Common Trailer Types Used in The Trucking Industry in 2024

Common Trailer Types Used in The Trucking Industry in 2024

If you want to start a trucking career, then choosing a suitable semi-trailer is essential. Each type of semi-trailer has a different purpose, and choosing the right trailer to transport your goods will be twice as effective. In this article, we will detail the common types of semi-trailers used in the trucking industry for better selection.

Dry Van Trailer

This is one of the most widely used types of trailers, which is characterized by an enclosed space to secure the transportation of goods. The dry van trailer will be the preferred option when the goods being transported involve pallets, boxes, or bulk. Its standard size is 53 feet and its maximum weight range is usually between 42,000-45,000 pounds. For more information on why 53 feet is the standard, please read this article: 

Common items in our lives such as clothing, toilet paper, and non-perishable food items are transported using dry van trailer. Well-known companies around the world, such as Walmart, Target, Procter & Gamble, etc., utilize dry van trailers to transport their goods.

Standard Flatbed Trailer

Standard flatbed trailers are a common type of trailer, available in various sizes ranging from 24 to 53 feet, with the 48-foot variant being the most prevalent. These trailers are prized for their versatility, owing to their open-air design, which facilitates convenient loading and unloading with forklifts or cranes. They are frequently utilized for transporting steel, construction equipment, lumber, and other irregular cargo. However, their open-air configuration does come with limitations; they typically have height restrictions of around 8.5 feet, as the overall height cannot surpass the legal maximum.

Most countries stipulate that the loaded height of a semi-trailer must not exceed 4 M to 4.5 M. For further details on legally permitted semi-trailer dimensions, you can refer to the article:

Since standard flatbed trailers lack containers to contain cargo, after obtaining the necessary permits and following the correct route, they can transport oversized cargo. Additionally, all cargo on standard flatbed trailers needs to be properly secured using chains, straps, waterproof tarps, and other appropriate methods. Moreover, to shield the cargo from weather conditions, most flatbed drivers use waterproof tarps to cover the cargo, providing it with extra protection.

flatbed trailer with cargo

Lowboy Trailer / Step-Deck Trailer

Both of these trailers are variants of flatbed trailers, differing primarily in deck height. The standard flatbed trailer typically has a deck height of 5 feet, while the step-deck trailer’s height is usually around 3.6 feet, and the lowboy trailer’s height typically ranges from 18 inches to 24 inches.

The lower the height of the semi-trailer, the taller the cargo it can transport within the legal height limits. The standard flatbed trailer can typically accommodate cargo heights of around 8.5 feet, while the step-deck trailer can handle cargo heights of around 10 feet, and the lowboy trailer can manage cargo heights of around 12 feet. Therefore, the choice of trailer type can be based on the height of the cargo being transported.


Additionally, they differ in deck length. Typically, the upper deck length of a step-deck trailer is around 10 feet, with a lower deck length of around 43 feet, and a maximum payload capacity of approximately 46,000 pounds. The lowboy trailer has a shorter deck length, with a well space typically around 29 feet, and a maximum cargo weight limit of 38,000 pounds. It is often used for transporting industrial or agricultural equipment or machinery, which are typically taller and heavier, potentially exceeding height limits if transported using a standard flatbed trailer.

Refrigerated Trailer

Refrigerated trailers, similar in appearance to dry van trailers, are capable of temperature control. They are commonly used for transporting perishable goods such as fruits, pharmaceuticals, and ice cream. Their maximum payload capacity is generally similar to that of dry van trailers, ranging from 42,000 pounds to 45,000 pounds. Due to the need for temperature control, refrigerated trailers have thick walls for insulation, allowing them to accommodate maximum heights ranging from 8 feet to 8 feet 2 inches and maximum widths of 8 feet 2 inches.

The temperature control system of refrigerated trailers is adjustable, allowing it to be turned on or off as needed. When transporting goods that do not require temperature control, the system can be deactivated to conserve fuel.

reefer trailer

Skeleton Trailer

A skeleton trailer is a type of semi-trailer specifically designed for transporting shipping containers, typically 20 or 40 feet in length, to accommodate corresponding container sizes. It typically features a platform-like structure with a set of locks on top for securing the containers, facilitating easy loading and unloading. This makes the skeleton trailer a popular choice in ports, logistics centers, and freight yards. Similar to dry van trailers and refrigerated trailers, the maximum payload capacity of skeleton trailers also falls within the range of 42,000 to 45,000 pounds.

Container Chassis

Other Trailer Types

Other common types of trailers, aside from the aforementioned semi-trailers, are variants based on dry van trailers or flatbed trailers.

  • Curtainside Trailers: These trailers resemble dry van trailers but feature sidewalls made of waterproof fabric. Waterproof fabric curtains are suspended from the top, rear, and front of the trailer. This design allows for loading and unloading from the rear or sides, facilitating quicker operations. Curtainside trailers typically range from 48 to 53 feet in length, with a maximum payload capacity of 40,000 to 43,000 pounds.
  • Extendable Drop-Deck Trailers: These trailers are used for transporting oversized cargo such as construction materials and steel. Their size can extend from 38 feet to 65 feet, with a maximum capacity of 43,000 pounds.
  • Removable Gooseneck Trailers (RGN): This type of trailer features a detachable gooseneck at the front, facilitating the loading of large machinery onto the trailer. Its maximum legal payload weight typically reaches 38,000 pounds.
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