July 15

What Are the Best Trailer Types?


Last Updated on September 27, 2022

People and companies rely on trailers for the transportation of goods across the country. There are many different types of trailers and each has at least one feature that makes it the best suited for a specific application. But what are the best trailer types? 

Below are the features, specifications, and payloads for 10 different specialty trailer types.

10 Specialty Trailer Types

Each of these trailers are built for specific purposes, such as:

  • Transporting heavy equipment
  • Dumping material 
  • Transporting multiple automobiles
  • Moving hazardous materials 
  • Distributing medical supplies
  • Transporting and preparing food
  • Serving as mobile vending machines
  • Acting as event marketing/display trailers

Dry van trailers

Also called an enclosed trailer, these are the most popular type of commercial trailer. They are long—either 40 or 53 feet in length and have solid metal walls eight feet in height, along with a metal roof. The enclosed container protects the contents being shipped from weather, theft, and damage. 

They are used in dock-to-dock shipments and for hauling retail commodities, smaller goods, and boxed items. Dry van trailers carry up to 45,000 pounds when using the axle configuration that allows for the most weight.

All maximum weights for the trailers listed below are expressed similarly.

dry van trailer infographic

Conestoga Trailers

These trailers are similar to dry van trailers, including being 53 feet in length, except the walls and roof are composed of a tarp-like structure. This material can be rolled forward to allow for top loading and side loading of the trailer, then rolled back to protect the cargo. They also have the same payload as dry vans. 

conestoga trailer infographic

Refer trailers

Refers are short for refrigerated trailers. They are temperature controlled and used for the transportation of food and other perishable items, including medical supplies. These trailers are 30 to 40 feet in length and have a maximum payload of 45,000 pounds. 

refer trailer infographic

Flatbed trailers

These trailers are given this name for their flat bed (trailer deck), which stands about 60 inches above ground level. Though what really defines them is their lack of walls and roofing. This is the most straight-forward trailer. The bed is 8.5 feet in width and common lengths include 24 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 48 feet, and 53 feet. Maximum weight is 48,000 pounds on the 53-foot-long trailer. 

Since the trailer space is open (no walls or roof), flatbed trailers don’t have the same size restrictions. You can load much larger and odd-shaped cargo, such as heavy equipment. Another advantage to a flatbed trailer is its ability to be loaded and unloaded from the rear, from either side via a forklift, or from above with a crane. On the other hand, dry vans and many other kinds of trailesr can only be loaded/unloaded from the rear. 

flatbed trailer infographic

Hot shot trailers 

Hot shot trailers are similar to flatbed trailers, but are only 30 to 40 feet in length (versus 48 or 53 feet in length). The payload is also reduced compared to flatbeds from 48,000 to 16,500 pounds. Due to significantly reduced payloads, these trailers can be hauled with class 3-6 trucks (versus the class 7-8 trucks required for most trailers on this list), so they’re more economical than a flatbed trailer.  

hot shot trailer infographic

Extendable flatbed trailers

These trailers are simply flatbed trailers capable of being extended. A 43-foot-long flatbed can be extended to up to 80 feet in length, but its payload capacity remains the same .

Step deck trailers

Also called a lowboy, a step deck trailer is similar to a flatbed trailer, except its bed is much lower to the ground—a little more than three feet, compared to the flatbed trailer’s five feet. This means step deck trailers can haul taller items (up to 10 feet, two inches).

They get the name step deck, because the front portion of the trailer is elevated in order to be at the same height as the king pin on the truck. The king pin is the component that fastens the trailer to the truck. Having two decks—each one at a different elevation, creates a step/stair appearance. 

step deck trailer infographic

Stretch step deck trailers

There are two types of stretch step deck trailers—the stretch single drop deck trailer and the extendable gooseneck trailer (or stretch double drop deck trailer). The stretch single drop deck trailer can extend from 48 to 76 feet and has a maximum payload of 44,000 pounds. The extendable gooseneck can extend from 29 to 50 feet and has a maximum payload of 40,000 pounds.

Gooseneck trailers

Also called double drop trailers or double lowboy trailers, these are similar to step deck trailers except the former has a main bed height just above the rear-axles height. The latter has a main bed height lower than the height of the rear axles, allowing for a transport height of 11 feet, five inches. 

The main bed (which is called the well) is 29 feet in length and is situated between two smaller beds just a few feet in length. One accommodates the king pin and one accomodates the rear axles. Goosenecks support the load better than single deck trailers and have a maximum payload of 80,000 pounds. 

Gooseneck trailers get their name from the arch at the front of the trailer that connects the bed of the trailer to the king pin. The contour of that arch is said to resemble the neck of a goose. 

gooseneck trailer infographic

Removable gooseneck trailers

Popularly shortened to RGN, the gooseneck-shaped arch on this trailer is removable. Once taken off, the front end of the trailer is now at ground level. And since the axles are at the rear of the trailer, the grade created by lowering the front end to the ground is low enough one can safely and easily drive equipment. An RGN is 29 feet in length, and an extendable gooseneck trailer extends to 50 feet, but an extendable RGN reaches 65 feet. 

A benefit of the extendable RGN is the total number of axle configurations available. With just three axles, the trailer has a payload of 80,000 pounds. However, with the maximum number of axles available, which is 19, payload jumps to 225,000.

removable gooseneck trailer infographic

Now that you know a bit more about trailer types, you can start a search to find your own. And what better place to start than Municibid with an endless catalog of municipal items including trucks and commercial trailers?


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