common trailer types

Beginner’s Guide to Common Trailer Types

Are you new to truckload logistics? It can be confusing. After all, there’s a lot to consider when your products are ready to hit the road.

  • What does your total shipment weigh?
  • How big is your shipment?
  • How many pallets are needed?
  • What kind of pallets are best?
  • What kind of trailer would work best?

Today, we’re going to take a look at that last question because trailer type is important, and there’s more than one out there. In today’s market, the more you know the better off you are. Knowledge is power no matter how experienced you are. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common trailer types, their dimensions and the types of cargo they carry.

Common Truck and Trailer Types

Dry Vans

Dry vans are the trucks you see most often–long rectangular boxes. They are enclosed and designed to haul pallets or boxes. They 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 because 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 requirements. They can hold up to 45,000 pounds of freight and have a maximum length of 53 ft, width of 8.2 ft, and height of 8 ft.

Common temperature-controlled freight includes frozen food, fruit, meat, vegetables, dairy products, and non-food items like fresh flowers, film, and pharmaceuticals to name a few..


Conestogas have a rolling tarp system in place of the rigid sides and top of a dry van. The rolling tarp enables shippers and receivers to load and unload from the sides which is a benefit for certain kinds of freight. Dimension-wise, they are the same as 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 quite versatile because they can be loaded from the top, side, and rear. Flatbeds are 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 a flatbed must be weather-resistant or packaged in a weather-resistant fashion.

Step Decks

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 is 48,000 lbs and the maximum length is 53 ft.

Sure, there are more trailer types–from lowboys to side kits to removable goosenecks. Here at AM Transport, we understand the confusion. That’s why we get to know you and your freight. When you work with us, we take the guesswork out of the equation by finding you the right carrier and mode of transportation for your cargo.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions. With over 30 years experience, we love helping manufacturers and distributors. We’ll make sure your freight is picked up and delivered in the most efficient method possible at the best rate!