Pros and Cons of Flatbed Trucking with an Analysis of Trucking in 2020

In the later half of the 2010’s flatbed trucking and the transportation industry as a whole, experienced impressive growth unlike anything before seen. Every indicator and metric suggests flatbed trucking is booming, and if you are the right kind of person, you may want to take a long look at the data and determine if you want to cash in on this booming industry. Let’s dive into what is going on across the flatbed trucking industry, examine the pros and cons, and explore what life will be like day to day as a flatbed trucker.

Important Pros of Flatbed Trucking

Flatbed trucking is a good option for transporting large and bulky goods. There are several benefits of it. Let’s check out them one by one in detail.

1. Greater Pay

Flatbed drivers are paid at a much higher rate per mile than enclosed trailer drivers. This is due in part to the added level of driver involvement in regards to securing the cargo. Flatbed drivers are also tasked with transporting specialty items that will not fit into an enclosed trailer. Some large pieces of heavy machinery and equipment are worth millions of dollars, and flatbed drivers can be paid very handsomely for their risk in transporting them across the country. Flatbed drivers can also be paid a special bonus to tarp loads.

2. More Variety

Flatbed drivers can expect to be hauling new, exciting cargo each trip. Many enclosed trailer drivers constantly haul the exact same stuff, which can become quite boring. Flatbed drivers are constantly being given new, challenging loads to secure, which can be exciting and challenging for them. In addition to new cargo, flatbed drivers also have more variety in their destinations, and thus in the routes they take. Many truckers enter the industry hoping to see the vast interior of the United States, but end up seeing the same stretch of highway for months. Flatbed drivers have much more variety in the places they go and thus in the places they’ll see and visit along their route.

3. Healthier Lifestyle

Many enclosed trailer truck drivers will arrive at a loading dock, and sit back for a few hours waiting on their truck to be loaded, and then they hit the road. On the other hand, flatbed truck drivers are typically responsible for securing their cargo to their flatbed truck by themselves. This requires special cargo control equipment like ratchet straps, chain binders, and tarps. It also means flatbed truck driving is a much more physically demanding job than normal trucking. Health studies show a sedentary lifestyle can lead to health issues and premature death. Doctors suggest getting a fair amount of physical activity in each day will lead to a healthier, happier, and longer life.

3 Major Cons of Flatbed Trucking

As there are some pros or benefits of flatbed trucking, like same there are few cons of it as well. Get an ideal about the cons of flatbed trucking as mentioned below;

1. Dangerous

While the reward in flatbed trucking is very high, the risk is also exceedingly high. Flatbed drivers must climb on top of their cargo and do physically intensive work 15-20 feet in the air. This can lead to falls and other accidents than can lead to physical injury. Furthermore, the inherent nature of flatbed trucking makes it objectively riskier than enclosed trailer trucking. Cargo weighing several tons must be properly secured or you risk allowing the cargo to break free and cause major accidents on the roadways that can lead to serious injury or death. Even if cargo doesn’t outright fall off the truck, a shifting load can also cause problems. When you secure a large load, and transport it across the roadways, you’ll come in close proximity with hundreds if not thousands of other drivers, and their lives are in your hands.

2. Time Consuming

Flatbed trucking is substantially time consuming, it can take hours to properly and safely secure cargo to a flatbed. Drivers typically are not even paid for this time securing cargo. Flatbed drivers also see far more scrutiny on the roadways from law enforcement officers. They are pulled over for inspections at much higher rates than other forms of trucking, which is a time consuming tedious process they also won’t be compensated for. In addition to those setbacks on the roadways, flatbed drivers are often away from their friends, families, and homes for days if not weeks at a time. With any involved job, the more time working is less time enjoying the fruits of your labor.

3. Variable Costs and Risks

As stated before, each flatbed haul is a different challenge. As a result, drivers must spend more time thinking about their routes. They must find routes that allow enough clearance for tall cargo. Flatbed trucks are exposed and anyone could come up and mess with the cargo if flatbed drivers aren’t vigilant. Thus they must find safe spots to park overnight and avoid dangerous areas. There are also several variable costs like tolls and the purchase of new cargo control equipment. Lastly, there are constant changes to rules and regulations, and noncompliance can lead to hefty fines. ELDFacts.com calculates that an astronomical 236 Million dollars, or the equivalent of 5,000 driver salaries, in fines have been served to drivers for HOS violations since the beginning of 2020.

In Depth Analysis of Flatbed Trucking in 2020

In 2020, we’ve seen a huge boom in the amount of lumber being transported across the country. As a result, the demand for flatbed trucks to transport this huge amount of lumber has also risen.

Data Shows Record Growth

Over the last few years flatbed trucking has experienced rapid growth, which has shifted the landscape of the transportation industry. The premise of this growth is simple: the more cargo there is to transport, the more demand there is for flatbed truckers. The majority of this growth in cargo is dependent on external factors in the greater U.S. economy. For example, in the last few years the lowered cost of crude oil and other raw materials has caused a manufacturing and industrial activity boom across the economy and thus, an exponential boost in the amount of large, industrial cargo there is to transport on flatbed trucks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the real estate market, creating new demand for new suburban housing developments as many people shift to a work-from-home lifestyle, which in turn has required an increase in lumber to sustain growth. In terms of retail, the huge surge in demand for cargo transportation around the holidays has been stretched across several more weeks, as retailers surge inventory for holiday sales and promotions earlier than usual, to combat large numbers of people crowding stores on Black Friday.

The data shows that flatbed trucking is inextricably linked to the greater trends of the United States economy. As COVID-19 shifts paradigms, flatbed trucking is adaptable enough to wade into these huge growth sectors, as it’s done with industrial materials and lumber over the last few years. The old adage, ‘If you bought it, a truck brought it’ rings more true than ever, and if you’re a flatbed trucker you must be always hoping for increased economic activity wherever you can find it.

A Flatbed Trucking Bottleneck

As flatbed trucking grows, there is a limited capacity of drivers which is creating a bottleneck across the industry. Spot rates for flatbed trucking rose to $2.63/mile. DAT, a transportation industry analyst, reports that there is now a record 111 loads per truck, meaning the demand for flatbed trucks far exceeds the current available capacity.

New regulations concerning driver safety and awareness have led to various laws limiting interstate drivers to 14 hours of work a day, with a required 10 consecutive hour break before they can legally drive again. The proliferation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s) makes it much harder for drivers to jump around these rules. While these laws are put in place with good intentions, it is another factor decreasing the capacity of flatbed trucks. Flatbed drivers are uniquely affected by these new rules, as securing cargo on their flatbed rests on their shoulders and the time they spend securing cargo is time they are not driving.

All the data shows there is a bottleneck in the flatbed trucking industry that is leading to far greater demand than available capacity. With contract rates rising, and demand increasing, now is the best time in decades to jump into the flatbed trucking industry. However, flatbed trucking is not a lifestyle for the faint of heart, and there are many pros and cons you should consider before making a decision. Let’s jump into the weeds and explore what life is like as a flatbed trucker day-to-day.

Conclusion

Overall, flatbed truck driving is seeing more growth than ever before. With contract rates, demand, and accessibility rising, now may be a better time than ever before to jump into the flatbed trucking industry. Analysts say there is a shortage of thousands of drivers that would be needed to meet demand. While the rewards can be lucrative, flatbed driving is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lifestyle like no other, so please consider all pros and cons before making your final decision.

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