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Step Deck Trailer Companies

We’ve all seen those tractor-trailers that barely fit under an overpass or a bridge. You probably hold your breath, hoping the trailer won’t clip the bridge and cause an accident. Imagine being the one in the driver‚Äôs seat! It almost always looks like a tight fit. Height limits for vehicles matter to everyone involved and are a serious safety consideration. What should you do if you’re seeking to transport cargo that is too tall for traditional flatbed trailers?¬†The solution is simple: hire a step deck trailer and lower your cargo.

Need help right away?¬†Get a quote from our website, and we’ll help you beat those height restrictions.

In this article, we will explore the world of step deck trucking, the types of cargo they handle, and highlight some of the top step deck trucking companies in the United States. We’ve covered all the specifics to help determine if a step deck is the right solution for you.

What Exactly is a Step Deck Trailer?

Step deck trucking companies are pivotal in the logistics industry, specializing in transporting freight using step deck trailers. These trailers are designed to accommodate cargo that exceeds the height restrictions of standard flatbed trailers. This configuration allows step deck trailers to adjust freight with varying heights, making them ideal for tall machinery, equipment, and oversized loads.

Step deck trailers are characterized by their two distinct deck levels: an upper deck and a lower deck. The upper deck is shorter in length and positioned above the trailer’s gooseneck or fifth wheel. In comparison, the longer lower deck extends closer to the ground. You can even utilize the top deck for a smaller load.

Step Deck Cargo

One of the primary advantages of step deck trailers is their versatility. They can transport a wide range of goods, including:

  • Construction Equipment: Step decks are frequently used to haul heavy construction equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, drilling rigs, high-pressure storage tanks, and cranes. They can even transport oil, gas, and petrochemical equipment.
  • Agricultural Machinery: Tractors, combines, and large farming equipment are easily transported on step deck trailers.
  • Industrial Components: Tall and heavy industrial machinery, including generators and manufacturing equipment, find a reliable mode of transportation on step deck trailers.
  • Building Materials: Long beams, pipes, steel, and other construction materials are efficiently transported on these trailers.
  • Wind Turbine Components: The renewable energy industry relies on step deck trucking to move wind turbine blades and tower sections.
  • Oversized Cargo: Anything exceeding standard flatbed trailers’ height limit can be safely transported on a step deck trailer and meet road regulations.

Trailer Selector Cheat Sheet

Your choice of step deck trailer depends on various factors, including the size and weight of the cargo as well as regulations from the country you’re transporting your cargo. Step deck trailers come in different configurations to adjust to your specific transportation needs, as outlined below:

Kind of Trailer Upper Deck Length Lower Deck Length Max Width Max Height Max Weight
Standard Step Deck 9‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 43‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 10‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 48,000 lbs.
Extendable Step Deck 9‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 48‚Äô-76‚Äô 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 11‚Äô4‚ÄĚ 44,000 lbs.
Specialized Step Deck 10′ 38′¬† 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 11‚Äô4‚ÄĚ 80,000 lbs.
Flatbed N/A 53‚Äô 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 48,000 lbs.
Two-Axle Lowboy N/A 29‚Äô7‚ÄĚ 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 14‚Äô 40,000 lbs.
Three-Axle Lowboy N/A 29‚Äô7‚ÄĚ 8‚Äô6‚ÄĚ 14‚Äô 80,000 lbs.

Five Signs You Need a Step Deck Trailer

If you’re uncertain whether you need a step deck trailer to transport something, here are a few factors you should consider:

1. Your Cargo is Too Tall

Choosing a step deck over a traditional flatbed trailer can save you up to a precious 2‚Äô10‚ÄĚ in height clearance. Step decks are ideal for carrying products with too much height on them.

2. Your Cargo Can’t be Disassembled

A step deck lets you ship items that can’t be disassembled or¬†broken down into smaller parts. You can send it as a whole, saving you¬†valuable time and money.

3. You Have Specific Loading and Unloading Requirements

A step deck trailer is recommended if your cargo requires loading from the top or the side or requires specialized equipment for loading and unloading. Step decks allow easier access to the shipment, making loading and unloading much more effortless.

4. You Want to Avoid Paying for Permits

Do the intelligent thing and swap your flatbed for a step deck. Keeping your cargo within the legal regulations for road safety will allow you to skip paying for excessive oversized load permits, safety vehicles, and any potential fines for traveling with an illegal load. 

5. You’re Trying to Ship Irregularly Shaped Cargo

If your cargo is irregular or has dimensions that make it difficult to load into an enclosed trailer, a step deck trailer may be what you need. Step decks offer greater flexibility in loading and unloading various shapes and sizes of cargo.

Considerations Before Shipping

 The specific needs of your cargo will determine the decision to use a step deck trailer over any other kind. You should talk to a step deck carrier if you need more clarification on whether a step deck trailer is required for your shipment. It’s worth bringing up these topics, as they could become a significant pain point if they go overlooked:

  • Fragility: An enclosed trailer may be a better option if your cargo is fragile or requires protection from the elements. Some goods, such as hazardous materials or refrigerated, can’t be transported on a step deck. Step decks provide no cover, so any uncovered loads will be exposed to the elements during transport.
  • Seasonality: Every industry has its busy season, when prices are maxed out, and even the most simple trailer hires must be booked far in advance. The types of goods demanding truck capacity fluctuate depending on the season, causing supply and demand imbalances in various regions. For example, during northern states’ construction season from early spring to summer, there is a surge in open-deck truckers, driving up demand and rates in those areas. Conversely, transporting cargo away from these high-demand regions may incur additional costs, but assisting an open-deck driver in reaching these areas can lead to more favorable rates. So, understanding these seasonal shifts in trucking capacity is crucial for managing supply chain costs effectively.
  • Cost: Our top priority is matching you with an affordable, safe, and convenient shipping option. Across the shipping and logistics industry, you‚Äôll often find quotes priced by ‚Äúrate-per-mile‚ÄĚ (RPM). The price of a legal, open step deck trailer will start off at $1.75 RPM, but the cost can quickly escalate to more than $4.25 a mile based on logistics, the type of shipment being hauled, and the special handling requirements of the job. Always obtain multiple estimates in writing before deciding on a step deck company.¬†

Comparison: Step Decks vs. Flatbeds 

Step deck hauling’s main benefit is that it allows you to skip out on extra permits and payments you would usually need to transport taller and bulkier items classified as “oversized” if you decided to use a flatbed.

Step decks have other benefits outside their capacity to transport more oversized items. Their unique configuration keeps the truck and cargo’s center of gravity low during transportation. It is ultimately safer for your driver, shipment, and everyone else on the road to use a step deck in conjunction with the proper use of tarps, straps, and dunnage.

On top of being cost-effective and road-safe, the low height of a step deck trailer should make loading and unloading easy and safer, whether it’s a person or a forklift doing any of the lifting. Step decks also often come with a deployable ramp that allows you to drive your cargo directly onto and off the deck. This can be an excellent workaround for not having access to a crane. Using a step deck trailer has its perks at all stages of transportation.

Comparison: Step Decks vs. Drop Decks

Drop decks, or lowboy, trailers can be distinguished by their cargo sitting slightly lower than the rear wheels. Step decks could be a smart alternative if you have cargo taller than wide. Drop decks can add up to two and a half feet of extra height clearance over step deck trailers, but they lose out on at least 10 feet of length as compared to step decks. Drop decks help you comply with specific weight distribution requirements and may be easier to load and unload.

Step Deck Shipping Companies in the US

Ultimately, the decision to use a step deck trailer will be determined by the specific needs of your cargo. You should talk to a step deck carrier if you need more clarification on whether a step deck trailer is required for your shipment. Today, more than 1.2 million trucking businesses operate in the United States. According to some estimates, 90% operate with up to seven trucks. There are tons to pick from; luckily, you can start with the ones we recommend below.

These step deck trucking companies exemplify the expertise, experience, and dedication required to handle the unique challenges of transporting tall and oversized cargo. Each company operates within the United States, and we’ve included their websites, number of years in business, the geographical areas they serve, the types of loads they handle, and the equipment they use.

StepDeck Express

  • 12 Years in Business
  • Nationwide Service
  • Specializes in step deck and double-drop trailer transportation.

TMC Transportation

  • 51 Years in Business
  • Nationwide Service
  • Offers step deck transportation along with flatbed and oversized cargo services.

Boyd Bros. Transportation Inc.

  • 67 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada
  • Focuses on step deck and oversized cargo transportation.

Anderson Trucking Service

  • 68 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Offers step deck transportation, among other services.

 Montgomery Transport LLC

  • 12 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Hauls heavy loads exceeding 50,000 pounds and over-dimensional cargo.

Prime Inc.

  • 53 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Offers step deck transportation along with refrigerated goods and tankers.

Mercer Transportation Co. Inc.

  • 46 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Specializes in step deck transportation and offers various other cargo services.

Melton Truck Lines Inc.

  • 69 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Offers step deck transportation and services for oversized and overweight cargo.

 Bennett

  • 49 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Offers step deck and specialized transportation, government and military transportation, and more.

  J.B. Hunt Transport Service

  • 62 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada and Mexico
  • Provides intermodal, truckload, and dedicated transportation services across various industries.

  Cowtown Express

  • 30 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Canada
  • Offers a variety of step deck options, including standard, extendable open decks, axle step decks, and three-axle extendable step deck trailers.

  Logistics Group International

  • 20 Years in Business
  • Serves the 48 Contiguous United States Plus Alaska, Mexico, and Canada
  • Offers step deck trucking along with many other freight options, with access to their vast carrier network.

  Osage Specialized Transport

  • 18 Years in Business
  • Based in Colorado and provides cargo services throughout the US and Canada.¬†
  • Prioritizes hauling specialized freight types, including oversized loads and heavy machinery. Great for construction or military hauling.

  Keller Logistics Group

  • Over 40 Years in Business
  • Operates in the US and Canada
  • Keller Freight Solutions serves the unique shipping needs of companies in various industries across the U.S.

 SNL Freight

  • 20 Years in Business
  • Operates in the US and Canada
  • Offers step-deck, double-drop, and stretch trailers.

Helpful Resources

We know that navigating the country’s complex federal, state, and individual jurisdiction regulations can be difficult; check out our favorite website over at J.J. Keller, which sorts out all the permits for you according to your route.

Or, perhaps our article convinced you enough to buy your own step deck instead of renting one. We’d recommend Diamond C for new trailer purchases and Iron Planet for used trailers.

Don’t forget you can always post a query to our load board to get a competitive quote and take the next step in your freight journey. 

Conclusion

If you‚Äôre hiring a step deck trailer for the first time,¬† it’s essential to familiarize yourself with as many aspects of the step deck shipping business as you can. Going forward, we‚Äôd recommend that you gather multiple price estimates and verify the quality of each step deck shipping company by researching reviews and references.¬†

Don’t be afraid to ask these companies questions on anything of concern to you! It’s important that your cargo gets from Point A to Point B safely and affordably, after all. We hope you used this article to get up to speed with relevant terminology and expose yourself to potential step-deck hires. Happy hauling!