How Many Pallets Fit on a 53 Foot Trailer and How to Optimize Your Dry Van Space?

How Many Pallets Fit on a 53 Foot Trailer and How to Optimize Your Dry Van Space?

A versatile stack trailer can move a variety of goods. With this essential piece of equipment, your business can transport anything from household supplies to food and beverage products, and anything in between. When a pallet load is shipped on a dry van trailer, and packed correctly, moving pallets is also cost-effective.

No matter what you’re shipping or how many pallets fit on a truck, the success of your dry van freight shipping comes down to strategic planning. In this article, we’ll dive into how many pallets fit on a 53 foot trailer and what you can do to ensure your dry van freight shipment goes off without a hitch.

What Are the Dimensions of a 53 Foot Trailer?

While some companies will use a 48 foot long trailer to ship goods, most will use a 53 foot trailer for loading pallets on a truck. Fifty three foot long dry van trailers are ideal for moving a large number of pallets on a trailer and this is the size you’ll most often see on US highways.

For determining dimensional capabilities, consider:

  • Height — The maximum cargo height for a dry van trailer of this size is somewhere between 108 and 110 inches, or between nine feet and nine feet, two inches high. One hundred and eight inches is the most common capacity. 
  • Width — The total cargo width capacity of this size trailer typically falls between 98 and 100 inches, or eight feet, two inches, to eight feet four inches. One hundred inches is the most common. 
  • Length — The maximum length is 53 feet long, or 636 inches. 
  • Weight — the total weight capacity falls between 42,000 and 45,000 pounds. But that ultimately depends on the specific trailer used and goods shipped.

Since these are open pallets on a truck, products exceeding these dimensions can’t be shipped. So if your goods are too big, get in touch with us for large capacity FTL freight shipping.

4 Ways to Load Pallets on a 53 Foot Trailer

how many pallets fit on a truck

Demand for dry can trailer space and semi-trailer pallet capacity has increased dramatically in recent years while supply hasn’t increased. Without adequately packing a pallet load and shipment planning, you risk overpaying. Finding an available dry van that fits your needs isn’t easy and won’t become easier anytime soon.

But there are a few different tactics you can use to maximize the available space on a trailer, and it all comes down to the different ways of loading a pallet. The different strategies for loading a pallet ultimately depend on the size and weight of the pallets used. Let’s dive into those next.

Straight Pallet Load

How many pallets fit straight in a 53 foot trailer depends on if you’ll be loading the goods on normal-sized pallets. Then you’ll want to use a straight pattern. This is the most common way to optimize trailer space. You’ll directly load the goods into the trailer, leaving enough space to secure the pallets.

The main benefit of a straight pallet loading pattern is that it’s the fastest way to load compared to any other technique. Additionally, and depending on the length of each pallet, you can load many pallets at once for a high-volume load. However, the drawback to a straight pallet load is that the pallets are more likely to move.

Turned Load for 53 Foot Trailer

If you’re loading pallets in a non-standard size, you’ll want to use a turned pattern when loading freight. Potentially, you can get a higher volume of loads for delivery of this nature if you load the pallets where the longest side enables you to use more space.

The main advantage of turning pallets in a lengthwise pattern is that it minimizes shifting in-transit, keeping the goods secure. But, you’ll need to ensure that you can safely unload the pallets from each side.

Pinwheel Load

You’ll use a pinwheel pallets pattern if you need to fit a large volume of goods in the shipment. With this pattern, you can fit the most pallets possible. Width and lengthwise, you can take full advantage of all the space the trailer has to offer when you use a pinwheel load technique.

In addition, the interlocking pattern ensures increased stability during transit. The downside, however, is that you won’t have time to set up the pinwheel pallets if you’re shipping freight on short notice. This pallet pattern is the most time consuming.

Weight Distribution Freight Load

Legally, you can’t ship a load that exceeds 80,000 pounds on a semi-tractor and trailer. This may seem like a massive weight capacity. But that figure includes the weight of the machinery — not just the pallets.

In general, a semi-tractor weighs between 18,000 and 21,000 pounds, with a dry van trailer adding another 15,000 pounds. So, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for the remaining semi-trailer pallet capacity. After all, is said and done, you’re looking at about 44,000 to 47,000 pounds left for your palletized goods.

Crucially, you can’t take those 47,000 pounds and put them on the rear axles of a trailer. That’s not safe and will make it difficult for the truck to move. Single axle dry vans have about 20,000 pounds placed above the axle. Tandem-axle trailers have 34,000 pounds capacity. Depending on how many axles the trailer has, the space between them, and tire width, weight totals will fluctuate.

The bottom is that for heavy palletized freight loads, you likely won’t be able to haul as many pallets since the spacing is more of an issue.

How Many Standard Size Pallets Can a 53 Foot Trailer Fit?

The amount of pallets you can fit on a 53 ft dry van trailer depends on the size of the pallets used. Dry vans in a general move a huge amount and variety of palletized loads. So, the length of the pallets typically used in freight shipping isn’t consistent. But let’s look at this with the most common pallet size used.

The most common pallet used is called the Grocery Manufacturers Association Pallet, or GMA. This type of pallet was initially constructed to meet food industry standards at 43 inches long by 40 inches wide and is engineered to withstand the conditions in a dry van. Using these pallets, you can fit 26 across the floor of a dry van trailer if you’re loading them in a straight pattern.

For pinwheel pallets or pallets set in a turned pattern, you can fit 28 to 30 in total. This also gives you some extra room in the trailer, unlike in a straight loading pattern.

Before shipping, be sure that you have a pallet loading diagram ready so you can minimize your expenses and maximize your load amount safely.


Optimizing your dry van space hinges on preparation, and loading your product safely and efficiently will set you up for a successful delivery. Be sure to plan your pallet diagram way ahead of time so you can lay out your pallets in the best pattern possible. Remember that a pinwheel pattern gives you the most space, but it’s also the most time consuming to load.

For guaranteed pallet load efficiency, take advantage of our reliable dry van trucking company services. Reach out to us today for your no-obligation dry van shipping quote.

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