Choosing the Right Open Deck Trailer: Flatbeds, Stepdecks, RGNs, and More

Choosing the Right Open Deck Trailer: A Comprehensive Look at Flatbeds, Step Decks, RGNs, and More

Welcome to the world of open deck shipping, where the choice of the right trailer becomes a pivotal decision for shippers. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of an open deck trailer, focusing on common types like flatbeds, stepdecks, RGNs, and more. Think of it as your comprehensive manual for navigating the nuances of open deck transportation.

Open deck trailers, known for their exposed loading areas, play an important role in the logistics industry. They’re specially designed to handle oversized, heavy, or uniquely shaped items. Unlike enclosed trailers (like a dry van or reefer trailer), open decks offer versatility, making them a preferred choice for those seeking flexibility in transporting freight.

So, why is choosing the right open deck trailer so important? It can be the difference between a seamless shipping process and potential challenges along the way. The type of trailer you choose significantly impacts the safety, stability, and overall success of your freight transport. Let’s dive into the details and equip you with the knowledge to make well-informed decisions for your specific shipments.

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When Should You Choose Open Deck Shipping for Your Freight?

Selecting the optimal shipping method is more than a decision—it’s a strategic move that can profoundly influence your freight’s journey. Open deck shipping, with its many advantages, proves invaluable in specific scenarios:

#1. Versatility in Freight Handling:

  • Scenario: Dealing with heavy machinery, oversized equipment, or items with irregular shapes.
  • Why Open Deck? The design of these trailers not only allows for easy accommodation of unconventional freight but also proves beneficial for those without a loading dock, dealing with longer-than-normal products, or shipping items that require top-loading with cranes. No need to conform to the constraints of enclosed trailers; open deck options provide the flexibility your unique shipment demands.

#2. Efficient Seasonal Planning:

  • Scenario: Your freight experiences demand fluctuations based on seasons.
  • Why Open Deck? Open deck trailers, especially flatbeds, excel in adapting to seasonal variations. Whether it’s the uptick in construction materials during spring or the demand for road salt in winter, open deck transportation aligns with the ebb and flow of seasonal needs.

#3. Industry-Specific Demands:

  • Scenario: Your freight is part of an industry with specific shipping patterns.
  • Why Open Deck? Different industries have unique demands, and open deck trailers can cater to those needs. For instance, the construction industry demands increased flatbed capacity during peak construction periods, while the agriculture industry frequently transports large farming machinery like tractors or plows. Open deck equipment options enable you to customize your shipping strategy according to the specific demands of your industry.

As you navigate the intricacies of your open deck freight, consider the diverse scenarios where its versatility shines. Whether adapting to seasonal demands or aligning with industry-specific needs, an open deck trailer offers a solution that complements the distinctive requirements of your shipment.

Exploring Open Deck Trailer Types

Now, equipped with the fundamentals of how to ship open deck, let’s take a closer look at each open deck trailer type. From the reliable flatbeds to the robust RGNs, every trailer has its own set of strengths, and understanding them helps you make more informed decisions for your shipments.

Flatbed Trailer:

  1. Overview: A flatbed trailer features a flat, open platform without sides or a roof. Because of its open design, loading and unloading are relatively straightforward, making them an efficient choice for shippers. For that reason, their simplicity and versatility make them well suited for transporting freight with diverse shapes, sizes, and weights.
  2. Common Sizes: Ranges from 24 to 53 feet, with the 48-foot trailer being the most prevalent. Positioned 5 feet off the ground, flatbed loads can be transported with a max capacity of 48,000 pounds.
  3. Common Uses: From transporting construction materials like steel beams and lumber to carrying heavy machinery such as tractors and industrial equipment, flatbed trailers prove indispensable in the logistics toolkit.

Stepdeck Trailer:

  1. Overview: A stepdeck trailer, also known as a drop deck, stands out with a two-level design, offering additional vertical space for taller items or machinery. This innovative structure accommodates shipments that may face height constraints on traditional flatbeds.
  2. Common Sizes: The most common stepdeck trailer size is 53 feet, with the upper deck measuring 10 feet and the lower deck extending 43 feet. They can typically haul loads up to 10 feet in height before being considered oversized. Positioned 3 feet, 6 inches off the ground, they can haul capacity up to 46,500 pounds.
  3. Common Uses: In scenarios where the height of the shipment is crucial, stepdecks excel. They become the top choice for transporting items like large generators, construction machinery, and equipment with varying heights.

RGN (Removable Gooseneck) Trailer:

  1. Overview: An RGN trailer features a detachable front section known as the gooseneck, to enhance the loading and unloading process of heavy machinery. This design innovation contributes to operational efficiency and allows for easy maneuvering, especially for oversized loads.
  2. Common Sizes: A removable gooseneck trailer, with a rear deck length around 10 feet and a main deck length reaching up to 29 feet, typically has a max capacity of 35,000 pounds.
  3. Common Uses: Tailored for heavy hauling, RGNs play a pivotal role in transporting large construction equipment, including bulldozers, cranes, and oversized loads that demand stability and ease of maneuvering.

Double Drop/Low Boy Trailer:

  1. Overview: Distinguished by a lower deck positioned between the front and rear axles, a double drop trailer is tailor-made for exceptionally tall shipments. This strategic design ensures stability, especially when tasked with transporting oversized and weighty loads.
  2. Common Sizes: A standard low boy trailer is 2 feet above the ground, accommodating items with a max height of 11 feet, 6 inches and a max weight up to 35,000 pounds.
  3. Common Uses: Their unique configuration makes double drop trailers the perfect choice for hauling towering equipment such as large construction machinery, transformers, and other substantial items that may exceed standard height limits.

Conestoga Trailer:

  1. Overview: A conestoga trailer features a distinctive rolling tarp system that eliminates the manual hassle of covering and uncovering items. This open deck trailer type not only shields shipments from the elements, but also offers quick and easy access to goods, streamlining the loading and unloading process.
  2. Common Sizes: Available in 48 or 53 feet, conestoga trailers can transport items with a maximum height of 8 feet and capacity ranging between 42,000-45,000 pounds.
  3. Common Uses: A conestoga trailer is made for sensitive or weather-vulnerable shipments. They are the preferred choice for transporting machinery with unique shapes or configurations, like wind turbine components, large boilers, specialized agriculture equipment, and aerospace parts.

Hot Shot Trailer:

  1. Overview: A hot shot trailer, hitched to a heavy-duty pickup truck, is crafted for swift and efficient transportation. Their compact size and agility allow for quick response times, making them an ideal choice for expedited shipping.
  2. Common Sizes: Typically ranging from 30 to 40 feet in length, a hot shot trailer can haul items up to 10 feet tall, hauling no more than 16,500 pounds.
  3. Common Uses: Suited for time-sensitive or urgent shipments, hot shot trailers are the ideal option for transporting small loads, like express parcels, perishable goods, or critical machinery parts.

Challenges Shipping Open Deck Freight

Challenge 1: Weather Exposure

Items transported on an open deck trailer are exposed to the elements, including rain, snow, wind, and sunlight. As a result, this exposure can lead to potential damage, especially those sensitive to weather conditions.

Challenge 2: Freight Securing

Properly securing and fastening your open deck freight is crucial to prevent shifting or falling during transit. Inadequate securing can lead to damage, safety hazards, and delays.

Challenge 3: Load Size and Shape

Open deck trailers are suitable for large, heavy, or irregularly shaped freight, but loading and unloading such items can be challenging. The shape and size of your shipment must comply with transportation regulations, and finding appropriate equipment for loading and unloading can be difficult.

Challenge 4: Regulatory Compliance

Open deck shipping is subject to various regulations and safety standards. Ensuring compliance with weight limits, securing requirements, and transportation laws can be complex, and failure to adhere to these regulations can result in fines, delays, or even legal consequences.

Challenge 5: Limited Protection

Unlike enclosed shipping methods, open deck equipment offer limited protection against theft and vandalism. High-value or sensitive freight may require additional security measures, and the lack of enclosure exposes the shipment to a higher risk of theft.

Overcoming these challenges requires careful planning, adherence to regulations, and the use of appropriate equipment and techniques to ensure the safe and efficient transportation of your shipment.

Tailoring Open Deck Trailer Solutions for Shippers

Within this landscape, tailoring solutions for your business is essential. It means not just reacting to challenges but proactively implementing measures and forming strategic partnerships to optimize your entire shipping process.

Pre-Inspection Protocols

Implementing thorough pre-inspection protocols is important for shippers looking to safeguard their goods during transit. This involves a systematic approach to assessing and addressing potential issues before the journey begins, including:

  • Visual Inspection: Conduct a visual examination of your items to identify any visible damages or irregularities.
  • Documentation Review: Ensure all necessary documents, such as permits and certifications, are in order.
  • Secure Packaging: Confirm your goods are appropriately packaged and secured for open deck transportation.

Customized Loading Instructions

Providing carriers with precise loading instructions tailored to your shipment is instrumental in minimizing risks and optimizing efficiency. This should include:

  • Weight Distribution: Specify optimal weight distribution to ensure trailer stability.
  • Securing Methods: Recommend appropriate methods for securing items, considering their size and shape.
  • Loading Sequence: Advise on the order of loading to maximize space utilization and balance the load.

Technology Integration for Visibility

Shippers can enhance their supply chain visibility by integrating technology for real-time monitoring and tracking. This involves:

  • GPS Tracking: Utilize technology to track the location of your items throughout the journey.
  • Telematics Systems: Implement systems for monitoring factors like temperature, humidity, and shock during transit.
  • Communication Platforms: Leverage communication platforms to stay connected with carriers and receive timely updates on the status of your shipment.

Working with a 3PL

Embarking on open deck shipping with a trusted third-party logistics (3PL) provider is like having a seasoned ally by your side. Here’s how shippers can extract tailored value from this partnership:

  • Expertise Beyond Measure: Place your shipments in the hands of professionals specializing in the nuances of open deck transportation. Benefit from their wealth of knowledge to navigate complexities seamlessly.
  • Network Powerhouse: Gain access to an expansive network of carriers, each with a proven track record in handling diverse shipments. Your items find their way through reliable hands, ensuring a journey marked by expertise.
  • Reliable Capacity: A 3PL can ensure you have access to dependable capacity, precisely tailored to meet your unique shipping requirements, especially during peak seasons.
  • Regulatory Assurance: When it comes to your shipments, entrust them to a 3PL armed with in-depth knowledge — not just of transportation regulations, but also the intricate landscape of over-dimensional permits. Navigating the permits required by each state during transit can be confusing and frustrating for shippers. That’s where we come in; your guide through the maze, ensuring compliance effortlessly and allowing you to keep your focus on your core business.
  • Streamlined Efficiency: Experience a shipping process that flows effortlessly. The 3PL’s adept coordination and allocation of resources translates to a journey marked by precision and speed.

Navigating Your Open Deck Shipping Journey

In sum, choosing the right open deck trailer and planning ahead are crucial in open deck shipping. Whether it’s a flatbed, stepdeck, RGN, conestoga, or hot shot, your decision impacts how well your freight gets to its destination.

We’ve talked about the challenges, like dealing with weather and regulations. But being proactive with technology, inspections, and specific loading instructions can help tackle these issues.

Also, teaming up with a 3PL provider isn’t just getting a service. They’re like your partner, bringing their know-how and efficiency to make sure your goods not only reach their destination, but do so without breaking the bank.

In open deck shipping, success isn’t just about delivering—it’s about making smart choices. So, as you navigate this complex journey, make sure you have the right support. At BlueGrace, we’re here to be your go-to resource. Whether it’s understanding your freight’s equipment needs or helping you navigate the necessary permits, we’d love to help. Talk to a BlueGrace open deck specialist today!

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