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Step Deck Trailer Dimensions | Choose Wisely

When shipping different types of equipment or machinery, there is not a one-size-fits-all option. This process can be very dangerous if you don’t use the proper trailers. Use this as a guide to determine if a step deck trailer is the best choice for your transport. 

A step deck trailer has an overall length of 48 to 53 feet and overall width of 102 inches. The upper deck is 11 feet long and 5 feet high. The lower deck has a length of 37 to 41 feet and a height of 36 to 42 inches. 

What Is a Step Deck Trailer?

A step deck trailer is a commercial trailer designed to carry cargo. People use a step deck trailer when cargo exceeds the legal height limit for transportation on a flatbed trailer. Using a step deck trailer to transport tall cargo prevents drivers and operators from having to get a permit.

What Is the Average Size of a Step Deck Trailer?

Step deck trailers range in overall length from 48 to 53 feet long and have a width of 102 inches. 

Step deck trailers have two deck levels, an upper deck and a lower deck. The upper deck is 11 feet long and 5 feet high. The lower deck ranges from 37 to 41 feet long and 36 to 42 inches tall. 

When loading a step deck trailer, you can only load them from the top or the side. The main deck is closer to the ground to adjust the center of gravity, allowing the hauling of taller material. 

Load levers can level the lower deck with the upper deck if you don’t need two levels for a load.

How Much Weight Can a Step Deck Trailer Haul?

A step deck’s design enables it to haul heavy freight over long distances. Furthermore, the cargo on the trailer can have a wide variety of dimensions. However, the maximum legal weight a step deck trailer can haul is 48,000 pounds.

Average Load Clearance Requirements for Step Deck Trailers

Each state maintains different legal limits when determining the required clearance for step deck trailers. Therefore it’s essential to always check with local authorities first before you start hauling. 

If your freight excessed 8 feet 6 inches tall, you would need a step deck trailer. Legal trailer dimensions with freight are 48 to 53 feet in length and 8 feet 6 inches in width.

The legal height dimension for trailers carrying freight is 13.5 feet. In addition, the total weight capacity of the trailer and its contents is 80,000 pounds.

Step Deck Trailer Ladders

In addition to these clearances, you should always have a step deck ladder with you when transporting cargo. Step deck ladders can reduce the chance of injury when climbing on and off trailers. 

It’s important to get the appropriate size ladder for your trailer. Step deck ladders come in different sizes but are usually 48 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 3 inches deep.

These ladders connect to the side of the trailer and remain upright and locked in position when not in use. Then, you can easily unlock and fold the trailer down to access the trailer.

Other Types of Trailers

In addition to step deck trailers, there are several other types of trailers for shipping equipment and machinery.

Even the most experienced shippers can find it challenging when choosing the best trailer. However, knowing the specifications of each type of trailer can be helpful when determining the best way to ship freight. 

Dry Van Trailers

Dry van trailers are closed box trailers that are not temperature controlled. These trailers are the most common and transport the largest amount of the world’s cargo. The trailer is fully enclosed with doors on the back, so you can only load them from the rear. 

Dry van trailers have wooden floors so that cargo can be secured with nails and blocking. A dock is required when loading and unloading. 

The dry van trailer is 48 to 53 feet long and 4 feet from the ground. The maximum haul capacity is 45,000 pounds, but most dry van carriers prefer not to exceed 43,000 pounds.

Refrigerated Trailers

Refrigerated trailers, sometimes called reefer trailers, have a refrigeration unit that you can set to an exact temperature range. These trucks transport food, beverages, flowers, fine art, and any products that require a controlled temperature. 

Refrigerated trailers have metal floors, so you can’t nail loads to the floor. Because of this, a refrigeration truck is not an option for loads that require bracing. 

A dock is required when loading and unloading a refrigerated trailer. Plus, you can only load and unload it with a forklift.

A refrigerated trailer is typically 48 to 53 feet in length and 4 feet from the ground. The maximum haul weight for refrigerated trailers is 43,000 pounds. Usually, a refrigerated trailer is 53 feet in length, but it can be 48 feet long in some cases.

Hot Shot

A hot shot is not necessarily a trailer but rather a trucking phrase that refers to moving an expedited load quickly. These loads are typically smaller or partial loads. Hot shots often travel to remote or difficult to access areas and typically deliver a load to one customer. 

Hot shots are typically pick-up trucks that allow for sharp turns that a typical truck could not pass. The pick-up trucks have 20 to 40-foot trailers and can carry up to 18,000 pounds of material. The trailers are usually similar to flatbeds or step decks. 

Flatbed Trailer

Flatbed trailers are used to transport industrial materials and do not have sides or a roof. This is a common trailer because it is versatile and provides a quick and easy loading and unloading experience. Because there is no cover to protect the freight, heavy loads must not be perishable or vulnerable to weather.

The most common items transported on a flatbed trailer are steel coils and plates. They can be loaded from any direction, overhead, side, or rear. A flatbed trailer is typically 48 to 53 feet long and 4 feet high.

Double Drop Trailer

A double drop trailer is similar to a step deck trailer as it hauls taller materials, typically over 10 feet. It has two upper decks on each side of the lower deck. This helps to lower the center of gravity even more than a typical step deck trailer allows.

Double drop trailers can haul material 1 to 1.5 feet off the ground on the main deck or well. The main deck is typically 28 to 29 feet long.  

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Trucking

LTL shipping is a mode of transportation where freight shipments do not require the entire space of a truck’s trailer. Shipments are often combined with others to allow multiple shippers space on the same truck. LTL shipping is best when shipments weigh less than 15,000 pounds. 

Because LTL shipping allows for multiple shippers on the same truck, there is a higher risk of damaged goods. The freight is typically loaded and unloaded several times before reaching its final destination. However, LTL shipping saves shippers transportation costs as long as shipping time is flexible.

LTL loads are usually palletized, bundled, or put in crates so a forklift can handle them. These freights are only transported in dry van trailers and often transferred to different trailers before getting to the final destination. LTL shipments range in weight from 151 to 20,000 pounds. 

Another option is volume quotes. If your shipment is over 6 pallets or over 6,000 pounds, it may be eligible for a volume quote. These rates are often less expensive than standard LTL rates. 

Oversized and Hazmat Loads

An oversized freight is cargo that exceeds regular freight weight and dimension limits. You probably recognize these when traveling; you’ll see an “Oversize Load” sign placed across the truck’s front and back. In most states, an oversize load must be indivisible, meaning a single piece that can’t be divided into multiple loads.

Any oversize loads require permits. A hazmat load is a hazardous freight that is transporting hazardous supplies or materials. Special handling and increased safety regulations are necessary.

In both oversize and hazmat loads, the maximum legal weight capacity is 80,000 pounds. Any load more than 8.5 feet wide is considered an oversize load. The maximum height with cargo on oversized or hazmat loads is 102 inches.

Related Questions

What do step deck trailers usually carry?

Step deck trailers commonly transport heavy freight and machinery. This can include tractors, excavators, building materials, and agricultural materials. 

Each state has different laws regarding cargo size, but the maximum height is 13 feet 6 inches to 14 feet. It’s important to adhere to these requirements to ensure the safety of the truck driver, other drivers, and bridge clearance.

What’s the average cost to operate a step deck trailer?

Each company’s rates are different when trying to determine the cost of operating a step deck trailer. However, they all take into account the following things that you should also keep in mind. Mileage, trailer type, commodity size and weight, time of year, and fuel cost will all contribute to the price. 

On average, shipping heavy equipment longer distances, or over 500 miles, is $1.75 per mile. Shorter distances average $5 per mile. This does not include accessorial charges such as tarps, insurance, driver unload, tolls, and lift gates.