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Know Your Open Deck Trailers: Use the Right Tool for the Job

There I was, staring blankly at my dad to the age old question of, “Son, what the hell are you doing?” Using the side of a crescent wrench as a hammer seemed like a good idea to me.

My old man didn’t quite agree. He thought I should use a hammer. Who knew? This story doesn’t have to do with freight, but it does have to do with using the right tool for the job, and that’s what I’d like to impart on you today, dear reader.


The Mysteries of Freight Class

Let’s talk about flatbed, open deck trailers. They’re key in our arsenal of freight-moving equipment because they allow us to do things we can’t with enclosed dry vans. With open deck trailers we can haul heavier, taller freight, and be more nimble in how the freight is loaded and unloaded.

Here the three major types of open deck trailers:

Straight Flatbeds

The most common type of open deck trailer is a 48’ flatbed. They can be side loaded with forklifts or loaded from above with a crane. This is useful for jobsites, rural deliveries, or anytime there won’t be a dock where the freight is loaded or unloaded. Flatbeds can also legally scale heavier loads than dry vans (48,000 lbs vs 45,000 lbs). A legal flatbed load is anything less than 576” L x 102” W x 102” H. 

Step Decks

Have something taller than 102” but shorter than 120” that you need shipped, and don’t want to deal with the hassles of getting permits? A step deck is the answer. A standard step deck has an 11’ long upper deck that can handle items 102” tall, just like a straight flatbed but, has a 37’ long lower deck that can legally accommodate freight up to 120” high. Width of 102” is still the same.

Removal Goosenecks (RGN)

You won a raffle at the last tractor pull and now, suddenly, have to get a brand new John Deere back home. How are you going to do it? You can’t drive it at 20 mph all the way back, right? A removable gooseneck (RGN) is the way to go. An RGN allows the front of the trailer to disconnect and lay down, creating a ramp that you can drive tractors, excavators, etc. onto.

For moving equipment, they can’t be beat. It is possible to load equipment like this onto either a straight flatbed or a step deck but remember, use the right tool for the job.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Backhaul Shipping

So, you’ve decided on which type of open deck trailer is right for you and your freight. Then it dawns on you that that it’s an OPEN deck trailer and you don’t want the paint on your factory fresh John Deere to get dinged up by rock chips, road debris, etc. What are you going to do? Tarp it!

Open deck trailers are able to be tarped with 4’, 6’, or 8’ tarps which will keep your freight clean and dry. It might cost you an extra couple of hundred bucks to have it tarped but it’s well worth it. Other open deck trailer accessories exist as well, such as pipe stakes, dunnage, straps, and chains. These are items used to keep your freight safe and sound on it’s journey.

Next time you find yourself asking, “Should I put this tractor on a flatbed or a step deck?” Let us know! We’re FreightPros for a reason and  we would love to help you figure out which tool is the right one for your job. Just don’t use a crescent wrench as a hammer…

For more info on truckload shipping, check out our Equipment Guide available for FREE download, along with the rest of our Freight Paper collection.


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