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Open deck shipping, or flatbed trucking as it’s often called, is the go-to choice for hauling large, heavy, and over-dimensional sized loads that won’t fit into standard trailers. Flatbed shipping can handle various items, from heavy machinery and construction materials to oversized equipment, making it an industry favorite in construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Companies can cut costs and lessen the risk of cargo damage by skillfully utilizing the range of flatbed trailers, each specifically designed for unique cargo needs. Collaborating with seasoned professionals like LGI can simplify this process even further. With the benefit of tech visibility and real-time market rate insights, we can ensure a shipping experience that’s more efficient, flexible, and cost-effective.

Is Open Deck Shipping Right for Your Business? A Comprehensive Guide

Open deck shipping excels in transporting large, bulky, or unusually shaped items that are difficult to accommodate in traditional dry vans or shipping containers. Industries like construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, and agriculture often utilize flatbed shipping for their unique operational needs.

Flexibility, Versatility, and Flatbed Sizes

One of the most appealing aspects of open deck shipping is its versatility. The lack of walls and a roof makes loading and unloading cargo easier from multiple angles, offering greater flexibility to ship to locations without proper loading docks. Flatbed trailers come in various lengths, ranging from standard sizes of 48 to 53 feet long to extended options of 80 feet long, allowing businesses to choose the size that best accommodates their specific cargo. 

Costs and Budget Consideration

While open deck shipping offers many advantages, it’s often more expensive than traditional dry-van trailer transportation. Some oversized or over-dimensional cargo shipped on a flatbed will need permits or escorts. These additions will require more expense and should be considered when budgeting for overall transportation costs.  

Regulatory Compliance

Make sure to factor in regulatory requirements, especially if your cargo involves hazardous materials or requires special permits. Compliance can add layers of complexity and expense but is non-negotiable when safety requirements must be met by DOT.  

Partner with Professionals for Best Results

Partnering with a seasoned 3PL provider like LGI ensures compliance and provides real-time data and visibility, helping you make data-driven decisions. Contact LGI today for a free quote

Signs your business may require flatbed shipping:

  • Do you often ship large, bulky, or unusually shaped items?
  • Does your cargo require unique loading and unloading capabilities?
  • Can you budget for the potentially higher costs of flatbed shipping?
  • Do you need specialized permits or have to adhere to stringent regulations?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to most of these questions, open deck shipping could be the right choice for optimizing your business’s operational efficiency.

The Different Types of Open Deck Equipment

To select the best transport equipment for your shipping needs, look at the range of open-deck trailers available. From standard Flatbed Trailers to specialized options like Removable Gooseneck Trailers, we’ll discuss key features and benefits so you can make an informed decision that matches your cargo and operational goals.

Flatbed Trailers

  • Description: Versatile and often used for various materials.
  • Typical Use: Legal and oversized freight.

Step Deck Trailers

  • Description: The lower rear section is designed to accommodate taller items up to 10’ high, providing more vertical space than a standard flatbed.  The higher front section of Step Deck Trailers is suitable for standard-sized cargo. This design is convenient for shipping pallets or crates of accessories or parts that accompany the oversized items in the lower section. 
  • Typical Use: Tall cargo that exceeds certain height and weight restrictions of a typical flatbed.

Double Drop Trailers

  • Description: It has three levels: higher in the front, lower in the middle, and higher at the rear. The lowest section of the double drop accommodates taller equipment up to 12’ as that section rides lower to the road. 
  • Typical Use: Extremely tall or heavy items; limited availability.

Removable Gooseneck Trailers (RGN)

  • Description: Features a detachable front section, creating a ramp. Much like the double drop and the step deck, the lowest section of the RGN trailers rides closer to the road for shipping taller items. 
  • Typical Use: Imagine delivering equipment to a construction site, where machinery necessitates a ramp for loading and unloading.

Hotshot Trailers

  • Description: Smaller and more agile flatbed trailers hauled by pickup trucks.
  • Typical Use: Urgent, time-sensitive shipments that are smaller in size and weight.

Industries Commonly Using Open Deck Equipment

  • Construction Materials
  • Heavy Machinery
  • Oil and Gas Equipment
  • Agricultural Goods
  • Consumer Goods
  • Renewable Energy
  • Forestry 
  • Telecommunications

Understanding the different types of open deck equipment will help you make an informed decision that aligns closely with your shipping needs. To explore these options further, consider partnering with experienced 3PL providers like LGI.

The Open Deck Market: A Mirror of Infrastructure and Construction Trends

The flatbed market is booming if the housing market, commercial construction, and other large infrastructure projects are booming. The open deck shipping sector closely reflects the pulse of these industries, making it essential for shippers to understand its dynamics.

Key Facts About the Open Deck Shipping Market

  • Percentage of the Transportation Market: Open deck shipping is a specialized yet vital transportation industry segment. It gains significant momentum when the construction and infrastructure sectors are thriving.
  • Fragmentation and Types of Carriers: The market comprises a diverse set of carriers, ranging from large, well-established companies to small, specialized operations. This fragmentation provides many service options but calls for a strategic approach to carrier selection.
  • Industries that Frequently Use Open Deck Shipping: Industries like construction, infrastructure, and oil and gas are the primary users of open deck shipping, capitalizing on their ability to handle large, bulky, or specialized loads.

Seasonality in Open Deck Freight

  • Factors Influencing Seasonal Demand: When construction and infrastructure projects peak in the summer, the demand for open deck shipping increases. Conversely, winter often brings a slowdown, leading to decreased rates.
  • Seasonal Trends Affecting Capacity: A recent statistic from DAT indicated that the flatbed spot market is 60% lower than in 2022. This reduced demand can be beneficial for shippers looking for more cost-effective options. However, remember that carrier capacity in this sector is more susceptible to market fluctuations than standard LTL or full truckload options.

Understanding trends and market conditions allows you to strategically plan your shipping schedules, take advantage of lower rates, and prepare for potential capacity challenges.

Navigating the Intricacies of Open Deck Shipping: Factors to Consider

Partnering with a knowledgeable and experienced carrier is critical for flatbed hauling. A carrier with experience understands and implements best practices to transport loads safely and efficiently while complying with regulatory requirements. They are skilled in securing diverse types of cargo and navigating the complexities of the job. Trusting your goods to a carrier proficient in securing a flatbed load is invaluable for the following reasons:

  1. Regulatory Compliance and Risk – Regulatory bodies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have stringent cargo securement rules. An experienced carrier is more likely to be up-to-date on the latest regulations and compliance issues, reducing the risk of legal repercussions.
  2. Safety – Selecting an experienced carrier ensures enhanced safety for drivers and other road users. Safe flatbed trailer hauling goes beyond securing straps. Depending on the shipment’s dimensions, it may necessitate the use of pilot cars, rule out the feasibility of specific routes, and require the procurement of additional permits for transportation. 
  3. Efficiency – A competent open deck carrier is more likely to deliver your cargo on time and intact. Watch them throw the straps over the trailer, and you’ll know if they’ve done this before. 
  4. Peace of Mind – Knowing that your cargo is in the hands of a trusted carrier allows you to focus on other essential aspects of your business.

A third-party logistics provider like LGI can be invaluable when navigating the complex landscape of open deck shipping. We offer expert guidance and technology tools for real-time rating, tracking, and market insights. Such tools can drastically simplify your shipping process, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

Unlock the Full Potential of Open Deck Shipping for Your Business

Open deck shipping is essential for companies in various industries, particularly those transporting bulky, oversized, or specialized items. The choice of logistics partner can significantly impact your shipments’ efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness.

Key Takeaways:

  • Assess if open deck shipping aligns with your business objectives.
  • Stay ahead by understanding both regulatory considerations and market dynamics.
  • Partnering with a knowledgeable third-party logistics provider like LGI can be a game-changer.

LGI, a trusted third-party logistics provider with a vast carrier network of over 11,000 carriers, specializes in managing various freight types across North America. Our expertise in Over the Road (OTR) services, ranging from dry van to heavy haul and flatbed, provides you with customized, reliable, and cost-effective shipping solutions.

For businesses aiming to optimize shipping efficiency and safety, entrusting your open deck logistics to LGI can simplify your operations. Contact LGI today for a free quote and expert guidance tailored to your unique shipping needs.