A flatbed truck (more accurately, a semi truck towing a flatbed trailer) is easy to spot: it's that long trailer with a floor but no sides or roof. If your load is pretty weatherproof and also ungainly, a flatbed may be the way to go. Flatbed trucking is your best option when your shipment is:
1. A large or heavy load that needs to get on and off the truck quickly; a flatbed trailer is easier to load and unload.
2. Stored in standard shipping containers--such containers are designed to be carried by flatbed trucks.
3. An odd size or shape, as is construction equipment, that's difficult or impossible to wedge into an enclosed trailer but sits fine on a flatbed trailer.
4. Invulnerable to wind, rain and snow; tie-down tarps on flatbed trucks offer only so much protection.
Here are the most effective solutions for shipping by flatbed truck:
Choose a type of flatbed trailerNot all flatbed trailers are alike. Different designs accommodate different types of loads. If you need a particular flatbed trailer design, you need to make sure the flatbed trucking company you choose has the right flatbed trailer on hand.
Know the class of cargo you will ship by flatbed truckTo calculate your quote, most flatbed trucking companies assign a class to each load according to the National Motor Freight Classification uniform standards. The cargo's density, ease of handling and liability of materials are all considered in assigning the cargo to one of 18 different classes representing the typical ease of transport for goods of that class.
Find a trucking company that fields flatbed trucksMost major trucking companies have flatbed trucks in their fleets, along with the usual box trailers and such. Nearly all offer free quotes online.
Investigate a trucking company's reputation before hiring its flatbed truckOnce you have a quote or two you like, do a background check on the flatbed trucking companies to make sure they are solid citizens. Ask companies for their overall claims ratio, which compares damage claims with the number of shipments carried. Be sure they have registered their flatbed trucks, have proper insurance, and have drug testing programs for their drivers.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, registers and compiles background and safety data on trucking companies, including those with flatbed trucks in their fleets.
- If a shipment is unusually large for its actual weight, flatbed trucking companies may charge for a higher "dimensional weight," determined by size, instead of the real weight.
- If you ship with a wrong size or weight estimate, the flatbed trucking company may stick you with a "reweigh" fee.
- If your flatbed truck load looks like less than a full truckload, talk to your flatbed trucking company about whether you can share the bed with someone else's shipment to save money -- a practice known as less than truck load, or LTL. (A full truck all to yourself is a full truck load, or FTL.)