January 5, 2023
Different types of trailers are needed in trucking depending on the type of load you are carrying. Knowing which type of trailer you should use for a load is essentially in optimizing your routes and customers so that you can maximize your revenue.
Using the optimal equipment will always be a major factor in the success of trucking companies. Not only does it help to optimize loads, it cuts down on costs, maintenance, fees and downtime.
Flatbed trailers provide a lot of benefits for certain types of loads, but other loads just won't work for this type of trailer because they can't be exposed to the elements. Conestoga trailers are sort of a mix between traditional dry vans and flatbed trailers, and they might be optimal for certain situations for trucking companies.
Let's take a look at Conestoga vs. flatbed trailers to understand the similarities and differences between the two, including the uses you can get out of them.

What's a Flatbed Trailer?

A flatbed trailer is an open-air trailer that you hook onto the back of a cab. The entire platform is flat, which allows you to load stuff from the back, sides or top. There are no walls on flatbed trailers, and that makes them much easier to load than traditional dry vans.
This makes flatbed trailers ideal for oversized, heavy equipment that would be difficult to load by hand or on a pallet. This could include scrap metal or parts of a house, for instance.
The flexibility in how you can load a flatbed trailer is a major advantage of it. However, since there are no walls, only certain types of loads work well on it. Anything that can't be exposed to the elements would obviously not be great to transport on a flatbed trailer.

What's a Conestoga Trailer?

A Conestoga trailer combines the benefits of a flatbed trailer with that of traditional dry vans. The versatility of these trailers are what makes them so popular for certain types of loads.
Conestoga trailers are essentially flatbeds trailers that are then equipped with retractable curtains to protect the haul from the elements.
The trailer starts looking just like a flatbed -- with no walls. The materials can be loaded onto it in the same way, from the back, top or sides.
Then, once everything is loaded onto the Conestoga trailer, a metal frame is installed around the outside. Durable tarps are then connected to the metal frame, providing protection and insultation from the elements.
Many Conestoga trailers will already have the metal frame installed when they show up to be loaded from the warehouse, but that doesn't limit the ability to load it properly. The driver of these trailers can easily retract the curtails for easy unloading and loading, and then put the curtains back down when they're ready to hit the road again.

Conestoga Trailer Types

There are three main types of Conestoga trailers. The differences come in the tarp system the trailer has. Each type is used for a particular type of cargo, so it's important to understand what you'll be hauling before you can settle on one type of trailer.


Conestoga flatbed trailers are what we broke down above, and they are the most common type of Conestoga trailer. The flatbed trailer has a tarp that rolls over the top and sides to protect the cargo within.
The advantages to using this type of trailer is that it's versatile and can be loaded/unloaded easily. The two most common sizes are 48-foot and 53-foot trailers. Typically speaking, they are 8-foot, 4-inches wide and about 96 inches high, and can carry roughly 44,000 pounds.


Another Conestoga trailer type is called the step-deck. There are two levels on this trailer, one that will be shorter than the other. The lower deck is longer, and the upper deck is shorter.
The advantage of using this type of Conestoga trailer is it allows you to transport goods that are higher than 96 inches, which is about all you'll get with a flatbed trailer. The lengths of these trailers are typically either 48 feet or 53 feet.
While the upper deck height still is 96 inches, the lower deck allows for a maximum height of 110 inches. That extra 14 inches could make a difference for some loads.
The maximum weight capacity on these trailers is usually about 41,000 pounds.

Double Drop

The final type of Conestoga trailer is called a double drop. It's similar to a step-deck, except the bottom level is much lower. There will be only a single step deck at the beck of the trailer, with a double drop at its front. This results in one level going up twice as far as that single step.
Oversize equipment is best suited for this type of Conestoga trailer, since it requires extra height, or even more than one loading dock. The lower deck is so low that you'll have the ability to drive the cargo right onto it
Standard double drops are 48 feet. The maximum height for the front deck is 96 inches. The rear deck's maximum height is 114 inches, and the lower deck's maximum height is 139 inches.
This type of Conestoga trailer can carry around 35,000 pounds.

Conestoga vs. Flatbed Trailers

As you can see, there are times when a Conestoga trailer might come in handy for certain cargo loads. Before you decide on which type of trailer you need, it's important to understand all the requirements of the load you'll be transporting.
Conestoga trailers provide a lot of flexibility and some protection from the elements, but they also can't carry as much weight capacity as traditional flatbed trailers. That's why you need to weigh the pros and cons of this type of trailer to find out whether purchasing one would make sense for your trucking company.

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