How Did 53-foot Become the Standard Length for Trailers?

53-foot semi-trailer is a popular length, and most freight companies use a 53’ semi-trailer.


53-foot trailer size and capacity:

  • Total length: 53’
  • Total width: 102”
  • Total height: 13’ 6”
  • Length: 47’ 6”
  • Width: 98.5”
  • Height: 108”
  • Weight: 13,500 lbs.
  • Capacity: 3489 cu ft

How did 53' become the standard length for trailers?

Most trailers need to load goods on pallets, and the standard size of pallets is 48 inches long and 40 inches wide. Generally speaking, the standard trailer size has always been a multiple of four feet (plus a smidge).
For example:

  • The early 20.5-foot is now commonly used for moving;
  • 28.5-foot, welcomed by express companies, but as people use express delivery more frequently, the express companies are now gradually transitioning to 33-foot semi-trailers;
  • 40-foot trailers are widely used for railway construction of containers.
20.5 feet Moving
20.5 feet: Moving
28.5 to 33 feet: express delivery
40 feet: railway construction

In the past, 48 feet was the municipal standard for truck transportation because the old regulations restricted the total length of trailer to 75 feet. When the old regulations were repealed, the industry quickly adopted the now ubiquitous 53-foot trailer that could hold 13 rows of pallets, and plus a foot of leeway to ensure that the trailer could be easily closed.

13 rows of pallets mean 26 pallets. Dry van trailers are usually used to transport flour, coffee, bottled water, paper, etc. Although these items are heavy, general freight doesn’t usually come approach to the maximum allowable total weight of 80,000#. In other words, they can transport more goods by using a 53-foot trailer and reduce the number of round trips. This makes the income increase directly, and the profit of each trip also greatly increases.

How to distribute weight?

The goods on the trailer are not stacked randomly and need to be calculated to find the best load method. Understand the weight distribution according to the following figure:


Then start with the weight of your truck. First you need to understand the weight of the empty axle, take a five-axle dry van trailer as an example. Usually, its empty weight is 35,000 lb., and the weight distribution might look like this:

  • steer axle: 11,000 lb. (4,990 kg)
  • drive axles: 14,000 lb. (6,350 kg)
  • trailer axles: 10,000 lb. (4,353 kg)
  • tare weight: 35,000 lb. (15,875 kg)

If you know the tare weight, you can know in advance whether the goods can be loaded on the truck to ensure that you will not earn a ticket.

When arranging pallets, try to allow the trailer to withstand a load of about 800 pounds per foot. For pallets with irregular weight, place the heavier pallet in the middle and the lighter pallet in front and behind it.

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