Demand for trucks drivers is up across every sector, and according to the American Trucking Association, will continue to grow through 2030. Flatbed volumes are particularly high in the current economy, as they are the hauling method of choice for the construction and manufacturing industries. Given the choice though, why would you want to choose flatbed trucking over other types of long-haul shipments? Below, we outline the main differences in flatbed trucking and some key benefits to truck drivers.
What is Flatbed Trucking?
As opposed to dry van trucking, which encases the load in a 4-wall, roofed enclosure behind the cab, flat bed trucking leaves cargo exposed to the elements, simply lashing the load to a flat bed. Flatbed trucking is generally used for oversized loads or equipment with unique dimensions that would not fit in a standard truck trailer. It’s also a favored shipping method of manufacturing and construction because it allows easy access for heavy machinery to load and unload.
Some typical flatbed loads might include:
- Manufacturing equipment
- Heavy medical equipment
- Lumber, piping, or steel rods
- Industrial-sized cabling coils
- Baled tires and scrap
- Landscaping and farming tools
- Automobiles and mobile homes
How Does Flatbed Trucking Differ from Dry Van Trucking?
Flatbed trucking offers some serious benefits to drivers, but there are key differences between it and standard, dry van trucking that drivers should be aware of.
- It Can Be More Dangerous: Statistically speaking, flatbed hauling is more dangerous than other kinds of trucking, because the loads are often heavier, wider, or more difficult to secure. However, the industry is highly regulated, and drivers have a lot of control over the dangers to their person. Flatbed trucking’s dangers can be easily overcome with the proper training and driver attention.
- It’s More Strictly Regulated: The laws and regulations governing flatbed trucks are much stricter than other types of trucking. However, these regulations are in place for the trucker’s and the public’s safety. Learning them is an essential element of making sure that you and your truck make it to the destination, not just a matter of red tape.
Because flatbed trucks deal with different types of loads, which can be more hazardous or difficult to transport, it requires a few additional skills from drivers.
Loading & Load Securing: Though typically loading for flatbed trucks is being done by the client using cranes and forklifts, truckers might be required to help. Loads for flatbeds by their nature can be very cumbersome and heavy, which puts a large demand on truckers assisting the load. Loading also follows strict regulations for balancing freight correctly over axels and the types and numbers of tie downs, which truckers need to understand.
Tarping: Tarping is an acquired skill, completely foreign to dry van truckers. It’s part of securing a load and isn’t required on every load. It likewise requires specific canvas kits and tarping systems. Securing tarping adequately is a public safety issue, and as important as securing the load.
Oversized Loads: Oversized loads follow a number of rules and regulations that vary significantly by state. Truckers need to plan their route accordingly, taking into account federal weight regulations and specific restrictions on bridge weights. Truck drivers might be required to obtain the permits for an oversized load, arrange for an escort vehicle, or adhere to a localized schedule for oversized loads.
5 Flatbed Trucking Benefits
The essential differences that make many truckers shy away from flatbed trucking are that the loads are larger and heavier, and transporting them can be more difficult and dangerous. However, this fact spurs 5 big benefits for truckers willing to learn the flatbed basics:
- Safety is a Priority: With additional regulations surrounding wide loads, oversize loads, and load securing, safety for the driver and the load undeniably comes first in flatbed trucking. As a flatbed trucker, you’ll be guaranteed to have the safety of the driver, the truck, the freight, and the public come first through inspections and law enforcement.
- Better Pay: Flatbed trucking companies consistently pay drivers more per mile compared to most other types of trucking. Truck blog CDL 101 reported on average, flatbed truckers earn about $13,000 more annually than dry van truckers. Of course, pay entirely depends on the company, but on average, flatbed truckers get paid more because they average more miles per load (in addition to getting paid more per mile) and many also get paid for tarping and/or loading.
- High Demand: As noted earlier, trucking itself is a high-demand industry, but flatbed trucking in particular is experiencing major shortages. When construction and manufacturing are booming, so is flatbed trucking, but the versatility of flatbed trucking is what ensures it will almost always be in high demand. Flatbed trucking is where difficult-to-haul loads turn to when other options fail, and it can transport many types of freight just as well as dry van trucking with proper load securing and tarping.
- Time Off: Flatbed trucking usually includes longer hauls with a single load, and loading/unloading is usually faster because it involves cranes or other machinery. This means less time loading and unloading during a given time period than dry vans. Flatbed trucking also usually requires fewer stops per load. All of this adds up to less time per haul, which means more time off.
- Variety and Challenge: Trucking can be a monotonous business, but with flatbed trucking there’s never a dull moment. Loads are rarely the same for flatbeds, as their primary benefit to shippers is their capacity to haul cargo of all shapes and sizes. Contrary to the idea that securing and tarping is a trail, many truckers enjoy the challenge of negotiating how to secure and tarp different loads. Securing and tarping in flatbed trucking also offer exercise for the body and the mind that combat some of trucking’s biggest drawbacks.
- Opportunities for Growth: Flatbed trucking requires truckers who know the fundamentals fundamentally. It takes trucking skills to the next level, and simple flatbed loads often lead to oversize loads and heavy hauls, which offer even higher rates per mile. From there, experienced flatbed truckers often grow into hazmat cargo qualifications or tanker endorsements, taking them to the highest paid ranks in the trucking industry.
Flatbed Truck Driver Jobs at a Transportation Company in East Tennessee
With the right preparation, skills, and support, flatbed drivers can have thriving careers from the very start. The transportation industry is in constant demand for truck drivers that can take on oversized or heavy loads that only flatbeds can handle. Flatbed trucking can be more challenging, but that challenge comes with a lot of rewards for truck drivers willing to take the next step.
Are you ready to start a career with high pay and great benefits with a supportive, empowering company? Roane Transportation is a transportation company in East Tennessee, and we are always looking to hire passionate, dedicated flatbed truck drivers. Currently, our top areas where we need to hire are East TN; Nashville, TN; Atlanta, GA; and Charlotte, NC. We offer industry-leading pay and excellent benefits to all of our truck drivers, plus guaranteed weekly home time. Our equipment is state-of-the-art to ensure the safety of our drivers and the loads they carry. With our national, regional, and local fleets, you are sure to find the perfect fit with our company. If you are interested in becoming a part of our flatbed trucking team, give us a call today at 865-354-3288 or apply online.