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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

Flatbed Truck Dimensions: How Big Is a Flatbed Truck?

What Type of Flatbed Is Best to Use

There's no one, standard answer for truck size in flatbed shipping, as dimensions vary based on the type of flatbed trailer you choose.

However, the most commonly used flatbed trailer used in flatbed shipping is either 48 or 53-foot long with an 8.5-foot deck. While the deck size will vary and have different height restrictions based on your planned flatbed freight (including whether it is an oversize freight), these are the most typical dimensions.

Legal Flatbed Overhang

When working with an oversized flatbed load, it is critical to know the permitting requirements and overhang regulations in your specific location to avoid legal issues.

48-Foot Flatbed Overhang

It’s important to understand how oversize load regulations differ when traveling between states. Luckily, most states allow you some wiggle room when it comes to overhang on a 48-foot flatbed deck. This is because flatbed legal dimensions are generally based off of the deck itself in addition to the length of the overhanging freight.

A good rule of thumb with 48-foot flatbed trailers is that you have about five extra feet of trailer overhang. The legal overhang on a flatbed trailer gets you up to 53-feet of total flatbed load. Anything larger than this, however, will require an additional oversize freight permit.

53-Foot Flatbed Overhang

It is very unusual for a state’s trailer overhang laws to allow for oversize loads on a 53-foot deck. Most states will also require extra permitting if the entire trailer length end-to-end exceeds 65 feet, which is inevitable with a 53-foot deck.

There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. Wyoming, for example, will not require a permit so long as the combined trailer and load length falls below 60 feet. Such a situation is uncommon, so make sure to look into the legal dimensions and weight limits in the states you will be traveling through.

Flatbed Front Overhang

Much like rear truck overhang, the amount of front overhang allowed on a flatbed deck varies significantly by state. Many states will prohibit all front overhang without an over dimensional freight permit, while some will authorize a few extra feet. Looking into your state’s trailer overhang laws will help you evaluate whether front overhang is an option for your trailer.

A non-legal, physical barrier to front overhang will be the presence of a headache rack. Many semi-tractors will come equipped with this tool, meant to keep the driver safe and the freight stable. With a headache rack, overhang laws may become irrelevant if your semi-tractor simply runs out of room.

How to Secure the Load on a Flatbed Trailer Properly

flatbed load
  1. Know your load. Before learning how to tie down flatbed loads, familiarize yourself with the specific characteristics and dimensions of the load you’ll be transporting, including size and weight.
  2. Locate the anchor points of your trailer ahead of time. These are places where you’ll be strapping down a load, so you’ll want to know where they are to avoid blocking them off.
  3. Before securing a load, distribute it evenly across the flatbed deck. Load heavier items on the center of the deck and stack other items on top if necessary.
  4. Choose the correct restraints. Knowing how to secure load on flatbed includes familiarity with the materials that can be used to strap down the load. Chains are tougher than ropes but harder on the cargo, so it’s important to understand how the weight of your load will affect the materials you need.
  5. Secure loose items. When strapping a load to a trailer, you should account for loose items by using a net or use a cover to protect from wind.
  6. Provide cushioning between items that might knock into one another.
  7. Check the load as you drive. Even with proper flatbed strapping, stay on the safe side and double check periodically to ensure everything is secure.

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, freight shipping company 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.