Common Trailer Types You Should Know

Truckload shipping is confusing, isn’t it! There’s a lot to figure out when your products are ready to hit the road. How much does your shipment weigh? How big is it? Do you need pallets? If so how many? And, of course, what kind of trailer would be your best bet?  

Let’s take a closer look at that last question because it’s a biggie. There are lots of different trailer types out there, and the more you know the better off you are!

After all, whether you are a new or an old shipper–knowledge is always power. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of common trailer types, their dimensions, and the types of cargo they carry.

A quick review of truck and trailer types!


  • Dry vans are the trucks you see most often–they look like long rectangular boxes because that’s what they are! They are enclosed and designed to haul pallets or boxes. They can carry from 42,000 to 45,000 lbs of cargo weight and have a maximum length of 53 ft., width of 8.2 ft, and height of 8 ft.

     Dry van freight is the most common freight in the US and includes non-perishable beverage and/or food items, clothing, plastics, building products, and textiles.

  • Reefers are, simply put, big refrigerators. They differ from dry vans in that they are equipped with a boxy refrigeration unit on the front of the trailer. You can see the refrigeration unit between the trailer and the tractor. Reefers are used to transport goods in need of strict temperature control. They can hold up to 45,000 pounds of freight and have maximum length of 53 ft, width of 8.2 ft, and height of 8 ft.

     Common temperature-controlled freight includes frozen seafood, fruits, meat, vegetables, dairy products, and non-food items like fresh flowers, film, and pharmaceuticals.

  • Conestogas are pretty cool because they have a rolling tarp system, in place of the rigid sides and top of a dry van, that offers protection. The rolling tarps enable shippers and receivers to load and unload from the sides which is nice for certain kinds of freight! They share the same basic dimensions with Reefers and Dry Vans.

     Need to ship heavy items like lumber or steel? Conestogas are a great option. They are also used for all sorts of palletized freight.

  • Flatbeds have no sides or tops–they are completely open. You see them everywhere. They are super versatile because they can be loaded from their tips, sides, and rears. Flatbeds are pretty popular players in the trailer world. They can carry a maximum weight of 48,000 lbs. The maximum length of a flatbed trailer is 53 ft, and they have a maximum freight height of 8.5 ft.

     Goods transported on flatbeds must be weather resistant or packaged in a weather resistant fashion.

  • Step Decks are a variation on the flatbed design. In simple terms, they are a flatbed with both an upper and lower deck. Designed to carry freight with greater height requirements, the maximum legal freight height for a step deck is 10 ft. Like flatbeds, the maximum weight for a step deck is 48,000 lbs. The maximum length of a stepdeck is 53 ft.



Yes, the variety of trailer types is greater than this list–from lowboys to side kits to removable goosenecks! Here at AM Transport, we get the confusion. But take it from us,  having a general knowledge of dry vans, reefers, conestogas, flatbeds, and step decks will give you a solid foundation upon which to build your loads.

And if You Have More questions?

We’re here to help! Don’t hesitate to give us a call at AM Transport Services! With 30 years in the logistics business, our team members know all there is to know about truck and trailer types. We will make sure your freight is transported in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible. Because that’s what we love to do!


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