- Flatbed shipping is highly dependent on weather. It is a cyclical and seasonal business, dependent upon construction and capital expenditures. This makes fleet optimization very difficult for flatbed carriers as it is hard to keep all drivers busy during off seasons, while still maintaining enough drivers to handle large volumes of freight during the peak season.
- There are more than 14 types of flatbed trucks, but flatbed, step deck and double drop deck are the three most common types of flatbed trailers. Flatbed trailers are versatile, making them a common asset for carriers. Step deck trailers can haul taller loads than flatbed trailers, usually have a ramp for loading/unloading, and tend to be safer for forklift pickup. Double drop deck trailers have extra axles for better balance, have a 25-29 foot well to hold freight, and are used to haul flatbed freight that’s over 10 feet tall.
- Typical flatbed freight includes auto parts, construction equipment, excavators, generators, lumber, mining/drilling equipment, solar panels, tubing and steel.
- Flatbed shipping gets tricky with over dimensional freight, such as a crane. Certain over dimensional flatbed shipments need pilot vehicles, lights and signs designating over size freight, and/or proper cargo securement procedures.
- Cargo securement is a big issue in flatbed shipping. FMCSA has a lengthy section of rules for securement, even taking the time to write commodity-specific requirements on working load limits and blocking and bracing. The rules go through just about every type of cargo and method of cargo securement to demonstrate their appropriate uses. Obviously, insecure cargo is a serious safety hazard, especially while decelerating or accelerating in reverse.
- The intersection of I-20/59 and I-65 in Alabama is known as “Malfunction Junction”. It is an odd intersection as the two roads cross over each other twice. Since 1987, there have been approximately 30 accidents at this site caused by dropped cargo from flatbed trucks (and several more from tankers). Often it’s steel coils that fell off during a rollover, jackknife or from a securement failure. The accidents have caused serious damage to the highway, costing up to $300,000 per incident, and a lot of flatbed freight is purposely routed around the area.
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