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Types of Trailers You Will Use As a Truck Driver


A truck driver is likely to tow goods of all shapes and sizes, from small items to entire houses, and everything in between. The trucking industry entails driving many types of trucks and hauling trailers loaded with a variety of cargo as well.

Each type of trailer has its own requirements and regulations, as does the cargo it carries, which means that each type requires a different driving experience. So before you hit the road, know what type of trailer you’re towing to your rig.

We make sure our truck drivers receive everything they need before they start in the cab. As a starting point, we put together a list of eight common kinds of trailers you may end up driving as a truck driver.

Standard Freight Trailer

These are the most common types of trailers—the enclosed, rectangular trailers used for traditional store shipping and typically attached to semi-trucks. These trailers carry boxed, crated and palletized freight that is unloaded using a forklift, making them fully enclosed, which protects their contents from the elements. They vary in length from approximately 28 to 53 feet and in width from 8 to 8.5 feet. They are generally between 12.5 and 13.5 feet in height. Most have an axle-to-wheel ratio of 2:8, but heavy loads often use a 3:12 or 4:16 ratio.

Refrigerated Truck Trailer

Also know as “Reefer” trailers, these cargo holders are insulated and refrigerated, in order to transport perishable and/or frozen goods, including food items and pharmaceuticals. Reefer trailers have cooling units installed, usually toward the front, to keep their contents cool and fresh. Reefer trailers usually have similar dimensions to standard trailers, with the addition of a fuel tank stored beneath the trailer.

Standard Flatbed Trailer

Unlike traditional trailers, flatbed trailers do not have roofs or sides. Their open design makes them incredibly versatile. Flatbed trailers are designed to haul oversized cargo, and/or materials that need to be loaded or unloaded from the top or side of the trailer, rather than a smaller rear opening. Due to being uncovered, flatbed trailers must be packed and tarped correctly to protect the contents being hauled. These trailers vary in length, up to 48 feet.

Deep Drop Furniture and Electronics Trailers

These two-tiered trailers are usually used to transport large and bulky, but relatively light cargo, such as furniture or electronics. They provide increased cargo capacity, as they feature a second level at the rear.

Timber Trailers

Timber trailers are used a lot in the logging industry to haul logs.These trailers look like flatbeds, but have special stakes to hold logs in place. An attached crane is used to load large logs.

Drop Deck “Gooseneck” Trailer

This type of trailer is also used to carry oversized or special cargo. These trailers are very similar to flatbed trailers, but include a raised bed, which mimics the look of a goose’s neck. They are used to carry cargo that requires a different base than the standard flatbed. Drop deck trailers include a ramp on the lower deck for loading and unloading.

Car Carrier Trailer

True to their name, car carrier trailers transport cars, trucks, and other vehicles. They are equipped with two levels, in order to hold multiple vehicles. When loading vehicles, you must be careful to make sure all vehicles end up in park with the brakes set, and are secured to the trailer, taking all safety precautions. A series of ramps is incorporated for easy loading and unloading, as vehicles are heavier and more specialized than the average cargo. These trailers can be enclosed, but are often open.

Container Skeletal Trailer

Skeletal carriers are designed to be adjustable, so that they can accommodate containers of varying sizes. Their main purpose is to transport international cargo containers, which range from 20′ and 45′ in length. They carry 2:8, 3:12, and 4:16 axle/wheel configurations, changing depending on the load weight.

Additional Types

Of course, this list doesn’t cover every type of trailer. There are many other specialized trailers you may come across if you choose a career in trucking. Each run is a new experience and takes close attention when determining what special skills you may need to successfully maneuver the truck and trailer before you. We at CDL Academy hope to get the opportunity to teach you about each and every one of them.