.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 48 feet to 53 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 10 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 48,000 pounds

10. Extendable or Stretch Flatbed Trailer

Flatbeds are a staple truck trailer type that offers versatility. However, the extendable flatbed trailer is a versatile alternative to avoid overhanging with abnormally long freight. This is ideal when your shipment does not require height accommodations but rather length. This trailer can function as a standard flatbed when carrying standard-sized cargo and then being able to stretch as needed.

The types of loads typically carried on extendable or stretch flatbed trailers are:

  • Long pieces of piping or lumber.
  • Extensive pieces of timber.
  • Oversized and unusually long freight.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 48 feet to 80 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 43,000 pounds

11. Stretch Single Drop Deck Trailer

The stretch single drop deck trailer is designed like a standard step deck trailer. However, it has the same benefit as the extendable flatbed trailer. You use an extendable flatbed to cart long freight that cannot fit on a flatbed. A stretch single drop deck is the freight trailer you need if you require an extendable flatbed with height accommodation. 

The drop deck lets you load much taller objects than a standard flatbed, and the added length of this kind of trailer permits far longer items than a standard drop deck.

The types of loads typically carried on stretch single drop deck trailers are:

  • Extensively long and tall freight.
  • Items such as wind turbine components.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 35 feet to 63 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 10 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 45,000 pounds

12. Super-B Trailer

A super-B trailer or B-train is when a truck pulls two interlocked trailers, allowing the driver to haul far more than if they were to use a single trailer. This is the ideal trailer for efficiently shipping large volumes of heavy goods. Super-B trailers can come in various forms, from flatbeds to reefers and tankers.

The lead trailer’s axles stick out, and a fifth wheel is mounted on the lead trailer, which lets the additional semitrailer attach. The fifth wheel axle easily slides from under the lead trailer for easy docking and offloading. 

The types of loads typically carried in super-B trailers are:

  • Milk and other liquids.
  • Diesel and petroleum.
  • Grains.
  • Food produce.
  • Chemical products.
  • Lumber.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 32 feet with an additional 28-feet pup 
  • Trailer width: 8.2 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 8.6 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: Up to 95,000 pounds

13. Stretch Double Drop Trailer

A stretch double drop trailer is the best option when shipping incredibly oversized goods, even over a standard double drop and a stretch single drop deck trailer. You would use this truck trailer type for its extensive length and the “well” between the rear and the front upper decks, which carries the cargo as low as humanly possible. Because of this, you can also load freight far too high, even for single-drop deck trailers.

The types of loads typically carried on stretch double drop trailers are:

  • Extensively long, heavy and tall freight.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations:

  • Trailer length: 29 feet to 65 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.5 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 11.6 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 45,000 pounds

14. Conestoga Trailer

An often sought-after logistics trailer type is an adaptive Conestoga trailer that features either simplistic or complex tarp systems, making covering and uncovering the trailer straightforward. This covering is effective because you can quickly load and offload goods without the constrictions of a sealed trailer such as a straight truck. 

There are differing kinds of Conestoga trailers, including flatbed, step deck and double drop — all appropriate for different types, shapes and sizes of freight.

The types of loads typically carried with Conestoga trailers vary depending on the kind of Conestoga but require protection from the elements such as:

  • Sensitive cargo requiring effective cover.
  • Cargo that requires specialized trailers with covers.
  • Freight that is susceptible to damage from ordinary trailer tarp covering practices.

You should also consider the typical trailer size and load limitations, though bear in mind the different types of Conestoga:

  • Trailer length: 46 feet to 53 feet
  • Trailer width: 8.2 feet
  • Trailer freight height: 8 feet to 9.8 feet
  • Trailer maximum capacity: 42,000 pounds to 45,000 pounds

15. Specialized Trailer

Specialized trailers tend to be industry or company-specific and might use other trailers such as dolly trailers and double gooseneck or even require modified versions of those mentioned here. The sectors that use specialized trailers are manufacturing, industrial, construction, mining, military and more. Their freight is often more oversized, taller and heavier than usual or requires specialized shipping conditions. 

The types of loads typically carried with specialized trailers differ vastly, though this freight could be:

  • Motor vehicles, trucks and vans.
  • Substantial and heavy freight.
  • Wind turbine blades and tower sections.
  • Cattle and other livestock.

State regulations and permits play a significant role in specialized trailer and freight dimensions. Regarding the size and mass of freight, the Federal Highway Administration outlines guidelines and weight limit exceptions in the United States. This means certain specialized trailers may carry far more than typical logistics trailers. 

Trust Nationwide Transport Services for All of Your Freight Shipping Needs

Here at Nationwide Transport Services, we deeply understand matching logistics trailers to the respective job requirements. We pride ourselves on offering standard and specialized transportation services to fit your needs — from freight shipping to auto transport and heavy haul.

Whether you are a company, organization or private person looking to ship standard or abnormal loads, we can provide long-term solutions or once-off transportation at competitive pricing with exceptional value. To take the next step to a safe, secure and efficient haul, request an obligation-free transport quote online or contact us today with any questions about our extensive services.

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?

Reach out to a logistics specialist from Nationwide Transport Services, LLC for more information on any topic in logistics by dialing (877) 278-3135.

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