Flatbed Trailer or Dry Van Trailer, How to Choose?

There are two most common types of semi-trailers on the road: dry van trailers and flatbed trailers. These two trailers have similar functions, and many people will hesitate to choose.

If you don’t know whether you should choose dry van trailers or flatbed trailers, this article will guide you. Or you can contact us, our professional team will recommend the most suitable semi-trailer for you according to your needs.

What is a dry van trailer?

The dry van trailer is an enclosed semi-trailer, and the cargo is usually loaded or unloaded from the rear of the trailer. Because of its closedness, it is often used to transport valuables or daily necessities that require a dry environment.

In most cases, dry van trailers are equipped with forklifts or pallet trucks, which will make the loading and unloading process easier. Forklifts can also be used to unload dry van trailers without a loading dock because the forklift’s forks can rise up to the height of the deck on the trailer.

dry van trailer

What is a flatbed trailer?

The sides and back of the flatbed trailer are open, which allows simultaneous loading and unloading of goods from the back or side of the trailer, improving efficiency. But this is also the shortcoming of the flatbed trailer: the goods are susceptible to rain and snow.

In addition to loading and unloading goods with forklifts, flatbed trailers also use cranes to move goods from the trailer.

flatbed trailer

What are the differences between dry van trailer and flatbed trailer?

Dry van trailer
dry van
Dimensions and specs
  • Standard size: 53‘(L) * 8.5’(W)
  • Height: 110” inside; 13’6“outside
  • Variations: 48’, 12’, usually used in tandem, each time you can pull two to three trailers
  • Type: Sheet and Post Dry Vans; Plate Dry Vans; Custom Spec Dry Vans
Weight capacity
  • Number of pallets: 26
  • Maximum load: 45,000lbs
  • Securing cargo is easier
  • The enclosed trailer can protect the cargo from road theft and weather factors.
  • Suitable for transporting commercial goods, especially popular in non-perishable food and beverage industries
  • Can only be loaded or unloaded from the rear
  • The floor is usually made of wood, which is more susceptible to damage
Flatbed trailer
Dimensions and specs
  • Standard size: 48’(L) * 8.5’(W)
  • Extensible length: 80’, usually requires special permission
  • Cargo height: less than 10’, otherwise you need to choose a low-bed trailer
  • Type: Steel Flatbeds; Composite Flatbeds; Aluminum Flatbeds
Weight capacity
  • Standard weight capacity: 48,000lbs, more than this standard requires a special permit
  • Easy to load and unload, can be loaded and unloaded from the rear, side and top by crane
  • Suitable for transporting irregular goods or bulky goods
  • With greater transportation capacity, it can carry heavier cargo
  • Vulnerable to weather factors and uneven roads
  • There is a risk of theft of the goods in transit
  • There are special requirements for the driver’s driving and transportation skills

In the final analysis, how to choose these two trailers can be attributed to the volume of freight your transport and the skill level of your driver. If your cargo needs to be protected from wind, rain, dust, or other factors, you’d better choose a dry cargo trailer; if you need to tow oversized cargo, a flatbed trailer is a right choice.

If you are still not sure which semi-trailer you need, you can tell us your needs and we will recommend it for you.

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