CRTS Insights

Types of Trailers and Their Application in Shipping and Logistics

Posted by David Shepherd on May 17, 2023 1:01:41 PM

Millions of transport trucks crisscross the United States on any given day to deliver precious cargo. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2020, trucks moved 11.84 billion tons of freight, accounting for 72.5% of the total freight tonnage transported in the country.J&J Ent R-1

Trucking is a preferred mode of transportation thanks to the flexibility of trucking to transport goods to almost any location, the speed of delivery, and the ability to track trailer shipping in real time. 

But, with the large volume of trailers on the road, selecting the correct type of trailer for a specific shipment is essential to ensure that the cargo arrives at its destination safely and on time.

How can you know which trailer is right for your logistics management? Below we'll break down seven types of trailers and their main application in shipping and logistics.

7 types of trailers and their primary use

Several types of trailers are commonly used in shipping and logistics, each with unique features and capabilities. Here are some of the most common types of trailers and their applications: 

Dry Van Trailer 

Dry van trailers are the most common type of semi-trailers in the shipping industry. It's an enclosed box-shaped trailer that protects the cargo from the elements, dirt, and debris. Dry van trailers are versatile and can transport various types of cargo, including electronics, consumer goods, and paper goods.

Flatbed Trailer

Flatbed trailers have an open platform without walls or roofs. They primarily transport heavy equipment and oversized cargo, such as machinery, vehicles, and construction materials because they are accessible to load from the sides or the top.

Refrigerated Trailer

Also known as reefer trailers, refrigerated trailers transport temperature-sensitive cargo, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. These trailers have built-in refrigeration systems that regulate the temperature and humidity levels inside the trailer, ensuring that the cargo stays fresh and intact.

Chip Trailers and Live Floor Trailers

Chip trailers are designed to carry wood chips, shavings, bark, etc for the forestry industry. These trailers come in different configurations as well. There are open top trailers which are generally loaded from the top. Trailers with an aluminum roof are very similar, but are loaded from the rear using a blow-in chipping machine. Both of these rely on a Tipper to empty the content out of the rear of the trailer. Live floor trailers have a hydraulically operated moving floor in the trailer to unload the contents out of the rear of the trailer without using a Tipper machine.

Tanker Trailer

Designed to transport liquids and gases, such as petroleum products, chemicals, and liquefied gases, tanker trailers are recognizable on the highway thanks to their large cylindrical shape. Tanker trailers are made of stainless steel or aluminum to prevent corrosion and contamination. Some specialized tank trailers called pneumatic tankers haul powder substances such as light sand and concrete and are loaded and unloaded using forced air pressure through a system of tubing integrated into the trailer.

Dump Trailer 

Dump trailers transport loose materials like sand, gravel, dirt, and construction debris. These trailers have an open top and are typically loaded from the top. Dump trailers tilt to the rear allowing the cargo to slide out of the trailer when unloading.

Hopper Bottom Trailer

If you've ever visited a farm, you've most likely seen a hopper bottom trailer in action. These semi-trailers are popular for transporting bulk material due to their versatility and efficiency. Hopper bottom trailers are mainly used in agriculture to transport crops, grains and livestock feed. These trailers are unloaded from the bottom usually into an auger system.

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How to choose the right trailer for your shipments

Now that you've learned some of the different types of trailers available to transport cargo, it's time to determine the right trailer for your shipping and logistics. 

Choosing the right trailer for a shipment can significantly impact the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the transportation process. Some factors to consider when selecting the appropriate trailer can include:

Cargo Type: The type of cargo you plan to transport is the most critical factor in selecting the right semi-trailer. Different trailers are designed to transport specific types of cargo, such as dry vans for general freight, refrigerated trailers for perishable goods, and flatbeds for oversized equipment. It is essential to choose a trailer that can accommodate the cargo and keep it secure during transport.

Trailer Capacity: Trailer weight capacity and cargo volume are critical factors when selecting the appropriate trailer for a shipment. The more axles a trailer has, the more weight it can typically carry. Consider the number of axles if you plan to carry extra heavy loads. Selecting a trailer that can handle the maximum weight and volume of the cargo being transported is essential. Overloading a trailer can cause safety hazards, and under-utilizing the capacity can increase transportation costs.

Can a trailer handle your 100,000-pound load? Transportation professionals like CRTS can help you navigate local regulations and trailer shipping needs

Loading and Unloading: The loading and unloading process can also impact the trailer you choose for your shipping services. It's essential to consider the loading and unloading process when selecting a trailer to ensure smooth and efficient trailer transports. 

Some trailers, such as flatbeds, are easier to load and unload from the side or the top, while others, such as pneumatic tank trailers, require specialized equipment to load and unload from the bottom.

Distance and Route: The distance and route of the shipment can also impact your choice of trailer. Selecting a semi-trailer that can handle the distance, terrain, and cargo is vital for long-distance freight, such as a refrigerated trailer for perishable goods or a drop deck flatbed trailer for oversized freight. 

Additionally, it's important to consider the accessibility of the delivery location, and point of origin, as some trailers may not be able to access certain areas.

Transportation Costs: The cost of transportation is a critical factor in selecting the appropriate trailer. Some trailers, such as flatbeds, may have lower transportation costs, while others, such as refrigerated trailers, may have higher costs due to specialized equipment and temperature control.

Where to purchase your trailer

The best approach to managing your shipping and logistics is researching the type of trailer you need based on factors mentioned in this article, such as cargo type, maximum weight, point of origin, and more.

Once you've determined which trailer best suits your cargo, it's time to purchase your new or used semi-trailer. But it’s easy to get lost in a sea of trailer dealers and stall out on finally getting your haul on the road. 

That's where independent semi-trailer dealership CRTS comes in!

We have five convenient locations on the east coast in the South Atlantic Region. Our team of professionals is ready to help you with your purchase, including financing if needed. 

Whether you need a refrigerated trailer, flatbed trailer, or dump trailer, we can help with our selection of new and used trailers. 

Visit a CRTS Inc. location today!

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For 50 years, CRTS, Inc. has been a trusted partner to hundreds of transportation firms. We accomplished this by putting our customers first, providing unequaled service, and offering the best semi-trailer products available. 

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