If you are contemplating earning a commercial driver’s License in order to become a truck driver, there are several factors to consider, including what type of trailer you will be working with. There are several different types of freight trailers, each with their own features and requirements. Learning about the various semi-trailers on the road will help you prepare for and select the best CDL job for you.
Dry vans are the most common type of freight trailers hauled by commercial trucking companies. Dry vans are the “box” type trailers used to transport general commodities. There are several subtypes of dry vans as well. A curtain side van is a type of dry van with sides made of heavy fabric. You can move the curtains, allowing easier loading while protecting the load from the elements better than a flatbed trailer might. Refrigerator vans, commonly called reefers, are another type of dry van. These trailers require special fuel and have thermostats to control the temperature for perishable freight. No special CDL endorsements are required to pull a dry van trailer, unless you want to haul tandem trailers. If so, you will need a “Doubles/Triples” CDL endorsement.
Tankers are tank-shaped freight trailers used to haul liquid, gas or dry bulk freight. If you wish to drive a commercial tank truck in the U.S., you must apply for and receive a special “Tanker” endorsement on your CDL. This endorsement will allow you to haul dry bulk or liquids in a tanker, such as milk, juice or grain. To drive a tanker carrying fuel or other hazardous materials, you will also need a “Hazardous Materials” endorsement, which includes fingerprinting and a background check as well as an extra exam.
Flatbeds are another type of freight trailer commonly used in the transportation industry. These trailers consist of a flat bed with no sides. Flatbeds are often used to haul building materials, heavy machinery and over-sized freight that would not fit into a dry van trailer. There are a few flatbed subtypes, such as lowboy and drop-deck trailers. These trailers have lower beds than standard flatbeds, making them easier to load with very heavy items such as construction equipment. Drivers must strap freight onto flatbeds and are often required to cover cargo with a tarp as well. While there are no special CDL endorsements needed to haul a flatbed, securing loads is a highly time- and labor-intensive undertaking.
Construction companies and related businesses often use dump trailers to haul aggregates, such as rock, gravel and sand. Other types of freight hauled in dump trailers include produce direct from the grower, such as potatoes or fruits. End-dump trailers have hydraulic lifts and dump the freight out the rear of the trailer. Belly-dump trailers, also called bottom-dump trailers, have an opening in the bottom of the trailer from which freight is dropped. No special CDL endorsements are required to pull a dump trailer, unless you want to haul tandem trailers. If so, you will need a “Doubles/Triples” CDL endorsement.