Refrigerator trucks and dry vans can carry a wide variety of cargo and are therefore the two of the most common haulers. Although these types of trucks are useful for many loads, they are not able to carry large and/or heavy cargo. Flatbed trucks are needed for jobs that involve large and/or heavy cargo. There is a lot of demand for flatbed truck drivers because flatbed trucks are important to many companies and industries. Read on to learn everything you need to know about flatbed trucking – what it is, the benefits and challenges of the job, and how to become a flatbed trucking driver.
What is flatbed trucking?
Like the name suggests, flatbed trucks are flat haulers. Cargo travels on top of a wooden platform that is supported by a sturdy aluminum frame. The flatbeds are open to the air – there are no walls, there is no roof, and there are no doors.
Flatbed truck trailers measure 48-53 feet long, 8 feet 6 inches wide, with a 5 feet tall deck. Some flatbed trucks have drop decks to accommodate cargo that exceeds maximum heights. These types of haulers are called Step Deck trucks. Flatbed trucks can transport cargo that weighs up to 48,000 pounds.
Flatbed trucks are versatile and useful for many different logistics operations. In some areas of the country, multiple trailers can be chained together to transport large loads.
Flatbed trucks commonly haul cargo such as long pipes, highway barriers, lumber, steel coils, mobile homes, baled tires, machines, shipping containers, and more. Flatbed trucks make deliveries to destinations such as factories, farms, warehouses, construction sites, and more.
How does flatbed trucking work?
Although flatbed trucking is versatile, there are some key principles involved in the operation of these rigs.
Loading the Cargo
Cranes and forklifts are commonly used to load the heavy and large cargo onto flatbed trailers. It is critical that the weight of the cargo is balanced properly on the axles, and it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that safety standards are met. An unbalanced load can potentially lead to handling problems, injuries, and accidents.
Securing the Cargo
The United States Department of Transportation has established strict rules for securing cargo. It is the driver’s responsibility to keep the load steady and secure. Depending on the nature of the load, steel chains or webbed nylon straps can be used to keep the cargo in place.
Covering the Cargo
Flatbed trailers do not have sides, walls, or a roof. This means cargo is exposed to the elements unless it is covered by a tarp. Tarping protects cargo during transport, and in order to be effective, the tarp must be attached correctly. Tarps for cargo flatbed trailers are large and heavy. A forklift is required to maneuver the tarp over the load, and the sides and corners must be properly secured.
Maneuvering the Truck
Flatbed trailers are large, and grow substantially with oversized cargo. Flatbed trucks can be tricky to drive, and specific skills are needed. Flatbed truck drivers must be able to maneuver an extra long or extra wide trailer, navigate safely in inclement weather, and correctly make sharp turns without shifting or unbalancing the load.
Pros and Cons of Flatbed Trucking
- The pay for driving a flatbed truck is higher than the pay for driving a dry van or refrigerator truck. The average national flatbed truck rate is $3.07 per mile, in comparison to the average national dry van and refrigerator truck rate which is $2.27 per mile. This translates to $15,000 more per year for flatbed trucking than driving other types of rigs.
- The demand for flatbed trucking is high, and many industries rely upon this type of transportation. This demand can translate to long-term job security.
- Flatbed trucking involves less waiting time than other shipping methods. On flatbed trucking routes, there is usually only one delivery destination, and flatbed trucks are not required to back up to docks.
- Flatbed trucks require less maintenance than other types of trucks. The open deck makes cleaning simple.
- Flatbed truck driving requires specialized driving and hauling skills to meet strict safety standards.
- Maneuvering and securing loads can be physically demanding and potentially dangerous.
How to be a Flatbed Trucking Driver
The easiest and most straightforward way to become a flatbed trucking driver and instantly acquire jobs is to work with a trusted logistics company.
First Star Logistics is a unique, asset-based global logistics provider with more than 60 years of experience.
First Star Logistics is always searching for experienced drivers across the entire nation. If you are interested in hauling for First Star, submit an online driver application today!