What Are the Differences Between Flatbed and Lowboy Trailers?

Trailers and trucks are the cornerstone of the transportation and logistics industry. They facilitate the transportation of various types of freight, especially heavy loads, over long distances, allowing you to move products and equipment with ease. There are many types of trucks and trailers suited to shipping different types, sizes and shapes of loads.

Flatbed and lowboy trailers are two of the common types used to ship unusually shaped and sized freight. If you’re interested in a trailer that lowers to the ground or want to know the differences between these trailer types, continue reading our guide below for all the information you need.

What Is a Flatbed Trailer?

A flatbed trailer is among the most common semi-trailers used to transport large and bulky loads. Flatbed trailer trucks have a long, flat body without sides or a roof. These types of trucks are extremely versatile as they allow loading and offloading from any side of the trailer using forklifts, cranes or other specialized equipment.

They’re also available in many sizes and configurations. Standard or conventional flatbed trailers consist of a straight-frame, flat and rectangular bed without any special design — not even a drop in height as you move along the flatbed. These typically have 5 feet of clearance from the ground.

Flatbed trailers are ideal for transporting wide, irregularly shaped or unusually sized loads that can’t fit in regular trucks. However, the loads must be secured to the flatbed using damps, a rack and stake pockets during transit. It may also be necessary to cover the load to protect it from the elements. Constant monitoring ensures the load remains securely attached until it reaches the delivery destination.

Some of the most suitable uses of flatbed trucks include transporting:

  • Construction steelwork, such as pipes
  • Lumber 
  • Heavy machinery and equipment

You can optimize delivery times by opting for flatbed trucking services, as they allow you to transport more cargo at once. This strategy also ensures drivers make fewer trips and reduce fuel consumption, which in turn leads to significant cost savings.

What Is a Lowboy Trailer?

A lowboy or lowbed trailer is a type of heavy-duty flatbed trailer. These trailers are designed to haul oversized and overweight cargo that typically weighs more and is taller than regular cargo. They’re also great for maneuvering rough terrain or through tight spaces.

To facilitate their heavy-duty use, lowboy flatbed trailers have two drops in the deck height to allow the trailer to lower to the ground as much as possible. The first drop is right after the gooseneck, and the second is right before the wheels. Lowboy trailers are also extremely low, sitting at around 18 inches off the ground to accommodate freight that’s too tall — up to 12 feet — and can’t be shipped legally using higher trucks.

The lowered deck height also lowers the center of gravity for the truck, ensuring a more stable ride for bulky and oversized freight. Lowboy trailers are available in various sizes and designs, some with open configurations and others with enclosed containers. Heavy loads on the open lowbeds are supported using two to eight aluminum or premium steel axles.

Loading and unloading freight on and off a lowboy trailer is easy because of its low height, its hydraulic system that lifts the trailer for loading, and air brakes that ensure safe slowing down and stopping.

You can use lowboy trucking services to ship a variety of heavy machinery and equipment, including:

  • Large vehicles, such as vans and off-highway trucks
  • Bulldozers
  • Mining equipment
  • Agricultural machinery
  • Industrial machinery

The Main Differences Between Flatbed Trucks vs. Lowboy Trailers

While standard flatbed trucks and lowboy trailers seemingly ship the same type of freight — oversized and unusually shaped — they have some distinct differences. Below, we highlight the main features that distinguish these two types of flatbed trucks.

Physical Structure

The physical structure of the truck bed determines the type of cargo it can transport safely and efficiently. The dimensions of trailers vary widely based on the specific models, manufacturers and trailer types. The following list shows the differences in the maximum physical dimensions of both types of trailers:

  • Trailer freight height: A flatbed trailer’s legal freight height is typically 8.5 feet. Comparatively, a lowboy trailer’s legal freight height is 11.5 feet to 12 feet.
  • Trailer width: When it comes to width, both trailer types are 8.5 feet wide.
  • Trailer length: Depending on the model, both trailer trailers can measure 48 feet to 53 feet long.

Capacity for Freight Load

Flatbed trailers are generally lighter than lowboy trailers. Their actual weight depends on the design, construction materials and additional features. Standard flatbed trailers weigh 6,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds on average and can haul freights of up to 48,000 pounds.

Like a flatbed trailer, the weight of a lowboy trailer varies depending on the model, manufacturer and carrying capacity. Conventional two-axle lowboy trailers generally weigh 15,000 pounds to 18,000 pounds and have a maximum weight capacity of 40,000 pounds. Adding axles can boost the weight capacity to 80,000 pounds.

Types of Freight

Flatbed trailers offer extensive versatility. You can use them to haul anything from building materials and construction equipment to machinery and steel products. You can use a flatbed trailer to ship anything that does not exceed 8.5 feet in width and 8.5 in height, regardless of its shape. It’s preferable to use flatbeds to ship freight that can withstand different weather conditions.

Lowboy trailers are ideal if you’re looking to ship anything that’s unusually sized or shaped. However, the freight must not be more than 8.5 wide and 12 feet high. Overall, this trailer type is the best option for hauling freight that can fit on other trailer types, ensuring compliance with road safety restrictions and other relevant guidelines.

Get in Touch With Nationwide Transport Services for All Your Trucking Needs

Choosing the right transport services for your oversized or oddly shaped freight may be challenging, considering all of the options that are available. At Nationwide Transport Services, we can help you decide on the right strategy for your trucking needs through comprehensive logistics planning. We’ll connect you with a knowledgeable logistics agent, who will work with you to explore transportation methods, coordinate pickups and deliveries, track your freight and more.

Organizing your logistics process is easier and more effective with a professional team on your side. Even if your needs are unique or specialized, we’re ready to help you find the best approach — even if it involves building a strategy from scratch. Are you ready to learn more about leveraging our logistics solutions? Request a free shipping quote today.

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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