There is a trailer type for any shipping requirement. However, if you choose incorrectly, it could lead to disaster to the driver, their vehicle, and the cargo. Step deck trailers are a popular type of trailer due to their ability to transport taller cargo.
A step deck trailer will typically measure 48 to 53 feet (14.6 to 16.2 meters) long and approximately 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) wide.
What Are Step Deck Trailers?
A step deck trailer is a type of trailer that can carry extremely large pieces of equipment. They do not have walls on the sides, letting users load and unload cargo from any orientation.
You can identify a step deck trailer by its double platform design. The platforms vary in height, so you can place large cargo lower to stay within height limits. The lower platform will come in handy when transporting large equipment, such as excavators and tractors.
You may come across step deck trailers that have ramp capability, which allows drivers to load and unload large equipment more easily, though you can place cargo on the lower platform using a forklift.
Some of the more commonly transported cargo using a step deck trailer include:
- Heavy machinery
- Oilfield products
- Building materials
Step Deck Trailer Dimensions
The typical step deck trailer will measure between 48 and 53 feet (14.6 and 16.2 meters) in length, while measuring 102 inches (2.6 meters) wide.
The upper platform usually measures 11 feet (3.4 meters) long and 5 feet (1.5 meters) off the ground. The lower platform, which is the longer of the two, will be about 37 to 42 feet (11.3 to 12.5 meters) in length and stand 36 to 42 inches (0.9 to 1.1 meters) from the ground. The ramp will be located at the rear if available.
Loading a step deck trailer can be done on any side since it doesn’t feature side walls. The lower platform is closer to the ground by several feet and will bear the majority of the trailer’s load. Drivers will typically place larger pieces of equipment on the lower platform to stay within height restrictions and possibly avoid needing a permit.
Step Deck Trailer Weight and Height Limits
By law, step deck trailers are permitted to transport cargo with a maximum weight of 48,000 pounds (21,772 kilograms) with a gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds (36,287 kilograms). This enables step deck trailers to ship large items and machinery across great distances.
Wherever you transport your cargo, you will have to be aware of the legal limits of each state. While the legal height limit varies from state to state, you can make use of the full 102-inch (2.6-meter) width. So, before strapping on large machinery onto a step deck trailer, check with the local authorities to see whether or not your cargo fits within state guidelines.
The lower platform of a step deck trailer serves to give drivers an easier chance of loading large cargo without exceeding height limits. If, for instance, your cargo stands over 8 feet 6 inches tall (2.6 meters), you should consider getting a step deck trailer instead of a flatbed trailer.
Other Trailer Types
If you plan on shipping large machinery across great distances, you will have several trailer types to choose from. Even seasoned drivers can have trouble telling which trailer will work best for their shipping needs, but if you know what each trailer type has to offer, you can limit your choices to just one or two.
Dry Van Trailers
Dry van trailers are what you’ll typically find on the road. They can also measure 53 feet (16.2 meters) in length, but their greatest advantage is their ability to reverse directly into loading and unloading docks. They generally have a lower maximum weight limit of between 42,000 and 45,000 pounds (19,051 to 20,412 kilograms).
Flatbed trailers are another commonly used type of trailer. Their measurements differ from trailer to trailer, but in general, they will range between 24 and 53 feet (7.3 and 16.2 meters) long. Like step deck trailers, flatbeds don’t have side walls, but their deck is usually higher than a step deck trailer’s lower platform, so drivers may reach the legal cargo height limit more easily.
A refrigerated trailer is a type of trailer that has temperature control and insulated walls, making them ideal for transporting perishable goods like meat. They, too, can measure up to 53 feet (16.2 meters) long but have a ceiling of 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall.
Double Drop Trailers
A double drop trailer is a type of step deck trailer that has two drops instead of one. The middle platform is the lowest, which can accommodate goods measuring up to 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) tall and close to 29 feet (8.8 meters) long.
Hotshot trailers are trailers that can be towed by a pickup truck between classes 3 and 6. They can measure up to 40 feet (12.2 meters) long and stand up to 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) off the ground. They can transport a maximum payload of 16,500 pounds (7,257 kilograms).
Conestoga trailers are 53-foot-long (16.2-meter) trailers that are possible alternatives to the step back and flatbed trailer types. They are generally used to haul sensitive cargo that could become damaged when covered by a tarp.
Expandable Drop Deck Trailers
An expandable drop deck trailer is similar to the standard drop deck trailer, but its 38-foot-long (11.6-meter) bed can be expanded to up to 65 feet (19.8 meters). The maximum cargo capacity on an expandable drop deck trailer is 43,000 pounds (19,504 kilograms).
In this guide, I explained the common dimensions of a step deck trailer. In case you have forgotten, a step deck trailer will measure between 48 and 53 feet (14.6 and 16.2 meters) in length and have an upper and lower platform, measuring 11 feet (3.4) and 37 to 48 feet (11.3 to 12.5 meters) in length, respectively.
If you found this article helpful, I would appreciate it if you could share it on social media with your friends. Otherwise, feel free to drop a comment and let me know what type of trailer you’ve rented or owned before and what you thought about it.