There are many different types of trailers. If you’ve been on a state route, highway, or freeway, you’ve most likely seen a semi-truck carrying cargo to either a package distribution center or a grocery store. You may have even seen trucks carrying equipment to construction sites whether it’s some new pipes or an excavator.
No matter where you go, on a road trip, the store, or a gas station, you’re going to see a trailer. It seems like they are everywhere, and it’s because they are! Trailers, next to the truckers carrying them, are pinnacles of all logistics and get us what we need on a daily basis and there are many types in trailers.
20 Different Types of Trailers
Depending on what’s being transported, there’s going to be a different trailer for each. For example, food and packages will be commonly found in enclosed trailers while gas is in a tanker truck. Different cargo requires a different trailer, so let’s take a look at them all.
1. Standard Flatbed Trailers
Standard Flatbeds are very common and the least expensive of flatbed trailers. Typically standard flatbeds are used to transport goods that don’t need an official closure and make it easy to load those goods from the side with a forklift or from above using a crane. You’ll find some carrying piping, rebar, lumber, or other large and long items used in construction.
A standard flatbed can carry cargo up to 48,000lbs and as long as 48 to 53 feet depending on the trailer’s length. The trailer’s bed is usually 8.5 feet wide and stores up to 8.5 feet as well. Cargo is usually and liberally covered with a specific tarp to protect it from the elements and is strapped down with chains and or ratchet straps.
Explore Flatbed Trailer Inventory: Flatbed Trucking Cargo Control Products
2. Step Deck Trailers
Step Decks are similar to standard flatbeds but ride lower to the ground in the back and maintain its original height in the front. This design gives it that signature “step” look and makes it ideal to carry taller freight on the road without exceeding legal limits or needing extra permits.
The maximum cargo load is still 48,000lbs and maintains its 43 to 53 feet overall length, but the step separates cargo and maximum length on each step with the lower deck being 37 to 41 feet long and the upper deck being 11 feet long. The max height of cargo also changes depending on the deck with the upper deck being 8.5 feet and the lower deck being 11 feet. Max width stays the same for each deck.
3. Lowboy Trailers
Sometimes referred to as a double drop, rides even lower to the ground than other flatbed trailers. Usually Lowboy’s carry heavy and oversized equipment like bulldozers and excavation equipment. The lowboy trailer has a single hauling section referred to as the well that accommodates the taller freight.
Because of the height, the trailer is usually loaded using a crane from the top or from the side and back. It can support an overall weight of 45,000lbs, a max length of 28 feet, and a max height of 12 feet.
4. Enclosed Trailers (Dry Van)
The most common trailer you’ll see out on the road. An enclosed trailer sometimes referred to as a Dry Van, is used to transport an assortment of goods in an enclosed space at the expense of cargo size and load points. Dry vans are ideal for transporting items on pallets such as packages, groceries, and items you don’t want to get wet.
Dry vans get their name for their specialty which is to keep the contents inside completely dry. They usually run 53ft in length and can carry a maximum weight of 45,000lbs. A dock is required for loading and unloading and a forklift for heavier items.
5. Removable Gooseneck Trailers (RGN Trailer)
Commonly shortened to RGN, they are ideal for carrying long and tall freights. Its dimensions vary since they can come in a variety of sizes. The gooseneck secures the trailer to the cab or tractor and the front can be removed and create a ramp. It has similar properties to the lowboy, the downside is that they require more permits to use and generate a more expensive usage.
6. Stretch Removable Gooseneck Trailers
The Stretch RGN shares very close similarities to the standard RGN with the added ability to extend the trailer’s length up to 20 axles. Doing this helps increase the capacity for heavier and longer freight. At base, the RGN can hold up to 44,000lbs worth of cargo but with the 20 axles added, the RGN can support up to 150,000 pounds. Ideal for moving oversized equipment, construction pieces, and even small homes.
7. Refrigerated Trailers (Reefers)
Very similar to Dry Vans, Refrigerated Trailers usually go hand in hand. Also known as Reefers, they have a refrigeration unit that is configurable to sustain whatever is being stored in it. Usually, reefers carry cold items like frozen foods, flowers, and on some occasions, paintings. If the load requires blocking or bracing, moving the freight is not an option. The maximum weight the reefer can haul is 43,000lbs but most carriers stick to 40,000lbs.
8. Extendable Flatbed Trailers
Extendable Flatbed trailers are very similar to standard flatbed trailers except this trailer extends up to 80 for freight that is excessively long like steel beams.
9. Hotshot Trailers
Hotshot is a trucking term for truckers hauling smaller and more time-sensitive loads. Unlike heavy-sized loads that are pulled by semi-trucks, hotshot loads are typically pulled by medium-duty trucks, like pickup trucks. These trucks are put into classifications and the classes you’ll usually see pulling hotshot loads are classes 3-5. The horsepower and durability of each truck increase as you move up in the classes.
The trailers they use to pull these loads vary but the most common among hotshot truckers are removable gooseneck trailers for they can be attached at the ball of the truck or on the fifth wheel which is a hitch companion that can be installed in the bed of the truck. Load sizes and weight depend on the truck pulling them, though usually don’t exceed 10,000lbs.
10. Conestoga Trailers
Conestoga trailers are special flatbed trailers with an attached sliding tarp enclosure that protects the freight when it’s in transit. Conestogas can be found on flatbed and step deck trailers but can be found on some RGN’s. It’s usually used to transport items you’d find on flatbeds like steel, wiring, or weather-sensitive equipment, without having to worry about friction damage from the tarp. Equipment can be stored and secured without the need of tarping.
11. Tanker Trailers
Tankers have one specialty in mind, which is to transport an excessive amount of liquid all at once such as fuel, milk, and sand. The largest weight a tanker can carry is over 33,000lbs and receive different classifications based on weight with the largest being class 8 and the lowest being class 1.
Tanker trailers have a signature cylindrical shape for stability in transit, low center of gravity for more volatile liquids, help prevent liquid surge and make it easier to extract and clean. Because of the contents in most tankers, more permits are required to haul them and may require extra classes and licenses.
12. Extendable Double Drop Trailers
Similar to lowboys, these trailers have three different decks all of the different heights. The first and highest deck is located in the front of the trailer at the common height of most standard trailers. The second rides two to three feet lower than the first, while the third can be ramped up to and is slightly higher than the second.
The second section is able to be extended from 29’ to roughly 50’ and can haul cargo up to 80,000lbs. These trailers are used for hauling equipment that can be loaded on such as cranes and large farming equipment.
13. Double Deck Trailers
As the name implies, Double Deck trailers utilize a second floor within the trailer to provide two levels of freight to be securely hauled in one trailer. Trailers like these can come in many forms. The one that is most commonly used is the car variation that allows you to haul six cars at once. Another variation is an enclosed type where shorter loads that can’t be stacked on each other technically can have the additional floor in them.
One of the major advantages of these types of trailers is the additional cargo space allowing you to carry more if they fit while sacrificing height. These trailers run lower to the ground however to accommodate for some loss in height.
14. Stretch Single Drop Deck Trailers
These trailers are designed to carry and haul loads that exceed the length restrictions for standard step deck trailers. The stretch portion provides support to prevent overhang of freight. The lower main deck can support loads that exceed standard flatbed limits going from 35’ to 63’. These trailers run a width of 8.5’ and a legal freight height of 10’ while being able to store up to 43,000lbs of cargo.
15. Dump Trailers
These trailers are common at construction or landscaping sites. It gets its name by how it off-loads its contents. A dump trailer is used to move aggregate such as soil, or gravel from one place to another, and dumps its contents using a lifting mechanism in the front of the trailer. They are not to be confused with dump trucks that are larger and more expensive. Dump trailers come in a variety of sizes and styles that apply to the job being done. The heavier the material it’s made out of, the less it can carry. The largest amount a dump trailer could carry is up to 30,000lbs, but the average is around 12,400lbs.
16. Live Bottom Trailers
These trailers are used for hauling loose materials like grains, potatoes, sand, gravel, and asphalt. Applications vary but they are commonly used in place of dump trailers. This trailer has a conveyor belt on the bottom of the tub that pushes material out at a controlled speed to cut down on waste of material, and without the need for a lifting mechanism, allows workers and drivers to work in confined spaces like tunnels or under bridges. Live bottom trailers run 35’ in length and can store up to 18,000lbs of cargo.
17. Car Carrier Trailers
Car Haulers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The most common type you’ll see are the larger ones that carry six cars at a time to and from car dealerships being pulled by a semi. The smaller, more inexpensive kinds are able to carry one full sized sedan and be pulled by a medium duty truck. Because of the sizes and variety differences, and the speciality of being able to only carry cars, the max weight tends to differ. A smaller car hauler can carry up to 7000lbs while the double deck car haulers can carry up to 48,000lbs.
18. Hazmat Trailers
Hazmat, short for Hazardous Material, is a trailer that stores equipment for the handling of hazardous materials at a job site. It’s outfitted with communication equipment and has seating for up to 6 six people. These trailers are smaller than standard dry vans and feature a door on the outside wall for people to walk in and out of without having to open the rear door. Some hazmat trailers can be bigger to accommodate the amount of equipment for specific jobs.
19. Side Kit Trailers
Side Kit Trailers are common in construction and agriculture. The trailer has a cut-off roof and is replaced with a rounded tarp covering. These trailers usually carry loose, earthy, loads like mulch, rock, dirt, and seeds. The open roof makes it easy to dump large amounts of contents in it at once. The rounded tarp covering makes the process of loading and unloading simpler while also providing protection from the weather. Side kit trailers run a usual length between 48’ to 53’, an average width of 8.5’ and a maximum weight of 42,000lbs to 45,000lbs.
20. Specialty Trailers
Trailers may often need to be specialized to accommodate the company or person using it. For example, Hazmat trailers can be used for different needs. A fire department may need to use a hazmat trailer for fire extinguishers or chemicals and powders for oil fires. A local or regional health department may need to get to a large group of people at once for close treatment and could refit a hazmat trailer into a mobile clinic. Essentially, any trailer could be used for something.
There are so many different types of trailers and a lot of them are interchangeable, though several of them have their specific needs they are required for. A lot of these trailers require straps, tarps, and chains that you can find on our website to purchase. Now the next time you’re on the road or online looking for trailers, you now have a basic understanding of them all.