TLI University: Flatbed 101

June 12, 2018

Written By: Translogistics

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This information can also be found in our printable version of Transportation 101. Please visit our Transportation 101 Page to download today! 

What is Truckload – Flatbed/Specialized?

  • Flatbed and specialized trailers are included in the full truckload sector of the transportation industry – the noticeable difference is that these trailers to do have side walls, roofs or doors
  • These trailers are subject to the same size constraints as standard Dry Van truckload shipments – 53’ long, 102” wide and the freight loaded on the trailer cannot extend more than 13’6” off of the ground – they are also subject to the 80,000 pound maximum weight
  • There are several different kinds of flatbeds / specialized trailers that will be reviewed below – the trailer type needed is based on the size (primarily height) and weight of the shipment
  • Some examples of TLI Specialized / Flatbed carriers are Mercer Transportation, Landstar and PGT Trucking


Types of Flatbed/Specialized Trailers

Standard Flatbed Trailer
  • These types of trailers are used for product that does not fit easily into a closed dry van trailer – typical commodities hauled on flatbed trailers are construction materials such as roof trusses and lumber, machinery, steel, etc.- the deck of the trailer is the same height off of the ground as the floor of a standard dry van trailer

Single Drop Specialized Trailer (aka Step Deck)
  • These types of trailers are used primarily for the same product that is hauled on standard flatbeds – the difference is that the deck is lower and can thereby allow for a taller product(s) to be loaded on the trailer while still remaining under the 13’6” height restriction

Double Drop Specialized Trailer
  • These types of trailers are the same as Single Drop (Step Deck) trailers, except the can handle even taller product(s) due to them being even lower to the ground

 Removable Gooseneck Specialized Trailer

  • These types of trailers are used primarily to transport vehicles that can be driven on or off the trailer by their own power – the trailer separates, drops to the ground and forms a ramp to drive vehicles onto

Multi-Axle Heavy Haul Specialized Trailer

  • These trucks are the biggest on the road and move the largest and heaviest loads that exist – these moves generally require engineering projects, police escorts, expensive permits and highly skilled drivers


What information is needed when booking an Flatbed/Specialized Truckload shipment?

  • Origin (Shipper) City, State and Zip Code
  • Destination (Consignee) City, State and Zip Code
  • Shipping Date and Time – When is the specific time or “window” that the shipment is to be picked up by the carrier?
    • Note – Flatbed / Specialized Truckload shipments generally need 3 day notice to be picked up – some lanes are more difficult to “cover” than others – availability of trucks (aka capacity) decreases and cost can increase as the time moves closer to the shipment date
    • Note – Specific appointment times are almost always required when working with flatbed / specialized shipments – often times outsourced “riggers” with cranes are hired to be at a shipper on a certain day at a certain time to load the truck(s) – if the truck is late, or even worse does not show, the costs to the customer to still pay the rigger and then come back another day can be devastating
  • Delivery Date and Time – When is the specific time or “window” that the shipment is to be delivered by the carrier?
    • Note – Specific appointment times are almost always required when dealing with flatbed / specialized shipments – again, riggers may be involved so on time arrival is of critical importance
    • Note - It is assumed that a single driver can drive 500 miles per day, so a 1,500 mile run will be considered to take 3 days – weekend days DO count as transit days for flatbed/specialized carriers – oversized loads, to be discussed later, can also slow transit
    • Note – It is extremely rare to find a flatbed/specialized carrier with team service, so faster transit than the single driver is rarely available – transit time would also be significantly slower for the Multi-Axle Heavy Haul trailers
  • Number and Types of Pieces Shipping – How many pallets, bundles, cartons or pieces are shipping? Even though the shipper is purchasing the entire use of the trailer, the trucking companies will often ask these questions
  • Dimensions of the Shipment – The dimensions are of critical importance when working with flatbed/specialized trailers – not only do they determine what type of trailer is needed, they are also needed to determine if permits for over-dimensional freight are required
  • Commodity of Shipment – What product(s) does the shipment consist of? The flatbed/specialized carriers will only be concerned with the commodity – they are not concerned with the National Motor Freight Classification of the commodity
  • Purchase Order and / or Other Reference Number – what is the customer’s Purchase Order Number? What paperwork do they need it listed on? Is there any other reference number that the customer would like included on their paperwork?
  • Tarps – Since flatbeds are open to the air, the driver is required to chain the product(s) to the deck of the flatbed or specialized trailer – some customers also require their products to be tarped – carriers will carry either 4’, 6’ or 8’ tarps – some customers will require a certain length – if so, this information needs to be reported to carrier’s dispatch at time of tender – there is generally an additional charge for the use of the tarps and the driver’s labor to tarp the freight
  • Permits – As previously mentioned, ALL truckload carriers are restricted to physical limitations in regards to overall truck size – in review, the maximum length for a trailer is 53’ – the maximum width is 102”, the maximum height off the ground is 13’6” and the maximum loaded weight is 80,000 pounds – when any dimension of a product exceeds ANY of these maximum dimensions, a permit is required for EVERY state that the truck will pass through – permits may be granted for overlength, over-width, over-height and overweight
    • Note – Permitted loads may have restrictions on when they may travel, such as during daylight hours only or only on weekends – it is of vital importance to obtain this information from the carrier and to pass the information onto the customer so that they are kept informed instead of being surprised by an unexpected delay – it is ALWAYS better to be proactive with customers
  • Special Requirements – Are any special requirements needed, especially for larger permitted loads, such as police escorts, raising or lowering of power lines, etc.?
    • Special Note – Do not set-up ANY shipment requiring a special requirement on a flatbed/specialized without consulting Logistics Services – We further request that you have us review anything above a standard flatbed to ensure that the correct trailer is selected and ordered
  • Value of Shipment – Is the product high value? Is additional cargo insurance required? Additional cargo insurance can generally be purchased at a quoted rate by the carrier – some flatbed/specialized carriers will carry only $100,000 or $250,000 of standard cargo insurance, but some offer substantially higher standard coverage – Example: If a customer’s new machine is worth $700,000 and the carrier only carries $250,000 of cargo insurance, an additional $450,000 of insurance may be quoted from the trucking company and provided as an option to the customer – there are customers that have the product “self-insured”, which leaves the need for additional cargo liability insurance unnecessary
  • Partial Flatbeds – If a load is smaller and would not fill a flatbed or specialized trailer, there are companies that offer partial flatbed service – this service may increase the amount of days necessary for transit time, as the carrier will have to match other partial loads to combine with our partial


For more information on the transportation industry, check out our

printable guide that includes this Flatbed section!

Transportation 101 


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