Since the time of ancient Greeks, people have been wondering whether size really matters. We can’t speak for all people, however, I guess that any truck driver would agree that the dimensions of a cargo they carry are of primary importance for their safety and the way they do their job. Normally, cargo shipping is done in enclosed semi-trailers, but what would you do, if the size of bulky cargo does not fit the standard dimensions of a semi? That is exactly where flatbed trucking enters the stage.
- What Is Flatbed Trucking?
- What Is a Flatbed Truck Used For?
- Skills Required to Be a Flatbed Truck Driver
- What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Flatbed Trucking?
- How to Do Flatbed Load Securement in the Right Way?
- How to Use Tarps for Flatbed Trailers in the Right Way?
- Flatbed Trucking Summed Up
- Join us!
What is Flatbed Trucking?
The answer to the question “What is flatbed trucking?” is directly connected to the definition of a flatbed load — cargo that doesn’t fit standard enclosed trailers — as it is too large or its dimensions (length, width) exceeds the corresponding dimension of a cargo platform. Normally a flatbed trailer can carry bulky or oversized goods of 48 or 53 feet long, such as tires, various agricultural products, landscape materials, or even mobile homes. You would be surprised to know just how many things there are in the world that just don’t fit.
Visually, a flatbed trailer is an open platform, on which the cargo is stacked and secured with appropriate devices and systems. This is unlike a dry van, which is a trailer for non-perishable goods, fully closed and sealed.
What is a Flatbed Truck Used for?
This kind of truck is used to transport oversized freight and normally has some specific dimensions. The length of this type of trailer is normally 48 feet, however, there are versions that are 53 feet long. The former are more popular and the 53 feet long version is normally used only when extra space is needed. This longer version can carry a weight up to 80,000 lbs. The standard width of the platform is normally 8.6 feet, height – around 5 feet, the load height might reach 8.6 feet, however, the total height of a loaded trailer with cargo can never be more than 13.6 feet.
There are several main types of freight, which are suitable for flatbed driving:
- Construction materials and components such as lumber, steel, brick, siding, piping, and prefabricated structures.
- Landscaping materials, including sod, stone, shrubs, and sapling.
- Scrap metal, furniture, used tires, and other recyclables.
- Equipment for the oil and gas industry, like assembled aggregates, rig components, etc.
- Other machinery and oversized cargo.
Skills Required to be a Flatbed Truck Driver
It is obvious that carrying heavy cargo on an open platform is not an easy job and the driver has to master a number of certain skills. For example how to secure flatbed loads using various equipment and gear intended for this purpose including strap, tarp, and chain securing devices. These skills normally fall under one of the following categories:
- Loading and unloading deliveries. This includes knowledge of how to do tarping and how to protect the goods, how to place the goods correctly within the trailer platform, and various rules on how to secure the load using chains, and other means. It is obvious that in most cases this job also requires more physical effort from the drivers themselves.
- Maintaining logbooks. Almost everyone would agree that in the contemporary world physical strength alone will not do any good unless there is proper book handling in place. Everything has to be accounted for and registered, so the driver has to keep a log book, recording the exact time and date of various operations with the cargo, its parameters, like its contents, weight, etc.
- Inspections. Flatbed driving can be quite dangerous at times. While on the road, the driver has to carry out regular inspections of the cargo, which might also reduce or help to completely avoid the need to re-trap or re-secure the cargo. Remember, that if the driver still needs to do so, they can do it only at rest stops or special areas, properly marked and allocated for this purpose.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Flatbed Trucking?
Pros of flatbed trucking
The key advantages of flatbed trucking include:
- Income potential. Given the unique and demanding aspects of flatbed truck driving, it's understandable why these drivers often earn more than their peers in other trucking specializations. The salary difference can be as much as $15,000 per year. For a comprehensive understanding of the earnings of flatbed drivers and to compare their salaries with those of other truck driving categories in the United States, we recommend exploring our detailed articles on the subject. These resources provide valuable insights into the income potential within various trucking sectors.
- Career advancement . Believe it or not, truck drivers can also climb up the career ladder. They normally do so by mastering new specific skills, getting new licenses and permits, and earning more as a result. Flatbed trucking can be undoubtedly called one of the most well-paid and most demanding of all truck driving jobs and starting to work as one can naturally be considered as making your way up.
- Active work. We all know that a truck driver’s job is normally associated with a sedentary lifestyle and even some work-related disorders are known to be caused by that. However, being a flatbed driver is quite the opposite. Drivers have to put quite a lot of effort into loading and unloading of cargo, securing them on the trailer, and repeating these exercises quite regularly; making the work quite physical.
Cons of flatbed trucking
- Security-related issues. Although well-paid, the work of a truck driver is associated with much less safety than that of an ordinary OTR driver. However, no matter how risky the job might be, it is well compensated in return.
- Strict rules. Driving any vehicle requires strict self-discipline, as this activity might bear a lot of various risks for the driver themselves and for the public on the way to their destination. However, a flatbed driver should be especially concentrated on observation of the rules and on ensuring the overall safety. Below are the key principles they have to follow:
- KNOW the rules;
- OBSERVE them fully, there is no such thing as too much;
- CHECK how the rules have been fulfilled, then check once more and recheck again.
- This job requires a lot of driving experience. As a result of flatbed being such a strenuous job, a driver has to have several years of experience and to obtain a CDL license. Along with that, a driver should master certain professional skills like how to secure the cargo, do tarping correctly, etc. The requirements may grow with the driver getting more autonomy, for example, for lease purchase the standard is 23+ years old, 5 years CDL-A, 3 years of working in flatbed, and up to 2 years of working with specific cargoes, such as steel coil, etc.
These are just some of the pros and cons of flatbed trucking. For each driver, these may differ.
If you can't decide between a flatbed or a dry van, then we recommend that you read our article on this topic.
How to Do Flatbed Load Securement in the Right Way?
When you do flatbed hauling there is no golden middle — you either win or fail. So you have to be absolutely sure that you do everything right, i.e. protect the cargo, evenly distribute it across the platform, observe all the limits on weight and dimensions, and check that your straps are in good condition and that the corners are properly covered. To protect your hands from cuts or other damage, we recommend that you use the best work gloves for truck driver.
There are certain FMCSA rules, which have to be observed while doing a flatbed load securement and this is exactly what a DOT inspector will check.
In brief the procedure for securement is as follows:
- Correctly and equally distribute cargo over the platform, double-check all the parameters and specifications. One of the most important is cargo acceleration/deceleration, which is the force applied to the cargo in three dimensions;
- Choose the suitable tie-down gear, i.e. straps and chains to properly secure the load. The key idea here according to FMCSA is to ensure that the cargo is not “unintentionally unfastened or loose while the vehicle is in transit”;
- Pass the hooked end of your strap through the outer safety rail, so that they are hooked to the underframe;
- Then on the other side of the vehicle pass the end of the straps through a special slot in the winches;
- Twist the winches so that your straps are secured around it;
- Same procedure has to be done with the chains (hook them to the underframe, place over the cargo, secure them on the other side of the trailer).
- Do all the necessary blocking and bracing with appropriate devices, which can withstand being damaged or crushed by the cargo or its securement devices;
- And the most important as far as this procedure is concerned: use all the available means to protect people working in or around the trailer.
How to Use Tarps for Flatbed Trailers in the Right Way?
There are several types of flatbed tarps that can be used to protect the cargo. The key difference lies with the material they are made of. Tarps can be made of lumber, steel, canvas, hay or polymers. Various types of tarps have different properties, resistance to UV light, etc.
This is what needs to be done to properly tarp your cargo:
- Properly distribute the cargo on the platform. Check that the tarp covers the whole load completely, that no part of it is standing out neither to the side or from the top. In some cases you might need to use so-called edge protectors or moving blankets.
- The next step is to cover the cargo with a folded tarp. You might need to use a special lifting system to accomplish this.
- Unfold the tarp so that it covers the load evenly. Check that the moving blankets are also covered, if any are present. Generally speaking you have to tuck the tarp in, like when you are making a bed.
- At the end, secure the tarp with straps or bungees. Normally securement is done in 4 tie-down points and in the center, however, there might be additional points depending on the type of your trailer and the tarp you are using. Follow the individual manual for specific instructions.
Flatbed Trucking Summed Up
To summarize, a flatbed diver’s job is one of the most demanding and strenuous jobs in the industry, but it’s quite well-paid. It certainly requires a lot of driving experience as well as physical and mental effort, however, the fulfillment of all the legal and company rules will make it a feasible and even attractive opportunity for a potential employee.
Has this text inspired you to ask yourself if flatbed trucking is the career path for you? If so, what do you need to do to join the workforce of flatbed drivers and enjoy the benefits of this profession? Why not consider joining our team of flatbed drivers.
- 65 CPM base;
- Team 77 CPM base;
- +5 CPM if you’re ready to make 10k+ miles monthly;
- Health, dental, vision, 401k, PTO;
- Load pay;
- New and well-maintained all-chromium Peterbilt 567 with a massive grille guard;
- Orientation, clean inspection pay, and referral bonus.
Along with that, HMD Trucking is glad to offer a prospective lease-purchase program for those who would like to advance in their career path. So, if you're an experienced trucker eager to achieve your career objectives together with the top company in the industry, apply for our lease-purchase right now.
- Multiple down payment options including 0 (zero) down;
- New all-chromium Peterbilt 567 with a massive grille guard;
- $0 buyout;
- Walk away option;
- No credit checks;
- Fully equipped trailer in lease $200/wk.
Don’t hesitate and get in touch using the form below.