Redwood Blog

When Do You Need a Flatbed Broker? Or a Flatbed?

Use of flatbed freight typically means the freight is not palletized or cannot fit in the back of a truck. In these cases, a specialized flatbed broker can help direct you to the right carrier for your needs.

A tarped flatbed truck. Great for oversized and non-palletized loads.

When Do You Need a Flatbed or a Flatbed Broker?

Sometimes the need for a flatbed is obvious:

  • • You’re shipping heavy steel bars that are 20-feet long.
  • • You’ve got an oversized piece of machinery that won’t fit within a standard 53-foot van and requires a crane to load and off load.
  • • You’re shipping to a farm or jobsite that doesn’t have receiving docks.

Sometimes, the use of a flatbed, or a flatbed broker, is not so obvious:

  • • Pallets could easily be shipped in a van. But does it make sense? For one busy Redwood Logistics customer, it doesn’t. The company’s dock doors are booked days in advance. Rather than eat up precious dock space with non-revenue products, they store pallets in the back of their warehouse and load them onto flatbeds at the side of the building.
  • • A heavy piece of machinery might be small enough to fit in a van, but the limited weight capacity of forklift trucks prevents safe loading and unloading. In this case, flatbeds and cranes get the job done.

The Cost and Weight Difference

Flatbeds may cost more to book than 53-foot vans. There are not nearly as many flatbeds available, so they can carry a premium. However, flatbeds will allow you to haul more weight. Vans and flatbeds are subject to the same 80,000 pound weight limit on the road, but the lighter weight of the open top trailer itself allows flatbeds to load about 48,000 pounds or more of freight on the deck, versus about 45,000 pounds for vans.

The Role of a Flatbed Broker

Once you’ve determined that you need a flatbed carrier, you can decide whether to negotiate directly with potential carriers or work through a specialized flatbed broker. There are some clear advantages to the latter.

If you typically ship in vans and work with van carriers or general commodity freight brokers, it’s unlikely that they will have the relationships built with flatbed carriers in order to quickly access cost-competitive partners. If, on the other hand, you regularly ship flatbed loads, you likely have your core, go-to carriers. But what happens when your core carriers run out of capacity? Instead of having to scramble to find flatbed carriers quickly, and risk making the wrong choice, lean on a specialized flatbed broker that can connect you with the capacity you need. This flexible, on-demand capacity can save you time and reduce the risk involved in selecting an inexperienced carrier or driver.