What is a flatbed trucking company?
The purpose of trucking companies is to offer transportation services to other companies that do not have their own dedicated trucking fleets. Transportation of freight is actually a complex operation with a lot of moving parts. For many companies, it makes sense to let a business that specializes in transport services handle it for them.
Shipping needs differ across industries, however. The food service industry often requires refrigerated (reefer) trailers. An industry like retail electronics will mostly make shipments of smaller products that need to be carefully shielded from the elements and protected from theft. Dry vans will tend to be used for shipping this type of load.
For other types of freight, a dry van isn't the best choice. Sometimes it's a matter of capacity. A large piece of machinery like a dump truck or an industrial AC unit isn't going to fit. At other times it is about weight. Flatbeds are heavy haul trailers that can handle up to 48,000 lbs. A final consideration is ease of access. The open design of flatbed trailers makes loading and unloading convenient.
Flatbed trucking companies sometimes specialize in handling just flatbed freight. This allows them to have highly-trained drivers who are experts in things like properly distributing weight and securing freight. This ensures maximum reliability and minimal issues with flatbed deliveries.
What makes a good flatbed trucking company ?
Whether you're a driver or a customer needing heavy haul services, there are some basic things you'll want to see in a flatbed transport company. For instance:
Is their equipment relatively new, clean, and well-maintained?
Do they have a good reputation with their customers and drivers?
Do they have a strong safety record?
If you are a driver looking for a job, however, you'll also be interested in some additional information about a company:
Are their pay and benefits competitive with other companies?
Do truckers who drive for them have the ability to be home regularly to see friends and family?
Is there flexibility about the route and schedule for drivers?
Does the business listen to its employees and respect their input?
You might be wondering: How can I find this kind of information about a company? One great source is looking at employee reviews on Indeed. You should always take any individual review with a grain of salt. But if you see common themes across a number of reviews, it is probably a reasonable representation of what you can expect from the company.
What are the biggest flatbed trucking companies?
There are a large number of flatbed trucking companies. Some offer regional services and others transport goods on a national or even international basis (serving Mexico and Canada in addition to the U.S.).
What are the top flatbed trucking companies? It depends upon what one means by that. One way to measure is by revenue (which gives an indication of the volume of freight shippers are moving). By that measure, here are the top 10 flatbed carriers:
Landstar System (Jacksonville, FL)
Daseke Inc. (Addison, TX)
Anderson Trucking Service (St. Cloud, MN)
PS Logistics (Birmingham, AL)
Bennett Motor Express (McDonough, GA)
TMC Transportation (Des Moines, IA)
Maverick USA (North Little Rock, AR)
Mercer Transportation (Louisville, KY)
Melton Truck Lines (Tulsa, OK)
United Vision Logistics (Lafayette, LA)
This list includes common and contract freight carriers operating in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Source: Transport Topics.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to be an owner / operator?
Owner operators have their own equipment (typically the whole tractor trailer - in other words the truck as well as the trailer) instead of driving the equipment belonging to a trucking company.
The advantage is that you are paid more for your services. On the other hand, you have more expenses, may lack benefits, and may have less consistent income. So it isn't for everyone. Do your homework before deciding which option is right for you.
You'll also need to do some homework about the kind of flatbed trailers (step deck, double drop, etc.) that are best for the freight you want to haul.
Are all flatbed trailers the same?
There are significant differences in flatbed trailers. Just like with anything else, quality matters. Some trailers are built better than others. If you are considering becoming an owner operator, do some research to find out what the best brands are.
There are also differences in design. Step deck and double drop trailers, for instance, are designed to have a lower deck to be able to carry a taller load than a standard flatbed trailer. Conestoga trailers have a retractable tarping system built in to make covering and protecting your load easier.
What is unique about being a flatbed driver?
The main differences between being a flatbed driver and a dry van driver are related to managing your load. The open flatbed trailer requires a bit more skill to load and balance properly. Shipments also may need to be secured and protected from the elements with heavy tarps. The driver is responsible for these aspects of freight management. This physical aspect of the job is what many drivers enjoy about working for a flatbed carrier.