A flatbed refers to a truck or tractor trailer that has a flat open bed capable of hauling and transporting heavy freight and shipments. Flatbed trucking is typically used when supplies or equipment being shipped are too big for conventional trucks, or when open sides are needed to make loading and unloading easy.
Because it is not enclosed (no roof and no sides) like conventional trucks, there’s no limit to what a flatbed can transport. Whether it’s for short distances or longer distances, a flatbed truck can be used to ship freights of all shapes, sizes and weight. What’s important is that proper safety measures are strictly enforced to ensure that whatever materials are put on the trailer, remain tightly secured on the trailer.
Materials that can be hauled by a Flatbed
Flatbed trucks are best for moving construction vehicles like backhoes, cranes and tractors; farm equipment; mining equipment; heavy materials for bridges and buildings like lumber, metals and pipes; large containers; shipping containers; prefabricated houses; helicopters; aircraft parts, military machinery like tanks.
Types of Flatbeds
Some flatbeds are detachable while others are permanently mounted on the truck frame. Detachable flatbeds come in 2 varieties — standard and lowboy. For a standard flatbed, the bed is located on above or on top of the wheels. For the lowboy style, the bed is located closer to the ground.
Depending on what you are shipping, one flatbed might not be enough. Sometimes, you might need a combination of different flatbed trucks. Here are the types of flatbed trucks available:
Standard/Traditional Flatbed – can be used for the most common types of cargo with a maximum weight of 48,000 pounds, maximum length of 53 feet, maximum width and height of 8 feet 6 inches.
Drop Deck or Step Deck – has a bottom and a top deck which makes it ideal for hauling construction vehicles and other cargo that can’t be accommodated by the traditional flatbed due to height restrictions.
Lowboy – its lower bed makes it ideal for transporting taller cargo with a maximum weight of 40,000 pounds.
Extendable or Stretch Truck – best for extremely long cargo with a maximum weight of 43,000 pounds, maximum length of 80 feet, maximum width and height of 8 feet 6 inches.
Stretch Double Drop – the preferred option when your cargo requires an oversized flatbed. It has the capacity to load cargo as high as 10 feet on its bottom deck. It also has a long piece of trailer (called a “well”) ranging from 25 – 29 feet at the middle section and the back deck.
Responsibilities of a Flatbed Driver
To ensure that your cargo reaches its destination safely, your flatbed truck driver should strictly do the following:
Before transport —Secure your cargo with strong nylon straps, steel chains, or high-strength rubber bungee straps, making sure it is stable and tied down properly. Cover cargo as needed with vinyl or steel tarps.
During transport —Make regular stops to check and double-check that the cargo remains stable, securely tied and properly covered. This is a critical part of the flatbed trucking process because many accidents happen as a result of cargo that slips sideways, to the front, or to the rear, eventually falling off the truck and directly on the highway. Aside from falling cargo, there’s also the possibility that the truck might overturn or collide with another vehicle because of the shift in balance. Because it’s a big truck with heavy cargo, an accident of this kind usually causes serious damage to all the vehicles involved.
Upon reaching the destination —Coordinate with other operators for assistance with unloading.
Considerations when choosing a Flatbed Trucking Company
The following factors should be considered before choosing the flatbed trucking company that will serve your needs best:
Freight size: Before anything else, you need to know the weight and dimensions of your cargo because this will be the primary basis of the type of flatbed truck you will need.
Trucking company reputation: Make sure the company is a legitimate trucking service provider with the documents to prove they are licensed to operate. Also check their security statistics through the Federal Transportation Department. If the company has been involved in several accidents, you will be better off finding another trucking company.
Insurance: To protect your cargo from any unexpected event, make sure the trucking company is offering special insurance coverage.
Full or partial loads: Especially if you do not need a full truck service, you’ll be able to save on cost if the company you choose offers partial load options.
Terms and cost: With several trucking companies to choose from, take the time to canvass what each one is offering and at what specific cost. While cost should not necessarily be the determining factor, it can still play a part in helping you decide which option will be best for you.