Mercer Transportation


10 Types of Freight That Can Be Shipped on an Open-Deck Trailer

Open-deck trailers, often referred to as flatbed trailers, are one of the most versatile components of the trucking industry, offering a flexible solution for transporting a wide variety of goods.

This guide will help you understand the capabilities and advantages of using open-deck trailers for your shipping needs and discover the most common types of flatbed freight.

What are Open-Deck Trailers? 

Open-deck trailers are a type of trailer with no sides or roof, providing an open platform for loading and unloading freight. This design allows for easy access from all sides, making it the go-to choice for hauling oversized or irregularly shaped items that cannot fit into enclosed trailers.

Open-deck trailers come in various sizes and configurations, including:

  • Flatbeds
  • Step Decks 
  • Double Drop Decks
  • Removable Gooseneck (RGN) 
  • Conestogas
types of open-deck trailers

Selecting the appropriate open-deck trailer depends on several factors, including the size and weight of the cargo, height restrictions, and specific loading and unloading requirements. But, whether you’re moving heavy construction equipment or raw materials, there’s a shipping method designed to meet your needs.

Benefits of Shipping With Open-Decks 

Open-deck trailers are used to transport a wide range of items, from houses to lumber, making them a highly versatile choice for shipping goods. They offer several common benefits regardless of what is being shipped, including: 

  • Ease of Loading and Unloading: The open design allows for straightforward loading and unloading from any side. This is particularly beneficial at delivery sites without a loading dock.
  • Ideal for Oversized Loads: Open-decks are perfect for transporting oversized or irregularly shaped items that would not fit in enclosed trailers.
  • No Height Restrictions: The lack of overhead structural constraints allows for the transportation of taller items without height limitations.
  • Secure Transportation: The ability to use chains, straps, and other tie-downs ensures that all items can be securely fastened, reducing the risk of movement and damage during transit.
  • Adaptability with Trailer Types: Different types of open-deck trailers, like step decks and double drop decks, are available to accommodate specific cargo needs based on size and weight.
  • Simplifies Transport of Long Items: Long items, which are challenging to load into enclosed spaces, are easily transported on flatbed trailers.

10 Most Common Types of Flatbed Freight 

Construction Materials

Construction materials are among the most frequently transported items on flatbed trailers. This could include items such as lumber, steel beams, bricks, concrete blocks, and prefabricated structures. The open design allows cranes and forklifts to easily access the materials, and the lack of height restrictions means that the tall materials can be transported without issue.

Machinery and Equipment

Heavy machinery and industrial equipment, including tractors, excavators, and generators, are often shipped on open-deck trailers. These trailers can accommodate the large size and weight of these items. Additionally, the open platform allows for the use of ramps which are often used to load and unload heavy equipment. 


Open-deck trailers are frequently used to transport vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even larger vehicles like buses and RVs. This type of freight is common for both new vehicle deliveries and the relocation of used or damaged vehicles. The open deck allows the vehicles to be securely strapped down for safe transit.

Large Pipes and Tubing

Large pipes and tubing, often used in construction, oil and gas, and water management projects, are another common type of flatbed freight. These items can be made of steel, PVC, or concrete. The length and irregular shape of pipes and tubing make them difficult to transport in enclosed trailers. Open-deck trailers provide the necessary space and flexibility to secure these items properly, ensuring they do not shift during transit. 

Solar Panels

Open-deck trailers are not limited to the transportation of just industrial or construction goods. They are also perfect for shipping unconventional items such as solar panels. Solar panels are delicate, and their shapes make secure packing in traditional closed trailers challenging. With a flatbed, they can be loaded and secured efficiently, ensuring their safe delivery.

Steel Coils

Steel coils are used in various manufacturing and construction applications. These heavy, cylindrical items are typically transported on open-deck trailers due to their size and weight. The coils are secured with straps and chains to prevent movement during transit.

Oversized Freight

Oversized items, such as large prefabricated parts, wind turbine blades, manufactured homes, and more, are often transported using open decks. These loads are usually classified as over-dimensional freight, requiring a removable gooseneck and permits for transportation.

Agricultural Equipment

Agricultural equipment, including tractors, plows, harvesters, and other farm machinery, are frequently transported on open-deck trailers. These items are essential for farming operations and need to be moved between locations efficiently. Open decks allow for the easy transportation of these large and heavy items.

Building Supplies

Building supplies such as roofing materials, insulation, and siding are commonly transported on open-deck trailers. Prefabricated building panels, including walls, roofs, and floors, are also transported on flatbeds, as the platform accommodates the large size and flat shape of these panels.

Military Equipment

Beyond typical vehicles and machinery, military equipment shipped includes armored vehicles, artillery, communication gear, aircraft parts, missiles, mobile medical units, and logistical support vehicles. These items are transported efficiently on open-deck trailers due to their size and need for secure placement.

The Right Tools for the Job: What Do You Need For Open-Deck Shipments? 

Shipping on an open-deck trailer requires specific tools and equipment to secure the freight loads. To ensure safety throughout the journey – from the loading dock to the final destination – flatbed drivers utilize a range of equipment to keep the freight secure and stationary.

Some of the essential open-deck trucking tools include:

  • Tie-Downs: This consists of chains, straps, or cables to secure the cargo to the trailer, preventing it from shifting during transit. The number of tie-downs required depends on the weight, size, and shape of the freight.
  • Tarps: Tarps are used to cover and protect the load from environmental elements like rain, wind, or dust. 
  • Edge Protectors: Placed on the edges of the cargo to prevent damage from straps and chains.
  • Dunnage: Refers to loose materials used to protect goods and their surrounding area from damage. This includes airbags, wooden planks, or plastic blocks preventing freight movement or filling empty space between loads.

Even with the right equipment, the quality and safety of open-deck shipments rely heavily on the skills and experience of the driver. Professional flatbed truckers know about correct equipment use, securing the load to perfection, and ensuring on-time delivery.

Shipping Requirements for Open-Deck Trailers 

Open-deck freight shipping involves adhering to several safety regulations to ensure secure and safe transportation. Here are some considerations when delivering flatbed loads.


Overhang refers to the portion of a load that extends beyond the rear of the trailer. The United States Department of Transportation states that four feet is the maximum length you can go over. However, the specific requirements can vary depending on the nature of the items being transported.

Permits for Oversized Loads

Oversized loads that exceed standard weight and dimension limits require special permits for transportation. These permits are necessary when cargo surpasses legal weight restrictions as set by federal and state regulations. The process of obtaining these permits involves specifying the dimensions and weight of the load, the intended route, and the transportation dates.

State Regulations

Each state has its unique set of regulations regarding legal weight limits and axle weight limits. Familiarizing yourself with these regulations is essential to avoid fines and ensure compliance throughout the transportation process.

Weight Capacity and Distribution

The weight capacity of a standard flatbed trailer generally ranges up to 48,000 pounds. However, ensuring proper weight distribution across the trailer is crucial to prevent overloading and potential damage to the cargo or the trailer itself. 

Determining Flatbed Freight Shipment Costs 

Flatbed shipping rates are determined by various factors, including:

  • Weight and dimensions of the cargo
  • Distance of the shipment,
  • Urgency of delivery
  • Current market conditions

To determine the freight rates of shipping on an open deck, we recommend consulting with transportation service providers who can offer detailed quotes based on your specific needs. Factors such as fuel costs, the truck ratio, the supply and demand of freight services at both the origin and destination, and any additional services required (e.g., tarping, securing oversized loads) will also impact the overall transportation costs.

How Mercer Transportation Can Help

Mercer Transportation is your partner for all your transportation needs. Our team is composed of some of the industry’s top truck drivers dedicated to delivering your freight safely and on time. With a network of over 1,300 flatbed trailers positioned across the country, we’re equipped to assist you wherever your shipping needs arise.

Our dedicated customer service team is on standby, ready to connect you with a driver and provide you with a detailed quote for your freight shipping costs. 

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