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Looking for a New Transport Trailer?
The phenomenal growth of semitruck use in agriculture during the last 25 years continues to the point that semis have all but replaced the conventional straight truck when it comes to hauling grain. While the primary attraction of semitractors was for use in hauling grain, farmers naturally sought out the vehicle’s ability to also tote supplies (primarily planting and spraying supplies) and machinery.
So flatbed trailers began to proliferate on farms starting with the ubiquitous basic flatbed trailer evolving to the use of drop-deck and double drop-deck trailers that employ a gooseneck hitch to lower the cargo deck height. Besides offering a lower center of gravity, drop-deck trailers are built of steel, aluminum, or a combination of both metals to increase load-carrying capacity.
Today, drop-deck and double drop-deck trailers have become a common fixture on many operations. As is often the case with farmers, who are always looking for the next best thing, the Cadillac of flatbed trailers is now attracting attention in agriculture.
interest in lowboy trailers takes off
Increasing numbers of farmers appear to be buying lowboy trailers, as these units are capable of hauling very heavy loads and doing so legally since they often employ three or more axles, says Bill Nelson of US Auctioneers (usauctioneers.com).
“One of the most attractive features of lowboys is that they run low to the ground and can carry loads in excess of 55,000 pounds,” he says.
If you are confused about the differences between the various trailers, read the description of trailer types below.
Built of heavy gauge steel for extra capacity, lowboys also offer a wide variety of features that make them ideal for readily loading and unloading equipment. In particular, the lowboy’s unique detachable gooseneck hitch allows the front of the trailer to be lowered to the ground and opened up to loading equipment in any location, thus, eliminating a loading dock or ramps.
However, if you are looking to upgrade to a lowboy trailer, be prepared for some sticker shock. The Pocket Price Guide offers plenty of examples.
You can pick up a used late-model flatbed for under $10,000, but a drop-deck trailer will go for around $15,000, and a double drop-deck trailer will go for under $20,000. Used lowboys readily fetch prices up to $60,000.
That doesn’t mean more reasonably priced lowboys aren’t available. The Pocket Price Guide lists trailers built between 2013 and 2016, which represents the cream of the crop of late-model trailers.
Another factor that comes into play when looking for a lowboy trailer is its capacity. Notice how wide the load rating is, ranging from as little as 20 up to 55 tons. The higher-capacity trailers generally bring premium prices.
Also figuring into their values is how well trailers are equipped with such features as side extensions, pony motors, or additional flip-up axles.
Wide varieties of flatbed trailers
Flatbed trailers vary a great deal by their construction (aluminum vs. steel vs. a combination of both), how easy they are to load, and their hauling capacities. Following are the five basic trailer designs.
- Basic flatbed trailer: This workhorse of open trailers is between 45 and 53 feet long and is 96 or 102 inches wide. Made of steel, aluminum, or (more common) a combination of both metals, a flatbed trailer generally weighs 8,500 to 12,000 pounds.
- Drop-deck trailer: Sometimes called a single drop or a step deck trailer, this unit features a gooseneck hitch that drops the trailer height to a lower level. This feature allows for a lower center of gravity to haul heavy loads as well as a lower deck height. Loading is accomplished by rear ramps. Generally, a drop-deck trailer is between 48 and 53 feet long and is 96 or 102 inches wide. This trailer is made of steel, aluminum, or (more commonly) a combination of both metals.
- Double drop-deck trailer: This trailer is similar to a drop-deck trailer, but it dips below the trailer axles. This lowers the deck height below a drop-deck trailer’s height, sometimes as low as 15 inches from the ground. A double drop-deck trailer is made of heavy steel for extra strength, and is generally between 48 and 53 feet long and is 96 or 102 inches wide. Occasionally, a double drop-deck trailer may be 108 inches wide (referred to as a “9 wide”). A common add-on feature for a double drop-deck trailer is a flip axle, which can be flipped up and laid on the deck when not in use or flipped down, which creates an extra axle for balancing weight.
- Lowboy trailer: Running very close to the ground (the height varies widely by manufacturer), a lowboy trailer is between 48 and 53 feet long and is 96 or 102 inches wide (it can be ordered as a 9 wide). Employed when loads are in excess of 55,000 pounds, a lowboy trailer is generally made of heavy-gauge steel for strength, which accounts for the weight. A common feature of a lowboy trailer is a detachable hitch (shown above, left), which allows equipment to be driven onto the trailer from the front
- Slide-axle trailer: Also called an adjustable-axle trailer, the axles on this trailer slide forward allowing the tail of the trailer to lower to the ground for loading equipment. A slide-axle trailer is usually made of heavy steel and is between 48 and 53 feet long and is 96 or 102 inches wide.