Is flatbed trucking hard? There is not a simple yes or no answer to this question so we will have to go into a little detail. For me I would much rather pull a flatbed trailer than anything else but that does not mean it is right for everyone.
The information listed below is not meant to scare you away from flatbed trucking but is only meant to show you the reality. A good attitude, experience and the want to learn will reward you with being a very successful and safe flatbed truck driver.
Flatbed Trucking Is Not Hard – Just Dirty, Physically Demanding Work
Obviously flatbed freight differs greatly from reefer or dry van loads. Using rust covered chains and binders, dirt covered straps and filthy tarps get you dirty really quick at times (not all the time). Everything is heavy and when you first start flatbebding securing and tarping loads can seem overwhelming and exhausting. Lumber Tarps weigh in at about 50 pounds or so and weigh even more when wet or ice covered. I will say that the more loads you secure and tarp the easier it gets in the long run.
Pro – It feels good to get out of the drivers seat and do something physical. Great exercise!
Con – Hard at first until you have some experience.
Flatbed Load Securement
This is the most vital skill you will need to learn. I can’t stress how absolutely important it is to use proper load securement techniques. Many flatbedders become complacent in load securement and are putting their lives and other motorists in harms way. The flatbed trucking company that you go to work for will train you and give you reference material to use. Make sure you ask questions and pay attention to everything you are taught. Use common sense and plan your securement before you start throwing your chains and/or straps.
Pro – I love load securement because It can be challenging at times, other times it is pretty simple.
Con – Can sometimes be time consuming and dirty.
Flatbed Loading and Unloading
Loading and unloading is often much, much faster when comparing dry van and reefer trailers. Most appointments are on a first come first serve basis and it generally takes a short amount of time for your trailer to be loaded. This is a huge advantage that allows you to be making miles rather than wasting time at the dock. I have also found that flatbed loads average higher in mileage per load than other trailer types.
Pro – Loading is fast
Con – Consignees (Delivery point) are often construction sites that are really muddy.
Tarping Loads – Afraid of heights?
Sometimes tarping is a snap and other times it’s a real pain in the butt, it just depends on what you are picking up. Wind is your worst enemy and can kill you in an instant. If you are on top of a load spreading out a tarp and it’s really windy you have to be extremely careful. If the wind catches your tarp it will turn into a huge sail and blow you off your load. I have only had an issue with wind on a few occasions and some places have a sheltered area to tarp in.
Loads that have sharp corners and/or edges can rip your tarp easily. To avoid this padding will have to be placed on on anything even remotely sharp or you will shred your tarp while driving down the road.
Pro – You get paid extra to tarp
Con – Tarping sucks
Flatbed trailers are very, very light in weight. I can say that I absolutely hated running empty when the roads were wet or snow covered. Always keep an eye on your trailer when you are braking in these conditions. If you see your trailer starting to jackknife simply let off the brakes and it will straighten out, never touch your trailer brake.
Most flatbed trailers today are fixed spread axles. This allows you to have more weight to the rear of the trailer than a traditional tandem. The downside is that backing and turning are a little more difficult because the axles are so far apart.
Pro – A flatbed trailer offers greater visibility than a box trailer.
Con – Less traction
Advice About Flatbed Trucking Companies
I am a huge fan of pulling a flatbed trailer because I like a challenge, am able to get out of the drivers seat for a bit and it pays better than pulling a van and/or reefer. I am not a fan of companies that are mixed with flatbed and dry vans.
I feel that if you drive for a dedicated flatbed company you get more support, understanding and better equipment than if you are working for a mixed trucking company. Terminals are set up with tarping bays, have lots of straps and equipment on hand, can answer load securement questions better and know the flatbed trucking industry inside and out.