Millions of trucks take to the roads every year in America. You have seen them on your own local roads, the interstate, and just about everywhere else you drive. But how much do you really know about trucking? Better yet, how much do you know about flatbed trucking?
Flatbed trucking is often the orphan stepchild of the trucking industry for the simple reason that tankers and box vans tend to dominate. But without the trusty flatbed trailer and the drivers who haul it, getting certain kinds of loads moved would be nearly impossible.
Additionally, flatbed truckers are a unique breed of drivers who see what they do as a challenge. Suffice it to say there is more to this kind of trucking than simply hooking up a trailer and hitting the road. To illustrate the point, a list of five things you might not know about flatbed trucking is found below.
1. There Are More Than a Dozen Kinds of Trailers
Flatbed trucking does not involve just one kind of trailer. There are more than a dozen kinds. The most common are the straight flatbed, step deck, and double drop deck. Each one has its strong and weak points for various loads.
The straight flatbed is simply a platform on wheels. The entire platform is a single level supported by two axles at the rear of the trailer. Step decks and double drop decks have multiple levels rather than just one. They can be used to haul larger and taller loads.
2. Weather Is Always a Concern
Since flatbed loads are not contained inside a trailer, weather is always a concern. Certain loads, like cinder blocks and paver stones, do not require much more protection than the plastic they are wrapped in. Other loads are highly sensitive. According to Ohio-based Mytee Products, flatbed drivers rely on different kinds of tarps to protect different kinds of loads. There are lumber tarps, steel tarps, and more.
3. Cargo Control Is the Driver’s Responsibility
The nature of flatbed trucking dictates that cargo control is the responsibility of the driver. Therefore, drivers supervise both loading and unloading. They also tie down and cover their loads personally. Lastly, they check their loads at different intervals throughout their journeys to make sure everything is securely in place.
4. The FMCSA Takes Cargo Control Seriously
Trucking is one of the most regulated industries in the U.S. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – the government entity that oversees trucking – takes cargo control so seriously that they have developed a full set of rules governing how flatbed truckers tie down and protect loads. Enforcement agencies routinely inspect vehicles to make sure regulations are being followed.
5. Just about Anything Can Be Carried
One of the primary benefits of flatbed trailers is that they can carry just about anything. Having no sides or roofs to deal with makes the flatbed trailer a lot more flexible. Flatbeds can be used to haul construction materials, heavy equipment, farm machinery, industrial machinery, and on and on. Even wide and tall loads are not a problem as long as the right precautions are taken.
Next time you see a flatbed trailer being pulled down the road, just take a moment to look over and observe. Pay attention to how the load is secured. You will notice things like chains and blocks on some loads while others are secured with winch or ratchet straps. Regardless of how it is tied down, take a minute to think about the effort expended by the truck driver to secure that cargo. It’s pretty impressive.