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FREIGHT SHIPPING ROUTES
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FREIGHT SHIPPING ROUTES
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What is a Dry Van?

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Popular and Widely Trusted Freight Transportation

When it comes to shipping freight, there are numerous types of trailers that trucks use to haul shipments. The specific names of these trailers are unfamiliar to many people outside of the trucking world. However, the appearance of many common shipping containers and trailers is common knowledge to countless individuals. A dry van just happens to be the most common type of trailer on the road. But what exactly is a dry van?
what is a dry van
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dry van on the road

Also known as a box trailer, a dry van is an enclosed shipping container used for shipping many common goods. The freight being transported in a dry van is protected from bad weather like rain and snow since the container is closed. Products shipped in a dry van don’t require refrigeration and therefore don’t need a temperature controlled trailer.

In addition to the above information, there is much more to learn about dry van trailers. This includes distinguishing between different trailers and knowing which one to choose for your shipping needs. Our complete guide below provides you with everything you need to know.

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What Does a Dry Van Look Like?

In addition to the above information, there is much more to learn about dry van trailers. This includes distinguishing between different trailers and knowing which one to choose for your shipping needs. Our complete guide below provides you with everything you need to know.

dry van surrounded by metal
dry van doors swing open
dry van wood floors

Moving around to the back of the trailer, most dry vans have doors that swing open to reveal the cargo area. Some trailers come equipped with roll-up doors, but these are less common.

Inside the cargo area, you’ll typically find wood flooring. This provides a stable base for the palletized or boxed cargo that is stored here throughout its journey.

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Dry Van Trailer Dimensions

If you’re looking to move freight, it’s important to know the typical dimensions of a dry van. While some other types of trailers have similar dimensions, box trailers come in their own unique set of sizes and specifications. Being aware of these will guide you in choosing the correct trailer for your freight.

Common dry van trailer dimensions include:

  • 52 feet 6 inches long, 8 feet 6 inches in width, and 9 feet height. This is considered the standard dry van trailer size and is often referred to as a 53 foot trailer.
  • 47 feet 3 inches in length, 8 feet 3 inches wide, and 9 feet tall; Most people refer to this one as a 48 foot trailer.
  • 27 feet 3 inches long, 8 feet 3 inches in width, and 9 feet in height; This trailer size is commonly known as a 28 foot trailer. 
It’s important to note that the above dimensions refer to the inside cargo area of a trailer.
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inside of a dry van

Weight Capacity

In terms of weight capacity, the standard is typically between 41,000 and 45,000 pounds that can be safely hauled. That number refers specifically to the cargo being carried in the trailer. A few important factors will affect the actual weight that trucks can haul.

First, it’s important to be aware that the maximum gross vehicle weight in the U.S. is 80,000 lbs. This means that the weight of the vehicle with an empty trailer must be determined first to comply with the weight requirement. The biggest components of this tare weight are the truck itself and an empty trailer.

Most trucks with an empty box trailer weigh between 30 and 40,000 thousands lbs. This leaves approximately 40,000 to 50,000 lbs. left to carry freight while still meeting the weight regulation. However, something that has to be considered is the fuel tank and the amount of fuel within the tank. 

Most OTR trucks have two large 100 gallon fuel tanks on either side of the rig. The diesel fuel that powers these vehicles weighs approximately 7 pounds per gallon. Minor weight fluctuations of the fuel can occur when the outside temperature changes significantly. This means that two full tanks of gas add approximately 1,400 lbs. to a truck’s total weight.

This is an important consideration for both drivers and shippers. Drivers obviously need to know exactly how much weight they can haul while remaining within the legal limits. This requires drivers to be mindful of their tare weight and how much fuel they’re driving with. On the other hand, shippers need to provide accurate weights when shipping freight. 

dry van weight capacity

Estimating cargo weight and being wrong can have serious consequences for both the shipper and driver. If a driver’s truck is found to be over the limit, they can face significant fines. Shippers can face reweigh fees if a driver believes the shipper’s given weight to be incorrect. 

If a shipper consistently provides inaccurate weights to a carrier, this creates time and money issues for the carrier. Over time, this can lead to a carrier or broker no longer working with that shipper. 

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Dry Van Commodities

The type of freight that’s hauled by dry van trailers is a wide assortment that spans numerous industries. Since these trailers are the most common type used on the road, countless businesses with various products ship their goods in them. Everything from clothing to retail products to non perishable food items are transported in box trailers.

Some of the commodities shipped in a dry van trailer include:

  • Clothing
  • Non perishable food items like canned goods, potato chips, and cereal
  • Household goods including furniture, appliances, garbage cans, and more
  • Packaged construction products such as nails, hammers, and paint
  • Small pieces of equipment and machinery

The wide variety of cargo that’s shipped in a dry van is due to the fact that the trailer provides the perfect level of protection for many of the goods. The goods mentioned above only need to be protected from outside elements like rain or snow. They also don’t require any temperature control and therefore don’t need a reefer truck or temperature controlled trailer.

dry van

Goods that are packed into a box trailer are typically loaded onto pallets or boxes of cargo. When products are palletized, they’re typically loaded and unloaded onto a dry van using a forklift at a loading dock. When a loading dock isn’t available, a truck with a liftgate- a mechanical platform attached to the rear of a trailer- is used.

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Dry Van vs. Flatbed

One of the biggest shipping method comparisons that shippers narrow their search down to is between a dry van and a flatbed trailer. Part of this is due to the fact that the trailers have similar sizes, as most flatbed trailers also come in standard 48 and 53 foot lengths. So, what are the distinguishing features of each that should be considered when deciding which one to use?

The first and most notable difference between the two is the level of protection that’s offered. As noted above, dry van trailers are enclosed on all sides, providing excellent protection for the goods inside, Flatbed trailers, on the other hand, have no siding or roof, leaving the goods transported exposed to the elements. 

Many carriers that drive flatbed trailers offer tarping services to help offset some of the protection loss. This often comes with a surcharge as it requires drivers to provide equipment and additional time to secure the loads. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many types of cargo don’t need the protection. Specifically, building materials are often transported via flatbed trailers as getting wet or hit by rocks won’t damage most of them. 

Building materials frequently transported by flatbed truck includes:

  • Various types of wood
  • Different kinds of metal
  • PVC pipe
  • Steel beams
  • Bricks
  • Concrete
Dry van vs flatbed

Another consequence of having no sides on a flatbed trailer is that products have more ways to be loaded and unloaded. A flatbed trailer can be loaded from all sides and with more equipment than what’s available to a box trailer. This is a plus when it comes to freight that’s not palletized or loaded in boxes. Similarly, a loading dock isn’t necessary which adds even more flexibility. The added convenience that comes with a flatbed typically comes with higher rates than dry van loads.

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Difference Between a Dry Van and a Reefer Trailer

Another choice that shippers may have to make is whether to ship in a reefer trailer or a dry van. A reefer trailer is more commonly known as a refrigerated or temperature controlled trailer. With that being said, the main difference between a dry van and a reefer trailer is that a reefer can maintain a temperature controlled environment, while a dry van can’t. This happens as a result of a refrigeration unit attached to the trailer that’s powered by its own diesel engine. 

The majority of units come in a single temperature variety, while some offer multi or tri-temp options. Along with the environment adjusting capabilities, the refrigeration units add additional weight (approximately 2,000 lbs.) which needs to be taken into account. Along with the added insulation of reefer trailers, most aren’t capable of carrying the same amount of weight that dry vans can. 

As far as knowing when to choose a dry van and when to choose a refrigerated trailer, the decision should be straightforward. If you’re shipping goods that need to be maintained at a specific temperature, you should use a refrigerated trailer. Otherwise, a dry van is the better option. However, there are some situations when you might ship temperature sensitive goods in a dry van.

Factors that can affect whether you use a dry van or a reefer trailer include:

  • Outside Temperature- If the temperature outside matches the desired temperature for the goods you’re shipping, you may be able to ship your goods in a dry van. Of course, you’ll need to account for a slightly higher temperature inside the cargo area than outside of the vehicle. You also want to be sure the temperature won’t change dramatically throughout the journey of the goods.
  • Distance Traveled- Depending on the full length of the shipment, some temperature sensitive freight may be ok. Being exposed to less optimal temperatures for long periods of time will destroy many types of temperature sensitive freight. However, some can withstand short periods of flawed environments without significant harmful effects.
  • Risk Level- Some goods are recommended to ship in a refrigerated trailer, but aren’t guaranteed to experience damage if that recommendation isn’t followed. Some electronics are shipped in temperature controlled trailers as a precaution against overheating the parts inside. However, many electronics are safe when shipped in a dry van trailer. 

When shipping sensitive freight, assess the risks. Decide if your cargo needs the added safety and protection of a reefer trailer.

truck and trailer on the road
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Need to Ship Freight?

When you’re ready to get your freight moving R+L Global Logistics is the partner you can trust. Our knowledge and experience in freight shipping with dry van trailers, flatbeds, reefer trailers, and more make us the top choice. We can handle all of your freight shipping needs and more thanks to our comprehensive 3PL services. From warehousing,and order fulfillment to customs brokerage and beyond, we make it possible to manage all of your logistics needs in one place.

Get a freight shipping quote by contacting our transportation and logistics experts at (866) 353-7178. We’re ready to get your freight delivered safely and quickly. 

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Learn More About Freight Shipping Services
What is Flatbed Shipping?
Flatbed shipping is the transportation of products and equipment on a flatbed trailer. This shipping method is used by many shippers thanks to its flexibility a...
What is a Dry Van?
When it comes to shipping freight, there are numerous types of trailers that trucks use to haul shipments. The specific names of these trailers are unfamiliar t...
What is a Bill of Lading?
A bill of lading, also known as a BOL or BL, is a legal form that is required when shipping freight. It is a mutually agreed upon document between the shipper a...
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