Dry Van vs. Flatbed: What’s Best For Each Shipment?

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Picking the right vehicle (and firm) to transport your load can save you some severe hassle and help to keep costs low. 

If you’re unsure about the type of vehicle you need, it can be worth reviewing the options available and considering the kind of shipments they’re best suited to. 

Two popular OTR shipping options are flatbed trucks and dry vans. What’s the difference? Which is the best vehicle for your shipment?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions by providing some essential info on the pros, cons, and uses of dry van trailers and flatbed trucks, equipping you to make the best choice for your shipment. 

Let’s dive right in!

Dry Van vs. Flatbed: pros, cons, and types of dry van shipment

A dry van, or dry van trailer, is an enclosed vehicle typically used for transporting commercial goods. 

The trailer is usually loaded and unloaded from the rear via a loading dock or using a forklift.  

A dry van can be up to 54 feet long and carry up to approximately 45,000 pounds, although this varies by trailer size and structure. Common dry van types include the 28-foot, 53-foot, and smaller box trucks, which customers often use for city deliveries.  

Pros of using a dry van trailer

Dry vans are a popular freight choice and come with a range of benefits, including that they: 

  • Protect cargo from weather conditions
  • Keep load secure, minimizing the risk of theft or damage 
  • Offer an affordable mode of transportation
  • Don’t require a loading dock
  • Can cater to hook and drop, speeding up turnaround time 
  • Come equipped with a strong floor, making them a sturdy option for heavy loads
  • Are suitable for transporting a wide range of shipment types  

Cons of using a dry van trailer

Despite their benefits, dry vans do come with certain limitations, including that they:

  • Can only be loaded and unloaded via the rear, limiting maneuverability  
  • Are not temperature controlled, making them unsuitable for refrigerated goods

The best types of shipment to move using a dry van trailer

One of the reasons dry vans are such a popular transportation choice is their versatility. 

These trailers come in various sizes and frequently cater to less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping and full truckload (FTL), meaning you don’t even need to fill the entire truck. 

Dry van shipping can be an excellent choice for a range of shipment types, such as:

  • Clothing and retail products
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Building products and materials
  • Any kind of consumer-packaged good Z

A dry van may not be the best choice for your shipment if it is made up of items that require temperature control, such as perishable food items, or if your freight is oversized or bulky. In these instances, you might want to consider a refrigerated or flatbed truck

Dry van vs. flatbed
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Flatbed trucks: pros, cons, and types of shipment

Flatbed trucks are another standard freight transportation option that offers similar – but not identical – benefits to the dry van. 

Flatbed trucks are similar to dry vans, with a length between 20 and 53 feet. However, their maximum weight limit of 48,000 pounds makes them capable of carrying slightly heavier loads than dry vans. 

The main difference between the two trailers is that while dry vans provide an enclosed cargo space, flatbed tracks have an open platform (the flatbed) without walls or a roof. 

This structural distinction makes flatbeds and dry vans suitable for carrying slightly different shipment types. 

Pros of using a flatbed truck

There are plenty of benefits to using a flatbed truck:

  • They easily accommodate heavy, bulky, or oversized loads
  • They offer ample storage space that is uninhibited by sides or a roof
  • They make loading and unloading simple due to easy access to all sides of the flatbed
  • They require less cleaning and maintenance than enclosed vehicles
  • They are versatile: flatbeds come in a variety of set-ups, such as step decks, double-drops, and removal goosenecks (RGNs)

Cons of using a flatbed truck

Despite their perks, there are a few downsides to opting to use a flatbed truck, as they: 

  • Offer less security due to their open sides
  • Come with strict usage regulations
  • Require a highly skilled driver to maneuver, which can increase costs
  • Expose loads to the elements 

The best types of shipment to move using a flatbed truck

Flatbed trucks are a popular option for many businesses when choosing a freight vehicle. 

Flatbed shipping can be an excellent choice for shipments that are:

  • Oversized, heavy, or bulky
  • Difficult to maneuver (and would benefit from all-side access to the vehicle)
  • Irregularly-shaped
  • Require specialist equipment to move or load them

These options might include:

  • Lumber or heavy materials
  • Equipment or machinery
  • Long pipes
  • Pre-formed concrete items
  • Shipping containers (since you won’t expose the contents to the elements)

For all your shipping needs, choose Jansson

Whether you’re looking for a dry van trailer, flatbed truck to transport your shipment, or another type of freight transportation, Jansson has the tools needed to get the job done. 

As an independent agent of Landstar, Jansson has access to an extensive network of third-party carriers that can cater to your specific shipping requirements. 

For more information about our range of shipping, warehouse, and logistics services, or to request a free quote, reach out to Jansson today!

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