Flatbed trucking can be very hard work but also very rewarding. There are many advantages in flatbed trucking such as higher pay, regular exercise and the ability to haul a very wide range of freight.
Flatbed Trucking – Pros & Cons
Flatbed pay vs dry van pay
The vast majority of flatbed trucking companies pay more per mile and have longer hauls than most other types of trucking jobs. In addition to earning more per mile flatbed trucking companies also pay their drivers a set fee to tarp a load that must be protected from weather, dirt or exhaust fumes.
Over the Road (OTR) flatbed trucking fleets will pay about .42 cents per mile while a dry van driver will only make about .34 cents per mile. When looking at earnings over a year’s period the difference adds up;
Dry Van: .34 x 2,300 Miles Per Week = $782
Flatbed .42 x 2,300 Miles Per Week = $966 + Tarp Pay of $60 = $1,026
Dry Van Maximum Annual Salary: $40,664
Flatbed Maximum Annual Salary: $53,352*
NOTE: 2014 pay rates were compared from large well known fleets of comparable size.
*This does not account for the fact that MOST flatbed trucking fleets average more miles per load, per truck when compared to dry vans.
Another factor to consider is that flatbed trucking companies spend much LESS time being loaded and unloaded when compared to dry van trucking companies in any given week or time period. The average number of pick-ups and deliveries in a week for a flatbed driver is only two, sometimes three.
The obvious difference between flatbed trucking and dry van trucking is the difference in freight. While dry vans haul mostly palatalized loads flatbeds haul a wide range of diverse loads. Pipe, I-beams, machinery, aluminum extrusions, steel coils and cable reels are only a few of the products hauled by flatbed trucking companies.
It is fairly common for a flatbed to haul oversize and/or overweight loads. Generally speaking flatbed drivers with many years of driving experience handle the largest of all oversize loads, many of them being 12 feet wide and greater. Special trailers like Removable Goose neck Trailers (RGN) are capable of hauling very heavy loads as well as tracked military equipment like Abraham’s Main Battle Tank (MBT) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV’s).
With freight being transported on an open platform it is imperative that the freight is properly secured to prevent movement and the possibility of losing a load. Many types of securement devices exist but the most common types of securement devices are 4 inch nylon straps and steel chain.
Nylon straps are attached to one side of the trailer with a metal hook and the other end is attached to a winch that is then tightened down in order to secure the load. The advantage of using straps over chains is that they are more user friendly to work with, are soft and wont damage the freight and are long enough to go over the highest of loads. The disadvantage to using straps is that they are weaker (5,000 pound Working Load Limit) than chains and they are also susceptible to abrasion from sharp corners. To prevent abrasion padding is used under each strap where it contacts the freight.
Chains are generally used on loads that are steel products such as pipe and plate. The chain is looped through a special rail on each side of the trailer called a rub rail. The slack is then taken up with what is called a chain binder. Many styles of chain binders can be used including pinch binders and ratcheting binders. Chains are normally rated at about a 12,000 pound Working Load Limit but the binders may be rated less than the chains.
Tarping is sometimes needed to protect a load from weather, condensation, dirt or exhaust fumes. Lumber tarps, steel tarps, coil tarps and smoke tarps are different types of tarps that can be used for a variety of different loads. Tarps can weigh up to 80 pounds and often more if wet or covered in ice. Tarping can be very dangerous work and one of the harder duties involved in flatbed trucking.
Dangers of flatbed trucking
Flatbed trucking when compared to all other types of trucking jobs is the most dangerous for a verity of factors. The first reason is that many loads require the driver to climb on top of tall loads in order to tarp or attach load securement devices. With the tarp being spread over the load it can be very difficult to detect were it is safe to step and where there may be no material to stand on under the tarp. The chance of falling from from a high load is very likely if extreme caution is not used.
Another reason that flatbed trucking is dangerous is due to the type of freight that is hauled. Pipe, I-beams and other heavy loads can be very hazardous to be near when unloading or while removing load securement devices such as chains and straps. Loads can become unstable and fall or collapse and then spill over the sides of the trailer killing or injuring anyone standing in the way.
Load securement must be done properly to insure that the load doesn’t shift during transit. Freight if not properly secured can shift forward and come thru the cab of the truck killing or injuring the occupants. It is also possible that poorly secured freight may fall onto a roadway causing death or injury to other motorists.
If you are contemplating a career in in flatbed trucking you can expect hard work, dirty work but most of all rewarding work.