What is Flatbed Trucking?

flatbed truckingFlatbed trucking is a type of trucking where a truck tractor, or cab, hauls freight secured to an open, flat trailer. Flatbed loads have “legal” dimensions. If the load exceeds these requirements, additional and substantial fees may apply.

Flatbed Dimensions

A legal flatbed load must be equal to or less than 8’6” high, 8’6” wide and 48’ long.  Some states may allow for a little overhang without permits, but if freight is close, it’s best to confirm.  A good legal maximum weight for flatbed freight runs around 45,000 lbs.

An extra inch in any of the dimensions can mean thousands in additional cost.  Exact weight is also important. Excess weight can translate into big, additional fees.

Scheduling a Flatbed Trucking Shipment

If your freight won’t fit into a dry van, it may be necessary to ship flatbed, also called an open-deck trailer.  You’ll need to provide exact dimensions and weight.  Also, make sure the carrier you call has the equipment necessary to secure your freight to the trailer deck.  These include chains, straps, binders, and tarps.

Carrier-direct or Freight Broker?

If you will ship flatbed freight regularly and to the same location, it may make sense to go carrier direct. If flatbed is new or only an occasional type of shipment, a freight broker may be the better option.  Freight brokers are staffed with logistics experts who understand all types of truckload shipping.

A freight broker’s staff can walk you through the process from start to finish.  They’ll ensure you meet all the necessary requirements and they can help avoid additional fees.  If your freight does exceed the “legal” dimensions, they’ll be able to tell you upfront to prevent unwanted surprises.

In many cases, freight brokers can also offer lower rates.  As they work with many different carriers, they can connect you with the one who offers the best services and the best possible rate.  This saves companies a lot of time and energy in terms of man-hours spent working out the details themselves.  If a truckload broker sounds like it might best for you, find one who specializes in truckload services.

Questions to Ask To Get the Best Trucking Rates

trucking ratesGetting great trucking rates should be simple.  Most truckload carriers and LTL freight companies have established rates and adjustments based on preset standards.  With a few simple questions, you can find out what they are.  Then you’ll position yourself to take advantage of them.

The best trucking rates don’t come from asking a carrier about rates and discounts though.  They come to companies that ask themselves a few simple questions first.

With that in mind, let’s look at the questions a company should ask before contacting a carrier. Then, we can look at the questions to ask the trucking service.

Questions to Ask Yourself

A good rate meets your need. A great rate meets your need and delivers value.  To get great rates every time, ask yourself these questions before you call a carrier.

Is this a one-time need, or will it be ongoing?

The answer to this question establishes both your immediate and long-term need.  It also clarifies whether you should work directly with a carrier or if you’d benefit from working with a third-party logistics broker. An ongoing need may require flexibility in both delivery location and services. For a need like this, a business might need a larger national or international carrier.

One factor to consider here: while companies that ship large amounts of freight might be able to get great low rates, a smaller volume shipper might not. Frequent but low volume shippers may find a freight broker can get them lower rates.

Am I shipping locally, regionally or nationally?

Some carriers ship within specifically defined areas while others ship all across the country.  If the need always ships within the same lane, it may be possible to arrange great low rates.  For needs that vary, low negotiated rates could be lost in the time spent contacting multiple carriers. For a varying need, a freight broker can provide pre-negotiated rates and save a company a lot of  time.

What am I shipping?

Will ever shipment require a full truckload?  Or will some shipments benefit from LTL or partial truckload services? Volume is one consideration.

Another consideration is whether you’ll always need to ship the same type of freight.  Will it always require a dry van?  Or will hotshot, refrigerated or flatbed services be in your future?

This may be the simplest question to answer.  To get the most benefit, answer it for the immediate need, the need one year from now and the anticipated need three years from now.

Now, once you’ve answered these questions, consider whether it makes sense to work carrier direct or with a freight broker.  It might be worth looking at both if you’re not sure.

Questions to Ask to Get Great Trucking Rates:

  • What is your service area?

Find out if they cover all the areas of service you need.  As a followup, you can ask if they ever hand off service to a partner carrier if you need to ship beyond their area.

  • Are there any discounts available?

Find out upfront how they handle their rates.  You can also ask if there are any times when rates are lower.

  • What is your claims process?

If you would have to handle all claims yourself, consider the cost in terms of time and money to manage a potential claim.  If the rate is low, but the risk is high, it may not be the best trucking rate.  This question helps to look at rates from a wider, more comprehensive view.

  • Do you provide shipping reports?

Like the question above, if you have to compile all your data, you’re losing valuable time.  Or you won’t identify the areas of cost savings.  Consolidated data makes savings opportunities apparent when reviewed.


Ask these questions and you’ll find the best trucking rates for your business.  Of course, if you’re looking for fast and simple, you can always leverage the resources of a freight broker.  They coordinate, schedule, and manage your shipments, in addition to providing already negotiated low trucking rates.