Dry van trucking vs. refrigerated shipping and flatbed trucks.

October 13, 2017

Before you can successfully transport freight, you must first determine the shipping option that best meets your transportation needs. There is a wide variety you can choose from, including dry van, refrigerated (reefer), flatbed and more. Each method of transportation comes with advantages and disadvantages that impact both shippers and carriers who are hauling the freight.

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of the freight shipping modes and the requirements that come along with each. We’ve outlined the advantages and challenges of dry van, refrigerated, and flatbed shipping based on factors such as haul length, wait times, and freight availability. 

Read on to learn which freight shipping method is right for you.


Dry van shipping.

Dry van shipping is one of the most preferred and trusted freight transportation methods available. It’s remained a popular means of transportation due to the high availability and numerous benefits of having an enclosed trailer throughout the process. Here’s a look at some of the advantages and challenges of dry van shipping:

Advantages of dry van shipping.

  • Dry van trailers are extremely versatile. A wide variety of freight can be shipped through this method, including non-perishable food, building materials, and more.
  • With dry van, you can worry less about the security of your freight as it’s excellent at protecting your goods from bad weather and theft. While some shippers prefer to use load bars with additional blocking and bracing, not all dry vans require the need for chains, straps or other covers while shipping.
  • The “drop and hook” load mode (drop an empty trailer, hook up a loaded one) saves you additional time and effort. As less time is spent manually loading and unloading the shipment, you can focus on more pressing needs. 
  • Dry van shipping represents one of the most affordable means of transportation that is able to accommodate both regional and short-haul shipments along with long-haul shipments.

Challenges of dry van shipping.

  • The hardwood floors in most dry van trailers are vulnerable to moisture and condensation buildup that can come from freight or through open doors. This can lead to extra repair or replacement costs if the trailer takes on damage.


Refrigerated shipping.

Refrigerated trucking is a great option for anyone who needs to safely ship temperature-controlled freight. A few of the advantages and challenges of refrigerated shipping include:

Advantages of refrigerated shipping.

  • Supply and demand. There will always be a demand for fresh products, therefore, refrigerated shipping will constantly be used to transport these goods. This form of shipping allows you to safely and easily transport your goods across the country.
  • Refrigerated trailers are not just limited to refrigerated goods. Dry goods or temperature-sensitive freight can also be shipped.
  • Refrigerated trailers are also great for protecting freight from weather conditions, theft, spoilage and possible damage.


Challenges of refrigerated shipping.

  • Cleaning the trailer after every load and controlling the thermometer and cooling equipment are just a few of the additional responsibilities that are required of the driver.
  • Due to the high-power motor always running, it can be noisy.
  • It’s fairly common to expect a longer wait time on shipping docks for loading and unloading. 
  • Should a breakdown occur, it can lead to unavoidable damage to the freight.


Flatbed shipping.

Flatbed shipping is used to transport freight that does not require the enclosure of a dry van. Similarly, flatbed is also used if freight cannot be loaded or unloaded from a standard dock or does not fit within the dimensions of normal truck trailers. Cranes and forklifts are able to load goods from all angles due to the flatbed trailer’s design. Here’s a look at a few of the advantages and challenges of flatbed shipping:

Advantages of flatbed shipping.

  • Flatbed drivers typically earn more per mile than most other trailer types, which in turn helps reduce driver turnover.
  • Due to the high demand of flatbed shipping in the trucking industry, there are ample opportunities for pick-up and delivery every week.
  • Backing into docks and unloading freight is not necessarily needed.

Challenges of flatbed shipping.

  • Special hauling and maneuvering skills are required when transporting oversized loads.
  • The flatbed driver must confirm that the freight is properly secured. Freight that is poorly secured is a major threat to the driver and any other vehicle on the road.
  • When bad weather conditions strike, transporting oversized loads can be complicated and dangerous.


Final thoughts.

Determining the correct freight shipping method is key for delivering goods to a destination on time, safely and in a cost-effective manner. Whenever important freight needs to be shipped, you need to make sure your goods arrive both safely and on-time. 
Working with an online freight service provider helps to connect you with high-quality contract carriers. As businesses typically don’t have adequate time to properly research carriers and find the best rates for their shipping needs, Freightquote by C.H. Robinson helps to find competitive rates from qualified contract carriers for you. With a wide variety of freight shipping services available, you can select the method that best fits your time frame and budget.


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