What are the Different Types of Semi-Trailers?

We see semi-trailers all the time in modern life. Semi-trucks may haul a commercial truck trailer across town on local streets or across the country on our interstate system to efficiently transport goods. 

Besides employing trailers for hauling, some companies use them as stationary platforms for storage and other uses. Whether used as trucking trailers or for other purposes, these trailers are versatile and economical. Because there are many sizes of trailers and trailer types, they can be easily adapted to many tasks.

Dozens of semi-trailer styles exist, and the many types of trailers can seem confusing sometimes. But the basic choices are really very simple. You can learn all about the different types of semi-trailers in this brief blog from Eagle Leasing and decide which is best for your needs.

Enclosed Trailers

Commonly called box or van semi-trailers, along with a variety of other less widely known names, these road trailers are long, rectangular steel boxes that are completely enclosed. Usually, there are doors at the back for loading and unloading, although doors may also be on the side.

The main advantage of these types of trailers is they help protect cargo from the elements, road debris, and thieves. They can also help keep the contents from spilling.

Trailers also are available with curtain sides to help protect the cargo. These are usually flexible synthetic curtains held down to protect loads.

Specialty Trailers

Refrigerated trailers, often called reefers in the trucking trade, are box trailers equipped with refrigeration units. These enable truckers to safely haul meats and other perishable items that need to be kept cool to avoid spoilage.

Car carrier semi-trailers are built specifically to load and unload automobiles. Some are partially enclosed, but most aren’t. These are often used by car manufacturers to deliver new vehicles to automotive dealers. They are also popular with snowbirds. Instead of driving, these seasonal migrants hop on a plane and pay truckers to move their vehicles between their north and south residences at different seasons of the year.

Flatbed Trailers

As their name implies, flatbed trailers have long, open beds without walls or a roof. The main advantage of flatbeds compared to box trailers is they can be easier to load. 

This can be especially important when dealing with large, bulky, and heavy machinery that wouldn’t fit in a box trailer. Flatbed trailers are also often used for heavy materials like lumber, steel, and concrete products.

semi-trailers-article-2 What are the Different Types of Semi-Trailers?

Although flatbeds do not offer the same protection from the elements and prying eyes as box trailers, the loads can be covered with tarps to provide some protection from weather, vandals and thieves.

There are several types of flatbed trailers. The most common kind has a flat floor and a bulkhead at the front between the truck and the trailer. Flatbeds often have removable side rails.

Drop-deck trailers are a type of flatbed. Sometimes called step-deck trailers, these trailers have beds that “step down” a level from where they are attached to the truck that’s hauling them. Double drop-deck trailers are used to haul equipment that is too tall for a flatbed or drop-deck. Also called lowboy trailers, they are essentially flatbeds in which the bed is set as low as possible. These trailers are often used to haul heavy equipment, major machinery, or any oversized cargo.

Tank Trailers

As the name suggests, tank semi-trailers are essentially large tanks on wheels. This type of trailer is used to haul many types of liquid products ranging from milk to gasoline. Specially manufactured tank trailers may also be used to haul industrial gases.