Freight Truck: Different Types and What they Haul

Many industries use freight trucks to transport their product, but different types of cargo require different methods of transportation. Interested in learning about the different types of freight trucks and their respective purposes?

Many industries use freight trucks to transport their product, but different types of cargo require different methods of transportation. There are different classifications of trucks that meet different industry needs to move goods around the country.

Some of the many types of freight trucks are semi-trailers, flatbeds, step decks, dry vans reefers, box trucks, and tankers. Interested in learning about the different types of freight trucks and their respective purposes? Keep reading!

A row of semi-trailers ready to move freight.

What is a freight truck?

The freight truck is a larger machine that hauls goods from one location to the next. All freight trucks have two sections, the truck tractor in front which holds the engine and cab, and then a trailer in the back where cargo is stowed.

Truck drivers who wish to drive freight trucks must obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) when the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Some types of freight, however, necessitate even more training and endorsements for the driver.

7 Common Types of Freight Trucks & What They Haul

The seven main types of freight trucks are distinguished by the type of cargo they haul: semi-trailers, flatbeds, step decks, dry vans, reefers, box trucks, or tankers.

A semi-trailer is perhaps the most common type of freight truck


Semi-trailers go by many names, including semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, and big rigs. They are some of the most commonly seen freight trucks on the road.

The trailers themselves have no front axle or wheels and instead rest on a hitch or fifth-wheel coupling. They can also tow one or two additional trailers for carrying added cargo.

Not only can semi-trucks transport consumer items, but they can also haul raw materials. Their versatility makes them ideal for carrying cargo long distances - especially since a single semi-truck can tow more than one trailer.

A flatbed trailer used for hauling

Flatbed Trucks

A flatbed truck is a type of vehicle that carries goods on an open, flat trailer - as opposed to a closed trailer. These trucks are especially good for hauling oversized loads.

Not only can these trucks haul oversized loads, but they are easier to load and unload than other freight trucks. To secure cargo on a flatbed trailer, people typically use straps.

Flatbed trucks are ideal for hauling construction materials, vehicles, heavy machinery, oversized cargo, and even houses thanks to their impressive load-bearing capacity and versatile cargo space.

At Revolution Trucking, many of our shipments, such as hotshot truck loads, are shipped via flatbed.

Step Deck

Similar to a flatbed truck, a step deck is an open trailer; however, it can carry taller cargo because it is designed for that specific purpose.

Step decks, also known as drop decks or lowboy trailers, have two levels. The bottom level is designed to give more clearance for tall or oversized cargo. Consequently, they are simpler to load and unload.

Not only can you transport large and tall items with a step deck trailer without needing extra permits, but you can also fit more cargo on the other deck.

Dry Van

A dry van is a type of semi-truck that doesn't have temperature control for its trailer. A dry van is completely enclosed by four walls and has a roof to protect goods from the outside elements.

Many dry van trailers are 53 feet in length and can accommodate different types of freight. New truck drivers often operate dry van trucks because they're common and only require a Class A CDL.

Dry van trucks commonly haul boxed cargo and pallets, which is why almost everything you have in your house was at one point transported by a dry van--this includes furniture, non-perishable food, and clothing.

A reefer or refrigerated truck, is used especially in shipping groceries


Reefers, or refrigerated trucks, are freight vehicles that maintain a temperature-controlled environment for perishable items. These trucks typically transport food to grocery stores and warehouses.

The driver must continuously monitor the temperature of the refrigeration unit, which is located at either the front of the trailer or above the truck's cab. By doing so, they can avoid food spoilage.

Items that must be kept cool are shipped using reefer trucks, such as food items, medical supplies, chemicals, and hazardous materials. These items can go bad quickly if not kept at the proper temperature, making reefer trucks one of the more time-sensitive types of cargo delivery.

At Revolution Trucking, our specialties include life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods, many of which require reefer shipping. Learn more about all the ways Revolution can help you deliver on-time, every time.

Box Truck

Box trucks are characterized by their box-shaped cargo compartments and smaller freight truck types. The cargo box of a box truck sits directly on the frame.

The box of the truck is typically separate from the driver's area. These types of trucks are perfect for making local deliveries as they can navigate small streets and tight corners with ease.

Box trucks are a popular choice for short-distance freight transportation, such as home appliance and furniture delivery, last-mile deliveries, food delivery, and even moving.

A box truck might be useful for moving to a new home


Tanker trucks come in two varieties- dry bulk tankers and liquid tankers. Dry bulk transportation is for loose, dry goods like flour or sand, while liquids and gasses are transported using liquid tankers.

Unlike boxy trailers, tankers have a round tank that attaches to the back of a semi-truck. They can be difficult to operate because drivers must avoid making the liquid inside slosh around too much.

The tanks have compartments that help reduce this sloshing and enable the carrying of multiple loads. If the cargo requires it, the tank can be pressurized, insulated, or refrigerated.

Dry bulk tankers are designed to transport materials that cannot be transported any other way, including construction materials (sand, powders) and bulk foods (sugar, grain). Liquid tankers transport liquids of all types, from beverages like milk or wine to chemicals like gasoline.

How to choose the right freight truck for your needs

While various aspects come into play when picking a truck for shipping your freight, the most crucial consideration is the type of product you’ll be transporting. Other elements include the weight and size of your freight, how far you’ll be going, and what you can afford.

General Trucking FAQs

What Does LTL and FTL Mean?

Full Truckload (FTL) shipment refers to a cargo that is above 10,000 lbs or an entire truck space. FTL Service hauls your shipment on a long journey from Point A directly to Point B without transferring the goods in between.

LTL simply means that your shipment weighs Less Than a Truckload. Your LTL shipment will only take up a section of the truck and will be safely consolidated with other shipments headed to the same area.

Tankers can be used for both dry and wet goods

What is flatbed tarping?

Flatbed tarping is the process of securing a large tarp over freight on a flatbed truck to protect the shipment from weather or damage.

What is freight class?

Commodities are classified into 18 freight classes by value, weight, density, length, height, and other measures of ease for handling and liability. This gives customers more accurate pricing for LTL shipping.

Don't know your freight class? Need help getting the best price on your freight? Contact Revolution today and let our team of experts find the most efficient and cost-effective solution for you.

it's best to know your freight class before shipping

Freight trucks come in all shapes and sizes, hauling a variety of cargo depending on the type of truck. Each freight truck has its own unique benefits and drawbacks that affect what it can haul. Understanding these differences is important for shippers who need to get their goods from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible.

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