Flatbed freight shipping is an effective way to move cargo—especially oversized cargo—from one location to another. Flatbed shipping offers many benefits that make it an appealing option for shippers and carriers alike. As such, this is an essential supply chain solution that many businesses can’t operate without.
However, flatbed shipping also presents unique that companies must account for. Safe, thoughtful, and consistent packaging operations help ensure that products are secure during transit and reach end users in pristine condition. Learn everything you need to know about shipping on a flatbed truck and how to make the most of this shipping solution with this overview.
What Is Flatbed Shipping?
Put simply, flatbed shipping uses flatbed trucks to deliver cargo from one point in the supply chain to another. What really sets flatbed shipping apart is the truck itself. Unlike other shipment options, flatbeds don’t have an enclosed trailer. This means that drivers load and haul cargo on an open, flat platform with no walls.
As a result, height and width limits are more flexible. That’s why flatbed shipping works so well for hauling large or abnormally shaped loads. Popular examples of flatbed shipping include hauling lumber, shipping containers, or heavy machinery like tractors or excavators.
The Advantages of Using Flatbed Trucks
Flexibility is one of the main advantages of using flatbed trucks to ship your goods. Products don’t have to fit in an enclosed trailer, which makes it easier to haul large shipments. The lack of walls or ceilings means flatbed truck drivers can carry shipments that are taller, wider, and longer than standard trailers. Abnormally heavy or oddly shaped shipments also work well with flatbed trailers.
Flatbed shipping also offers greater speed and efficiency than other shipping methods. The open flatbed allows workers to access the truck from all sides. This streamlines loading and unloading processes, which means drivers can move through their stops with greater speed and efficiency. In some cases, flatbed trucks can even bypass loading docks and load or unload in any open area with cranes or other specialized equipment instead.
Disadvantages of Using Flatbeds
While the lack of walls or ceilings on a flatbed truck offers some advantages, there are also drawbacks you need to think about when using flatbed shipping. Flatbed trucks leave cargo exposed to the elements. Extreme temperatures, heavy participation, and other poor weather conditions can put certain products at risk. If you’re going to ship products that aren’t completely weatherproof, you need to come up with solutions like tarping to securely cover your goods and make sure they arrive safely.
Flatbed shipping also requires strict loading practices to ensure cargo is secure. Even if the weather is perfect, products can shift around and come loose when driving at highway speeds, making turns, or braking harshly due to incidents on the road. Even small mistakes can lead to unstable cargo that puts both the products and any drivers that come across the flatbed in danger. To ensure flatbed cargo stays safe, you need to employ stringent loading requirements and partner with expert drivers.
Know Your Way Around Flatbeds
If your company is going to take advantage of flatbed shipping, you need to be familiar with the ins and outs of flatbed trucks. Knowing what to expect—as well as knowing exactly how flatbed trucks differ from other shipping solutions—is the key to establishing safe and consistent operations.
It’s also important to familiarize yourself with different types of flatbed trailers. Each trailer type has specific advantages and requirements that make it ideal for different kinds of loads.
Double drop trailers feature three decks with different height levels. The lowest deck is useful when shipping taller cargo that won’t work with other trailer types.
Step decks are similar to double drop trailers, which means they’re also useful for shipping taller cargo. However, step decks only have two height levels, and the truck itself is higher up than a double drop truck.
Removable goosenecks (RGNs) are another popular type of flatbed truck. These trailers include a gooseneck section that operators can remove to make room for a ramp. This allows loaders to drive certain types of cargo—such as heavy machinery—directly onto the trailer, making loading and unloading a simple and easy process.
Know Your Product Loads
In addition to knowing your way around flatbeds, you also need to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of each cargo load you ship with a flatbed truck. Accurate freight information is a crucial part of safe flatbed shipping.
Pay attention to the dimensions, weight, and value of your goods. Knowing this information ahead of time helps you choose the right type of flatbed for your cargo. These details will also inform how you secure your cargo to the flatbed and how you’ll protect your products from highway speeds, inclement weather, and other hazards of the road.
Secure Pallets Enable Secure Shipment
Smart packaging techniques are a significant part of what to know about shipping on a flatbed truck. Consistent secondary packaging practices create balanced, stable pallets that can withstand transit on a flatbed.
How do you create high-quality product loads? You need to establish smart and efficient packing, palletizing, and wrapping processes. Below are a few tips for optimizing each stage of your secondary packaging line.
Case packer machines are responsible for placing products in secure trays, wrap-around boxes, or other case formats. An automatic case packer with multiple format capabilities and easy changeover processes streamlines the packing stage and delivers consistent results. By implementing automatic machinery that can pack a wide variety of products—including bottles, cans, bags, and cartons—you create secure and precise packaging techniques that keep products stable and safe while in transit.
Automatic palletizing equipment creates balanced product loads that won’t shift, tilt, or fall apart in transit. Product placement is crucial when creating pallet loads. Palletizers ensure each product load has the balance, stability, and structural integrity necessary to move safely through your supply chain.
Automatic and semi-automatic stretch wrappers are an essential step in your packaging line. Wrapping each pallet with stretch film creates a strong and secure barrier that holds products together and prevents spills and other accidents during shipping. Stretch wrap equipment offers stronger levels of pre-stretch, faster wrapping processes, and increased accuracy for an optimized containment force with every load.
If you’re planning to ship product loads on a flatbed or any kind of truck, you need the right equipment solutions to ensure each pallet is as secure as possible. Implement your optimized secondary packaging line when you work with the experts at Robopac USA today.