Flatbed trucking: How it works, rates, pros & cons

Some forms of cargo, like oversized construction materials, won’t fit in a traditional dry van for shipping. However, clients still need a way to get these shipments to their final destination. 

This is where flatbed trucking comes in. Flatbed trucking is a type of shipping service specifically designed for these oversized loads. 

Driving a flatbed truck comes with additional responsibilities that you wouldn’t encounter while shipping in a dry van. However, this type of trucking can also be very rewarding and financially lucrative. Here’s everything you need to know about flatbed trucking before you get started. 

What is flatbed trucking?

Flatbed trucking is the process of transporting oversized goods that don’t fit in dry vans. Flatbed trucks don’t have walls or roofs, so they comfortably accommodate large or uniquely-shaped types of cargo that won’t fit in other types of shipping vehicles. They usually range in length from 48 to 53 feet, although there are some extendable flatbeds that are longer. 

Drivers will need to carefully position and secure the cargo to the flatbed so that it is properly balanced over the axle of each wheel. Depending on the type of cargo you’re transporting, you may also need to fasten tarps over each load as well. This extra preparation is essential for keeping your cargo safe while you’re on the road. 

Flatbed cargo types

As a flatbed driver, you’ll carry a wide variety of different cargo types. Some of the most common types of cargo include: 

  • Lumber
  • Vehicles such as tow trucks
  • Farming equipment
  • Steel coils
  • Mobile homes

These are just a few examples of cargo types you might encounter on the job. Any ultra-large cargo could be a candidate for flatbed shipping. 

Flatbed trucking pros

There are many advantages to working as a flatbed trucker. Here are some of the reasons why you might consider this type of trucking work. 

Competitive pay

Many truckers are attracted to flatbed jobs because of the compensation. Because flatbed driving requires extra care and skill, these jobs tend to pay more than other trucking gigs. Full-time flatbed truckers often make over $90,000 per year, and owner-operators who offer flatbed services will also command very competitive rates

Job variety

While it may be challenging, working as a flatbed trucker is never boring. When compared to other types of trucking, you’ll have a greater variety of routes on your schedule. You’ll also transport many different types of cargo. 

Many drivers find that the variety they experience on the job helps them stay engaged. Additionally, flatbed routes are relatively short, which means that drivers rarely have to take on lengthy week-long trips

High demand

Shippers are consistently looking for flatbed drivers to help them transport their cargo. This means that once you acquire the skills to be a flatbed trucker, you’ll likely have no trouble finding work. 

Active job

Many other types of truckers struggle with health problems because driving is very sedentary. However, flatbed trucking is much more active due to the necessary loading and unloading of cargo. Additionally, drivers spend less time waiting before dropping off shipments. 

Flatbed trucking cons

While flatbed trucking work has plenty of advantages, there are also some downsides to this type of shipping work. It’s important to be aware of the potential disadvantages of flatbed trucking as well. 

Physically demanding

While the active nature of flatbed trucking might be a plus for some drivers, it can be a downside for others. You’ll need to be able to confidently maneuver oversized loads and secure large tarps, which requires a certain level of physical strength and puts extra stress on your body. You’ll also need to help unload the cargo once you reach your destination, which isn’t the case for dry van drivers. 

Challenging driving

Because these loads are so large, they are more difficult to drive with than a traditional dry van load. If cargo isn’t properly secured, it could potentially come loose while you’re driving. When this happens, you’ll need to be able to re-secure the cargo yourself on the road. 

This means that drivers need to be very knowledgeable about the physics of their truck and how to maneuver it safely. Additionally, drivers will need to be particularly careful when driving in poor weather or on winding roads. 

Strict regulations

The US DOT and other transportation agencies closely regulate flatbed trucking to prevent accidents. This means that drivers will need to understand these regulations inside and out, following them meticulously to avoid legal consequences. While these regulations are necessary to keep everyone safe on the road, they can also make the job more demanding. 

Flatbed trucking rates

Rates for flatbed trucking tend to be higher than other jobs. While exact pay will depend on current demand levels and the route you’re driving, average pay tends to be between $2.71 and $3.30 per mile. This means you could easily make $1,000 or more for a relatively short trip. 

Flatbed trucking is a potentially lucrative option for skilled drivers who want to take on more challenging loads. Looking to streamline your trucking business? Get started today with Rose Rocket, the #1 rated TMS. Quote clients, plan routes, and track your orders, all in one place. See for yourself below.

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