Semi-trailers are an important part of the trucking industry. They are part of a person’s livelihood and can be purchased by the individual rather than by the company. The size of a trailer can ultimately determine whether or not the trailer will be an effective purchase and investment.
The average dimensions for a 53′ semi-trailer are a 53′ length, a 102″ width, a door height of 110″, and a total height of 13’6″. These are the largest dimensions a trailer can come in before an oversized load. Anything larger would require additional permits to transport legally.
It is important to be knowledgeable about the basic dimensions of a semi-trailer, especially when a person is considering investing in one. There are many more factors that should also be considered. These include things such as the type of trailers available, the types of loads each trailer type can take, what the average cost for a trailer is, and what kinds of licenses and permits are needed to be able to drive a semi-truck legally.
Types of Trailers
Unbeknownst to many people, there are a variety of trailer types available to be purchased and used by drivers and trucking companies. Many might see a few and understand the general idea of what the trailer is for and what it is made to transport.
However, there are about seven specific types of trailers: the basic model, flatbed, reefer, step-deck, double drop/lowboy, Conestoga, and RGN trailers. Each of these trailers is unique, as they have different purposes, details, and dimensions that are worth considering.
Specifics About Each Trailer Type
Each unique trailer type has its purposes, benefits, and disadvantages. Here is a general overview of each type of trailer.
Basic semi-trailers are the type of trailer that is most commonly used and recognized. It is a box shape that is enclosed. This shape and design are one of the most effective models of trailers because it keeps the product being transported safely from outside conditions. Basic Semi-trailers are nicknamed Dry Vans due to this fact. It is also used the most frequently because it is the safest way to transport the largest variety of products.
The dimensions of this kind of trailer are similar to the average listed prior. The length of the trailer can be between 48′ and 53′. The width of the trailer is 102″. The total height of the trailer is 13′ 6″ with the doors being about 110″ tall. The doors can be two styles, rolling or swinging. Inside the trailer, it can hold about 24-26 pallets of product. The maximum weight capacity is 45,000 pounds.
These trailers are the best for people looking to get into trucking as a career, as they are versatile and are known for being the easiest to maneuver.
Flatbed Semi-trailers have a different purpose than a normal semi-trailer does. This kind of trailer might have a side wall but usually doesn’t. It looks like a flat floor with a few axles and tires. This kind of trailer is useful for truckers because they tend to be lighter, easy to maneuver and drive smoother than other models. They also can have a larger weight capacity than other models.
This type of model has I-beams that are used as the main support. A trailer can have 1-3 of these beams. The beams are known for taking on the weight of the cargo. Then a flatbed of metal is placed on top of the bars to hold the cargo. This plate will be measured for its weight capacity. The weight capacity should be known by the manufacturer and the customer. It also has a suspension added to the trailer to make it a smoother ride for the driver and create better fuel efficiency.
An important thing to note is that walls can be added to this model of trailer. The cargo can be loaded and unloaded similarly to a basic model trailer. However, machinery can also be used to load materials. This kind of trailer is best used for loads that might be longer or for products that do not need to be protected from the environment.
A reefer semi-trailer is a refrigerated trailer. These types of trailers are used to transport perishable items, like food, seafood, certain medications, and other materials. A reefer trailer looks like the basic model of a semi-trailer; however, they have a refrigeration unit on the front end.
The refrigeration unit in the front works just like a refrigerator but on a larger scale. The energy is generated by a diesel engine that needs to be filled. This allows the unit to be refrigerated or heated 24/7. Due to the additional mechanics and fuel use, these types of trailers can also be more expensive to maintain and use over time. Drivers with reefer trucks also tend to drive at night because most of their loads need to be taken in the morning. They also have to clean the trailer after every load in order to maintain sanitation and reduce cross-contamination.
There are a few benefits to having a reefer trailer. One of these is the fact that drivers with reefer trailers are in higher demand and are paid more than other drivers. They are constantly needed and are harder to find, as the investment an individual driver has to make is much higher. Other benefits include the fact that grocery stores and other chains that need perishable goods delivered will have their own loading port and employees to unload the materials.
This kind of trailer is best for people who want a consistent, well-paying job who do not mind night shifts, and are willing to make bigger investments over time.
Drop Deck Semi-Trailers
Drop-deck trailers, also known as Step Deck Semi-Trailers, are most similar to flatbeds, as they both have a flat piece of metal for the flooring and have no walls. However, the big difference between these two models is the fact that a step deck trailer has two different levels to account for differing heights. The first platform is often 5′ above the ground, and the second platform is 36 to 48″ above the ground. The width for both platforms is the same, usually sitting at about 8’6″. The length of the first platform is 11,’ and the bottom platform is about 37-41′.
This variation leads to many different benefits. The first benefit is that it allows for taller loads to be transported much easier. On a flatbed, the tallest a load could go is 8’6″. On a step deck, the maximum height is now around 11’6″ but can increase to 12′. This can expand the options for the kinds of loads a person can carry.
These types of trailers are also much easier to load, as machinery can just lift a load onto the platforms instead of people having to walk in and out of the trailer with forklifts or manually carrying the product. This trailer also should be loaded with the product near the front of the vehicle instead of the back to promote better balance and less wear and tear on the tires. This type of trailer is a useful addition to a trucker, as it has a maximum load of 48,000 pounds.
Double Drop/Lowboy Semi-Trailers
A Double Drop or Lowboy Semi-trailer is a trailer that has a flat platform that is as close to the ground as possible. This make of trailer is useful for incredibly tall loads and has a maximum height of 12′. The platform usually rests below the axle. It may be surprising, but these kinds of trailers are considered safer to drive than a flatbed due to the lower center of gravity. A lower center of gravity allows the load to be less likely to tip or be pushed by the wind.
Another benefit of the Double Drop semi-trailer is that it allows trucks to have access to more roadways and routes. Trucks that are shorter can fit comfortably in most tunnels and roads, so having this kind of trailer can end up helping a driver save time and gas.
It also is possible to load these types of trailers with a crane or other forms of machinery. The main downside is that the cargo has to be able to withstand the elements throughout the trip. Overall, this type of trailer is best for irregular loads and for loads that can be taller.
Conestoga Semi-trailers are a remarkable compromise between flatbed style trailers and dry van trailers. The style resembles a flatbed trailer, as there is a flat platform and no permanent walls. However, the trailer has thick, tarp-like curtains that can be expanded and pulled over a load to protect it from the outside elements.
This type of trailer often solves the two issues that the previous models have. There are no solid walls, which makes a semi much less likely to tip and doesn’t add additional damage factors, such as tarp scraping the product. The protective outer layer that is removable allows the trailer to be loaded by machine.
This kind of trailer typically can hold 24-26 pallets of material, has a width of 102″, a length of 48-53′, and a standard height of 13’6″. This type of trailer is a wonderful choice for a driver who wants to be versatile in the loads they take and the jobs they do.
Related Article: What is a Conestoga Trailer?
A Removable Gooseneck semi-trailer is a trailer that has a removable front end. What happens is the gooseneck (a connecting piece) is removed, which causes the trailer to lower to the ground. By lowering the trailer to the ground, the people have a much easier time loading and unloading the trailer.
Once the loading process is complete, the front portion is reattached, and the truck can take its next load. An important distinction between this model and all of the others is the fact that this trailer is specifically built for extremely heavy and long roads. The weight that this trailer usually carries is anywhere from 42,000-150,000 pounds. It can also take loads that are over 29′ long!
These models are not meant to be driven on regular commercial roads and are meant to take heavy cars, trucks, and other materials that are extremely heavy or long.
The biggest thing to note is that these trailers also have additional axles that make them able to carry this kind of load. It would also be logical to say that they are much harder to drive than any other model of trailer. An RGN trailer is not for a beginner and should be bought after serious consideration.
Average Cost of a Trailer
The average cost of a trailer can range from 100-200 thousand dollars. The cost is largely influenced by the make and model of the truck and trailer a person is looking to own. It also depends on the seller. If someone is looking to start trucking, the best move financially would be to work for a commercial company and develop the necessary skills required to run independently.
For a more experienced driver, it is still important to consider the type of jobs and tasks they want to take on and their financial state. It is a commonplace for banks and other financial places to expect people to be able to pay a down payment of 15% of the cost before loaning the other 85%. If finances and skills are both good enough for this endeavor, then it would be worth the initial cost.
What Kind of Licenses and Permits are Needed to Drive a Semi-Truck?
In order to drive a semi, a person must have a CDL. A CDL is a license that shows that a person has the education and skills needed to drive a semi-truck safely. To get a CDL, a person must be 18 years old or older, have an ID and be an American citizen, speak and read English, and pass a physical exam, a written exam, and a skills-based assessment.
Now that all of this has been considered, people can make the best purchase for the size and type of load they will be carrying. It is certainly true that trailers are a remarkable part of modern society.