What Is Flatbed Shipping: A Full Guide

What Is Flatbed Shipping: A Full Guide

Have you ever shipped large, oversized items before? Then you’ve probably heard of flatbed shipping. This shipping method is wonderful for industries with larger equipment and shipments, such as with industrial work, as well as shipments that are just too big for LTL shipping.

But what is a flatbed shipping method really? In this guide, we will explain what a flatbed is, when it’s best used, and all the benefits of this shipping choice. Check it out!

What Is a Flatbed?

What is a flatbed truck? That’s a great question, and you’ve come to the right place. For a flatbed definition, we often think of this shipping choice as one regarding the transportation of large goods that do not require any covering during the transportation process.  However, any freight can be transported on a flatbed with the help of tarps to cover and protect the shipment.

Additionally, flatbed trucks are great for goods that aren’t able to be loaded or unloaded from a dock, or come in a size that’s beyond the dimensions suitable for a standard truck. This is all due to the flatbed’s design, which is suitable for both cranes and forklifts to load and remove goods from the flat, open flatbed.

What Do Flatbed Trucks Carry?

Flatbed Shipping Benefits

Flatbed shipping is great for a wide range of shipments. From large industrial equipment to raw materials and building equipment, there’s a number of ways to utilize this shipping method.

To answer the question of what do flatbed trucks carry, here are a few of the common goods that typically rely on flatbed shipments.

  • Materials used for building, such as iron and steel bars or rods, concrete slabs, lumber, bricks, scaffolding, and more.
  • Farm equipment, like tractors.
  • Equipment used for defense, like segments of tanks, airplanes, and more.
  • Industrial tools and goods, such as machinery, drilling equipment, mining implements, solar panels, cranes, and other similar items.
  • Agricultural equipment.

Flatbed Shipping Benefits

Now that we know what a flatbed shipping truck is, it’s time to dive into all the benefits of this shipping choice.

One of the big benefits of the large flatbed truck sizes is that they provide more flexibility for larger goods since there are no physical walls enclosing the flatbed. This means all those large, oddly shaped items can be transported via this shipping method.

Secondly, flatbed trucks are easier to load. Due to their open design and “flatbed” to load cargo onto, these trucks can be loaded from all sides, including the top and back - great for when cranes or other tools are being used to load large, heavy cargo.

Additionally, flatbed trucks can carry heavier shipments compared to standard trucks. This helps provide even more flexibility when planning a large shipment.

Lastly, flatbed trucks typically include RGNs, double drops, and step decks to make the whole process easier and transportation smooth - all great elements when shipping large items.

What Type of Flatbed Is Best to Use?

Part of what makes flatbed trucks great is the various kinds there are that are designed to best suit different types of cargo. By determining which type of flatbed is right for you, you can ensure your shipment arrives safe and sound.

Below we are outlining the different types of flatbed trucks and what they are best for. These include:

  • Double Drop: This type of flatbed trailer has three heights in the trailer area, with the lowest deck accommodating taller goods. This is great for items up to 12 feet in height.
  • Step Deck: Similar to a double drop, this flatbed can also accommodate taller freight up to 10 feet in height and remain legal. It has a lower drop deck like a double drop, but the truck itself is higher up.
  • Conestoga: With this flatbed truck, there’s a rail system that helps cover the deck to keep goods safe. This includes a tarp to provide additional protection during the transportation process. However, in order for this covering to be used, there’s a restricted height and width of goods that can fit.
  • Removable Gooseneck: Ideal for transporting large vehicles, this flatbed features a gooseneck section that can be removed to make a ramp available so vehicles can be driven right onto the flatbed. This is great for especially large vehicles that are too heavy to lift with other machinery.
  • Stretch: Designed for long freight, stretch trailers extend anywhere from 48 feet to 80 feet to accommodate longer goods. However, the weight limit goes down as the trailer expands, limited to around 45,000 pounds.

These are just a few of the types of flatbeds available. Depending on your goods, there’s a number of options that can help safely transport your freight.

How Big Is a Flatbed Truck?

What Type of Flatbed Is Best to Use

Wondering “how big is a flatbed truck?” There’s no one, standard answer, but let’s explain.

Flatbed truck sizes vary based on the type of flatbed trailer you choose. However, the most commonly used flatbed trailer is usually around 48” x 8.5”. While the deck size will vary and have different height restrictions based on the kind best suited for your freight, this basic size is typically one you can count on.

What to Know Before Shipping Flatbeds

When shipping large cargo with flatbed trailers, there’s a lot to consider to ensure your goods arrive safe and sound. And we all want a damage-free delivery, right? Of course!

To help ensure the smooth transportation of your goods, keep these following tips in mind to ensure you do your best to facilitate the process.

  • Have accurate freight information: When securing your flatbed shipment, be sure you have all the details of your shipment ironed out. This includes everything from what exactly is being shipped, to the estimated value, all dimensions, and the weight. Additionally, if your goods have a unique shape, are extremely heavy, or especially tall, you’ll want to inform the company carrying your goods to ensure it falls within the weight, height, and length limits of the flatbed trailer being used.
  • Familiarity with flatbeds: As with any shipment, you want to understand how it's getting there, and this includes taking a look at the equipment being used. This not only will ensure the right flatbed is being used for your goods but help make sure you’re getting a cost-effective solution.
  • Partner with professionals: Transporting large freight via a flatbed can be a cumbersome task, and that’s why it’s important to work with the experts. They can help ensure the right equipment is used for the process and take the reins of a complicated shipment.


Now that you know the answer to what is flatbed freight shipping, all the different kinds of flatbeds, and the benefits, you’re ready to start mapping out your next flatbed shipment.

From helping you find the right flatbed to use to transport your goods, to ensuring all goods get to where they need to go on time, Cowtown Express is here to help. For a trusted partner to transport your large goods, our experts are the answer. To get started today, get a quote online, and we will begin configuring your next shipment.

Common Questions About Freight Shipping

Have questions? We’ve got the answers.

How are products loaded and unloaded onto flatbeds?

How items are loaded and unloaded onto a flatbed often depends on the cargo itself. For instance, some goods can be loaded and unloaded using cranes and forklifts, lifting heavy items and safely placing them on the flatbed. However, in other cases, such as with cars, a removable gooseneck flatbed is used so that the car can be driven directly onto the flatbed.

Is there a difference between freight and parcel?

Great question! Yes, there is a difference between freight and parcel. Typically, the term parcel refers to one, singular shipment that isn’t too large and thus can be handled by a standard shipping method, like with your local USPS, UPS, or FedEx. However, freight shipments often refer to larger shipments or a bundle of goods that are much heavier, typically above 150 pounds.