It has been estimated that upwards of 70% of all the freight shipped in the U.S. spends at least some time on the back of a truck. Rail and maritime shipping is also utilized, but trucks do most of the heavy lifting for freight transport. The best of the best is the flatbed trailer, capable of carrying just about anything you can place on it.
Flatbed trucking companies and owner-operators tend to get the best paying jobs because of the nature of what they do. Simply put, most of which cannot be put inside of a box trailer can still go on the back of a flatbed. Some jobs require some creative rigging to make them safe, but there is almost nothing you cannot put on the back of a flatbed trailer – within reason.
As you might expect, shipping via flatbed trailer can be rather expensive. What many shippers do not realize is that there are tremendous costs involved for both trucking companies and drivers.
Costs for Companies
Companies specializing in flatbed shipping invest quite a bit in equipment just to get started. There are tractors and trailers along with a full inventory of rigging. All the equipment requires routine maintenance and repairs, so that adds to the price tag. But all of that is just the start. Flatbed trucking companies also have to consider:
- Size and Weight – The size and weight of a load may determine what routes can be traveled. Taller and wider loads may require special alterations including moving power lines, shutting down streets, and so on. Excess weight also puts more wear and tear on equipment.
- Distance – Trucking is an industry that bills by the mile. For every mile a load has to travel, the price of shipping goes up.
- Freight Durability – Flatbed companies and independent truckers have to be concerned about the durability of each load they carry. They need to maintain freight insurance, but that may include extra charges for certain kinds of loads that are not as durable as others.
In addition to these three things, certain loads may have special requirements attached to them. For example, a shipper may require certain kinds of tarps in a specific configuration in order to protect more sensitive parts of a load. Extra time might be required to load a trailer and secure the cargo due to the nature of the load. These are all things that have to be considered.
Costs for Drivers
One of the more unique aspects of flatbed trucking is that drivers have to invest in cargo control equipment and supplies as part of their job. It is not like hauling loads in tankers or box vans in which the cargo is pretty much self-contained. The flatbed is exactly as its name implies. It is nothing more than a flatbed on wheels.
Mytee Products, a cargo control supplier, says that drivers invest heavily in everything from chains to tarps to headache racks. All a driver’s costs are ultimately passed on to the customer. This arrangement is no different than any other business. The truck owner has to include all the costs of doing business in the price charged, and then add some for profit.
From this description, it should be quite clear why flatbed trucking can be expensive. It is more expensive than dry goods or tanker trucking because it is more labor-intensive and incurs some extra expenses. But when there is no other way to get your freight where it needs to go, the extra cost of flatbedding is well worth the price.