As an Owner Operator, you might have reached a stage in your career where you’re debating if it would be better to invest in, a dry van vs flatbed. If you are at this stage, congratulations! This means that you have earned your way to this point in your career. You have probably taken your Owner Operator business seriously and put in the hard work. Now you are ready to take your business to the next level.
This could be a very big decision to make because the choice would affect the amount of physical work you may have to do, the kinds of loads you can pick up and it could have some influence on available loads during different seasons.
Some carriers, like Status Transportation, have lease options that may be right for you to assist in the processes. Either way, making the choice to invest in a dry van vs a flatbed is still a financial decision that should be looked at carefully before you commit.
In this article we will explore the perks of having a dry van vs flatbed. We will go over the physical aspects and the nuances that can build up over time. There are things that owner operators really enjoy about each, these things will be mentioned because they may be the reason why you choose one over the other.
Let’s look at considerations when investing in a dry van vs flatbed.
One of the biggest advantages of having a dry van is the ease/usefulness of a loading dock. When you pull into your destination and back into a loading dock, the dock is aligned to the trailer. This leaves the loading/unloading team to easily walk into the trailer or better yet, use a forklift or a pallet jack.
The process of loading and unloading with a loading dock is something some might take for granted until you arrive at a location that does not have one.
With ELD’s and drive times on everyone’s mind, having the ease and quickness of a loading dock can really put you and your load ahead of the game.
Do you mind strapping down the freight?
The reality of flatbed trucking is that it can be more labor intensive. If you are not physically prepared to go up and down a flatbed to strap a load, it will catch up.
There are certainly more risks of injuring your body while climbing up the flatbed and putting those straps down. In some cases, when guys get injured, it can be from something as simple as picking the wrong spot to stand, or the freight becoming unstable due to a strap they already put down leading to the load falling over.
I may sound like someone who does not want to do that kind of work at the moment, but it only takes one slip up to seriously have a permanent back injury or any injury in general. This may be a gut check for you to see if you would physically be able to handle flatbed.
Some guys that become flatbed truckers take pride in their meticulous perfectly symmetrical strap tying. Does that matter if you have a dry van? Well, in some ways, yes.
One of the advantages of having a dry van is that the shippers are usually loading the product and this gives many owner operators time to sleep. Even though you are not climbing up onto a flatbed, it might be a good idea to take a peak in the back every once and again. You really want to ensure that the product is positioned in a way that it won’t be destroyed when you are going down the highway at 65 mph and hit a pothole.
Wait time, Loading, and Weather
Flatbeds can get loaded and unloaded within minutes. With this speed also comes unpredictable environmental changes. Just because the load time on the flatbed and is pretty quick, it still does not change the fact that it may be 110° out or -10°. There can be times when the shipper will place the load onto the flatbed and move on, leaving you in the rain to tarp and strap. You won’t have to be out there that long but you can count on days that you will be soaked, fridged or drenched in sweat.
CDL 101 has come out with some numbers indicating that flatbed truckers on average make a little more annually than dry van yet, is it worth it? More money is great but, it’s up to you if you want to live that lifestyle.
Most of the additional money acquired is typically developed due to shippers paying more because of variable weather conditions. Meaning that if the weather is terrible the shipper may pay you a couple cents more for you to protect the load. You will need to get out in the grueling weather to start tarping and strapping the load. This is where you would earn that extra money and for a couple cents more, is it worth it?
On the other hand, a dry van can take some time loading up. You are probably not going to touch the load as much. During the loading time, many drivers like to get some rest or some shut eye. If the shipper takes longer than expected you will end up in detention.
With that being said, If you are in detention, you can get paid anywhere from around $20 an hour to sleep while you wait.
Nostalgia of a flatbed?
Being able to see over the trailer when you are backing up isn’t something to harp on, it is more of a perk of driving flatbed. When it comes to the structure of a dry van vs flatbed there are a couple points that come to mind.
The van itself can be pushed around by the wind. So taking it easy in windy situations may affect your time to get to your destination.
Another thing to consider is your how strong you are at backing up. It may sound kind of silly to mention this but on flatbeds, they are typically set up with split axles instead of tandems meaning that there is a 102” between the two rear axles in most cases. This could make them more difficult to back up because you can’t get the trailer to turn on a tighter radius that you may be used to.
If you force a sharp angle you can really do some damage to a slew of random things involving your truck or your trailer from the pressure it creates. You could do some damage to your alignment of the axels, the tires, the parking lot, or all of the above. Just consider that you may have to do more pull-ups to get the angle right.
The plus side of backing up a flatbed is that sometimes you can see over the flatbed which with dry van, that’s not an option.
What does this all mean?
It is really up to you. You probably know in your own head after reading this that one over the other most likely fits your lifestyle.
The big items to really consider is, are you a physical natured person and willing to go up and down the trailer and what kind of loads does your mother carrier typically have. If you live in an area where flatbed is just the way to go and you are a regional driver with some niche that requires you to have a flatbed, obviously, make that choice. If you are someone that wants only to be an over the road operator with ease and typical loads, you probably want to consider dry van.
In all reality, this is your decision and if you change your mind later It will most likely not affect you as much as you originally thought it would. You will still have loads, it is just more of a personal preference.
If you are considering signing on to a carrier that has options for dry van, come and check us out here at Status Transportation. We would be glad to assist you in the process.
Stay safe and happy driving.