Flatbed Trucking: How it Works, Rates, Pros & Cons (2023)

Dry vans andrefrigerated trucks are some of the most common haulers in the U.S. because they can carry a wide varietyofcargo types. But when freight is large and/or heavy, dry vans and similar trucks can’t always handle the job.

This is where flatbed trucks come in.

Flatbed Trucking: How it Works, Rates, Pros & Cons (1)

Flatbed trucks are important to many businesses and industries. This means there’s a lot of demand for folks who can drive these rigs. But is flatbed trucking right for you? And if it is, where can you find flatbed trucking jobs?

To answer these questions, read on to learn more about the benefits and challenges of this type of trucking.

What is flatbed trucking?

Flatbed trucks are, well, flat. With no walls or roofs, these trailers are open to the air and elements. The flatbed trailer consists of a wooden platform supported by a strong aluminum frame. While the decks are flat, some trailers carry drop decks, as well. Measuring anywhere from 48 feet to 53 feet long and spanning 8 feet, 6 inches wide, flatbed trailers have a deck height of 60 inches, and a weight capacity of up to 48,000 pounds.

Because they are open, flatbed trucking offers a lot of logistics options, especially when it comes to heavy cargo. And depending on what part of the country you’re in, you could also see multiple flatbed trailers chained together, carrying large cargo.

(Video) Watch This Before Becoming a Flatbed Driver (Flatbed VS Van, Pay Comparison, Work Load)

Flatbed Trucking: How it Works, Rates, Pros & Cons (2)

Common uses of flatbed trucking

Flatbed trucks are known for their versatility. They can haul different types of cargo with little effort. Because of how they are structured, flatbed truck trailers can transport taller and heavier items.

Specifically, flatbeds are ideal for oversized cargo and freight that can’t be easily loaded into or carried by enclosed vans. You’ll often see flatbed trucks hauling long pipes and highway barriers. Additional cargo that can be hauled by flatbed trucks includes:

  • Lumber
  • Steel coils
  • Mobile homes
  • Bailed tires
  • Machines
  • Military machinery
  • Scrap metal
  • Tow trucks

Flatbed transport is also highly useful for moving shipping containers. The trucks carry the containers from inland ports or factories to seaports, where they’re loaded onto ships. Flatbed trailers can haul super sacks, too. These industrial fabric bags can hold up to 2,000 pounds of dry products, such as sand, fertilizer, or seeds.

Overall, flatbed trucks are ideal for carrying heavier, larger loads. These vital vehicles deliver machinery to factories, tractors to farmers, and lumber, bricks, and other supplies to real estate developers to build homes, stores, and office buildings.

Key facets of flatbed trucking

Although flatbeds are versatile, drivers need to understand four factors to ensure a successful and safe trip: loading, securing, tarping, and maneuvering.


As you know, flatbed trucks can move heavy, large materials. Most of the time, freight is loaded with help from forklifts or cranes. But it’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure those loads are balanced correctly over the axles. Unbalanced cargo can mean serious handling problems and potential accidents and injuries.

(Video) Trucking: Dry Van vs flatbed pay comparison


As a flatbed truck driver, you’re also responsible for keeping the loads steady and secure throughout the trip. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has strict rules when it comes to securing. Most times, you’ll secure cargo using webbed nylon straps tightened by a winch. If you’re transporting heavier cargo, such as steel pipes or large machinery, use thick steel chains to keep the cargo stable.


Because flatbed trailers don’t have walls or a roof, they—and the cargo they carry—are exposed to the elements. Tarping protects your goods during transport. But there’s more to this than simply throwing a covering over the cargo.Tarps are heavy, weighing 80 pounds. You need to place them with a forklift and anchor the sides. If the anchors come loose, you’ll need to reattach to secure the tarp.


Given what they carry and their length, flatbed trucks can be trickier to drive than dry vans. You need specific skills to maneuver an extra-wide or extra-long truck through traffic or inclement weather. Sharp curves can also cause cargo to shift, creating an unbalanced load that makes maneuvering even harder.

Flatbed Trucking: How it Works, Rates, Pros & Cons (3)

Flatbed trucking rates

Shippers often pay higher rates to move cargo on flatbed trucks because of their size and skill requirements.

How much are typical rates? Depending on the region, type of freight, and market conditions, rates can range between $2.71 and $3.30 per mile. The national average is around $3.07 per mile. This is well above the $2.27 per mile rate generated by dry van and van load-hauling trips.

Higher per-mile rates mean higher salaries. As a flatbed truck driver, you could earn up to $15,000more each year than with other equipment types.

(Video) Tanker Driver VS Flatbed Driver Pay Comparison (Monthly Gross Pay Statements)

Advantages of flatbed trucking

Higher pay is one clear advantage of driving a flatbed truck because of the extra skills you bring to the job. But there are some other perks, as well:

Greater demand

The trucking industry continues to suffer from a shortage of drivers, especially in flatbed trucking. Because there aren’t enough flatbed truck drivers, customers want your abilities. This means long-term job security.

Less waiting time

With a flatbed truck, you don’t have to back up to docks or wait for the driver in front of you to finish loading or unloading. You’ll also probably only need to stop at one delivery location. Compare this to a dry van transport, which might require several stops to unload many pallets.

Easier maintenance

Dry vans or walled-in truck beds accumulate plenty of dirt and debris that can be tough to clean. But the open deck of a flatbed makes upkeep much easier.You also don’t have to repaint or repair sidewalls or a roof in the event of dents or scratches.

Disadvantages of flatbed trucking

While there are plenty of advantages to being a flatbed trucker, there are also downsides you should know.

More danger

You are transporting larger, heavier freight, which must be properly secured per DOT guidelines. This requires expertise and professional knowledge. It’s a matter of physics; poorly secured cargo can seriously compromise maneuverability. If things come undone, you’ll have to climb on the tarp to secure it or rebalance the freight. These are risky tasks that can lead to serious injury.

Stricter regulations

Because of the above risks, the DOT and other agencies enforce more stringent laws and regulations with very little wiggle room. You have to follow specific requirements, such as using the correct tie-downs to secure cargo. You also have to observe specific trailer sizes and weight limits while on the road. Failure to do so can lead to large fines and potential license suspension.

(Video) How to make money when freight rates are low

Higher skill requirements

Driving a flatbed sometimes requires specialized driving and hauling skills. In addition to being able to operate your flatbed truck, you also need to be able to meet the physical demands of maneuvering and securing oversize loads.

Find, compare, and book high-paying flatbed loads.

Are you ready to get into business as a flatbed truck driver? You’re in luck! You can find high-quality loads for your flatbed trailer on the Truckstop.com Load Board. This invaluable tool makes searchingfor loads and booking freight a breeze for flatbed truckers. The upshot? Save time, and get paid more.


The Truckstop.com Load Board lets you perform unlimited searches to find the right job for you from companies demanding your services. You can plan advance trips, find higher-value loads, and do multi-trip searches.


Our advanced technology lets you compare multiple loads, all on one screen so you can zero in fast to find the job that’s right for you.

Analyze rates.

The Truckstop.com Load Board offers same-day rate data and industry-leading metrics. Find the best equipment rates, fuel management, and truck supply and demand at origin and destination locations.

Book instantly.

Once you’ve found your ideal load, rate, and lanes, the Truckstop.com Book It Now feature lets you book loads instantly with trusted brokers. Saving precious time booking and scheduling gets you on the road faster.

Interested in learning more? Come visit us at Truckstop.com for your free demo.

(Video) Where are all the Flatbed Drivers? (Why Truckers Refuse to Work in the Flatbed Division)


What is the advantage of a flatbed truck? ›

Flatbed trucks are made to handle immense loads. They can tackle heavy weights that might be too much for trailers or other vehicles. You can fit plenty onto it, which means fewer trips back and forth too. You'll also have an easier time handling large oddly shaped loads.

Who is the best flatbed trucking company? ›

Top 15 Flatbed Trucking Companies in 2022
  • Landstar System.
  • Daseke Inc.
  • PS Logistics.
  • Bennett International Group.
  • TMC Transportation.
  • Maverick USA.
  • Mercer Transportation Co.
  • Melton Truck Lines.

Is driving flatbed hard? ›

Flatbed truck driving is known to be one of the most challenging types of truck driving due to the heavy and uniquely shaped loads that a driver needs to secure and haul. Flatbed trucking is an extremely rewarding career, and the skills it requires are in constant demand.

Why are flatbeds better? ›

Since flatbed trucks contain no sides or roof surrounding their bed, they typically have a much larger surface area for bed storage compared to their pickup and box truck counterparts. This allows for flatbed drivers to have a much smoother experience when it comes to loading and unloading their trucks.

Who is the largest flatbed company? ›

Company Landstar System

What is the largest flatbed trucking company in the United States? ›

Daseke, Inc. is the largest flatbed trucking company in the nation. They have a massive network of transportation providers, making it possible for them to handle virtually any project. Fleet Size: 6,000 trucks.

What is the highest paying trucking company? ›

10 Best Paying Trucking Companies
Annual Salary
3.Epes Transport$83,921
4.Acme Truck Line$82,892
7 more rows
Apr 23, 2019

Is flatbed trucking better? ›

If you're majorly concerned with a great paying job and also enough time off, then flatbed trucking is worth it. For the money aspect, flatbed truckers earn over $10,000 more than dry van truckers. And when it comes to time, you enjoy more time to rest due to how exerting the job is and the shorter offloading time.

How do you make money with a flatbed truck? ›

17 Ways to Make Money with a Truck and Trailer, Learn How
  1. Start a Towing Service. ...
  2. Start or Join a Moving Service. ...
  3. Start a Snow Plowing Service. ...
  4. Hotshot Trucking. ...
  5. Deliver Food With Your Pickup Truck. ...
  6. Take Odd Jobs Through Gigs or Ads. ...
  7. Provide Landscape Services with Truck and Trailer. ...
  8. Put Ads on Your Truck and Trailer.
Mar 21, 2021

What pays better flatbed or Dry van? ›

Truck blog CDL 101 reported on average, flatbed truckers earn about $13,000 more annually than dry van truckers. Not only do they earn about 8 cents more per mile, but inclement weather may convince shippers to pay tarping surcharges to prevent precipitation from ruining the exposed load.

Do flatbed trucks cost more? ›

Surprisingly, flatbed stake-side trucks are much cheaper than the same-year used pickup. There is a high resale value on pickups because of the demand. The resale on the used medium-duty truck is much lower due to the lower demand.

Which trucking company has the largest fleet? ›

The biggest fleet in the U.S. belongs to PepsiCo, Inc. It owns 11,245 tractors, 3,605 trucks, and 17,100 pickup trucks and cargo vans. PepsiCo also owns 18,468 trailers for securing goods in transit. This enormous fleet helps PepsiCo take in $62.8 billion per year in sales.

Does Schneider have flatbed? ›

Schneider flatbed services provides:

Surge or planned flatbed freight. Greater visibility into performance and transportation costs. Construction, energy, manufacturing, and automotive industry expertise.

What percentage does Landstar take? ›

Landstar pays a percentage of the load, between 65% and 75% depending on trailer type and ownership, instead of a set rate per mile. This business model rewards owner-operators for securing higher paying loads instead of chasing miles. Van Trailer: 65% of Line Haul Revenue.

Who is the number one trucking company? ›

UPS is the largest trucking company in the world with revenues surpassing USD 71.86 billion last year. UPS is an American multinational package delivery and supply chain management company that was founded in 1907 initially as The American Messenger Company.

What is the largest privately owned trucking company in America? ›

Schneider National

This the largest privately owned trucking and logistics company in the USA. Headquartered in Green Bay and Wisconsin, Schneider National operates about 40,000 trailers and 14,000 tractors.

What kind of trucks does TMC use? ›

Peterbilt trucks are used for all TMC trucks, and the company fully loads them for the comfort of their drivers. Some of the common truck features include leather seats, premium sound system, Trimble Communication System, flat-screen TVs, and more.

What is the best trucking company to start off with? ›

Quicklook: Best Trucking Companies Hiring Inexperienced Drivers
  • Roehl – Quick apply now.
  • Schneider National, Inc. – Match Now.
  • U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc. – Match Now.
  • Werner Enterprises – Match Now.
  • C.R. England Inc. – Match Now.
  • Swift Transportation – Match Now.

How much do Amazon loads pay? ›

As of Aug 27, 2022, the average annual pay for an Amazon Owner Operator Truck Driver in the United States is $191,146 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $91.90 an hour. This is the equivalent of $3,675/week or $15,928/month.

Do flatbed trucks cost more? ›

Surprisingly, flatbed stake-side trucks are much cheaper than the same-year used pickup. There is a high resale value on pickups because of the demand. The resale on the used medium-duty truck is much lower due to the lower demand.

Is a Conestoga dock high? ›

Here are the dimensions of the step-deck Conestoga, in both of its 48 and 53-foot versions.
48-Foot Step-Deck Conestoga Dimensions.
Upper Deck Maximum Height8 feet (96”)
Lower Deck Maximum Height9 feet, 2 inches (110”)
Lower Deck Length38 feet
4 more rows

What are flatbed rates? ›

Flatbed trucking rates

Depending on the region, type of freight, and market conditions, rates can range between $2.71 and $3.30 per mile. The national average is around $3.07 per mile. This is well above the $2.27 per mile rate generated by dry van and van load-hauling trips.

How much can a flatbed haul? ›

Flatbed trailers can haul a maximum weight of 48,000 pounds. However, tri-axle trailers can haul up to 65,000 pounds, making them ideal for heavy cargo. Common dimensions for flatbeds are as follows: Length- 48 ft – 53 ft.

How much is a brand new flatbed? ›

Most new flatbed trucks can start as low as $30,000 and reach prices as high as $80,000.

What is the difference between Conestoga and flatbed? ›

Conestoga trailers tend to have a relatively lower weight capacity. For example, the conestoga flatbed trailer has a weight limit of 44,000 pounds when most standard flatbeds can carry up to 48,000 pounds.

How long is a semi with a 53 foot trailer? ›

Type of trailer: A standard dry van trailer is 53 feet long, which overlapping a few feet over top of the tractor, makes the unit about 70 feet.

What is a flatbed hotshot? ›

Hot shot trucking (AKA hotshot trucking) involves hauling smaller, more time-sensitive LTL loads (less than truckload) within a specific timeframe and usually to a single customer or location. Hot shot loads are usually delivered using medium-duty trucks that pull flatbed trailers. Hot shot truck requirements vary.


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