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A flatbed truck (or flatbed lorry in British English) is a type of
A flatbed has a solid bed, usually of wooden planks. There is no roof and no fixed sides. To retain the load there are often low sides which may be hinged down for loading, as a 'drop-side' truck. A 'stake truck' has no sides but has steel upright pillars, which may be removable, again used to retain the load.
Loads are retained by being manually tied down with ropes. The bed of a flatbed truck has tie-down hooks around its edge and techniques such as a
Some improvement was made with the general replacement of ropes by
Flatbeds became rare in the 1980s as the majority of road freight changed to either
Flatbeds are still in use, but are now used for more specialised cargoes, such as
In North America, the length is commonly 48 feet or 53 feet, and the width is either 96 or 102 inches (including rub rails and stake pockets on the sides, which generally placed every 2 feet). Some older trailers still in service are only 45 feet or shorter if used in sets of doubles or triples (often used to haul hay). Various lengths and combination setups can only be legally driven on turnpike/toll roads which are far too long for most roadways. Body and frame can be one of 3 general designs: the heaviest and sturdiest is all steel (usually with wood planks), Ever popular combo with steel frame and aluminium bed, these type often have wood portions for nailing down dunnage boards), and aluminium (which is the lightest allowing for more cargo to be legally carried without overweight permits). Incredibly light and very expensive to purchase, all aluminium trailers are very slippery when wet, flex more and are easily damaged. They also have a natural upwards bend so that when loaded they straighten out to be more flat, rather than to sag in the middle under a load.
Another popular type of flatbed trailer is a stepdeck (or drop deck) with approximately 2 feet lower deck and low profile wheels to accommodate taller loads, without hitting low bridges or tunnels. These stepdecks can come with loading ramps to allow vehicles to roll on and off of the back from ground level. Shorter trailers used for local jobs such as landscaping and building material delivery within urban or local areas can have a "hitchhiker" type forklift truck attached to the back in order for driver alone to deliver and unload pallet/skid items. A bulkhead or "headache rack" is sometimes be attached to the front of either a straight or a stepdeck trailer for load securement at the front of the deck. In the event of long pipes or steel or lumber coming loose in a hard braking incident, they save the operator and cab/sleeper in one of two manners in theory. If attached to the trailer they bend while attempting to block forward motion of a loosened cargo, causing the long load to go above the cab and driver.
If attached to the frame behind the cab or sleeper of the tractor, in theory they protect the back of the cab from impact and if unable to stop the load coming through the cab, they cause the cab to be knocked off of the frame, rather than impale the cab and kill or seriously injure the driver. 48 and 53 foot lengths usually have two axles spread out to over 10 feet apart at the rear "California spread" in order to allow for more weight distribution on the rear of the deck (40,000 lb instead of 34,000 for a tandem axles design). So-called Cali spread was originally designed to comply with bridge weight formulas in that state but has since been adopted in most other parts of the country. These spread axles take a far wider turning radius, and if turning the combination tractor/trailer too sharply, the front axle tires of the trailer may damage the road/parking lot surface, or pop a tire bead off of the rim, or both. Some trailers have the capability of lifting or lowering the front axle independently to mitigate this risk. The driver may not be able to use this feature if the trailer is loaded, but if the deck is empty the driver can lower the front axle to bring the rear axle off of the ground to significantly decrease the turning radius of the rig for easy maneuvering in tight spaces, or to reduce tire wear during empty/deadhead miles of travel.
Under the deck of the trailer can be attached racks for spare tires, dunnage boards, or tire chains, as well as various tool/storage boxes. On one side (or often both sides for alternating pull on strap tension) are usually sliding (but sometimes fixed) winches to ratchet down 4 inch straps for load securement. On most 48 foot trailers, you may not place these strap/winches over a tire as when air pressure releases out of the suspension system when parked, the deck lowers down and will likely pop a trailer tire. Some trailers have an air scale. When the driver learns how to interpret the scale properly through experience, combined with his knowledge of how much his/her rig weighs when empty, he can interpret how much cargo can safely and legally be loaded onto the trailer. With different varying loads of cargo, the driver can have an idea how much his gross total weight is (and if he is legal to avoid a ticket) (80,000 without a permit in most states, but slightly lower in others). Some decks have pop up chain systems which have a higher WLL (working load limit) than attaching chains to either the stake pocket/spools, or the frame.
Other decks of trailers can have sliding detachable accessories which greatly diversify the options of where and how to place a chain hook for securement. Besides axles which raise/lower as needed, some spread axle trailers can slide one or both axles forward, or back to create a tandem setup in specific situations when necessary, to comply with weight distribution requirements. Certain amounts of front and rear cargo overhang are allowed (as well as overhang to one or both sides of the trailer) with flags/banners/flashing lights to warn drivers behind and to the side of impending danger of impalement if they follow too closely behind and the truck suddenly stops. In extreme cases, permit loads require an escort vehicle in the front, rear, or both for oversize/over dimension cargo/equipment.
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