Step deck vs. flatbed trailers: Everything you need to know

Jan 5, 2023 | Trailer Axle Kit, Trailer Axles

This guide answers the popular question: What are the features of step deck and flatbed trailers?

We have many customers in the short and long-haul business, so we understand the unique needs of each customer and what type of trailer and trailer parts they need to successfully do their jobs. 

In this article, we will discuss the most common type of deck trailers on the market: step deck and flatbed. There are many similarities between these two types of deck trailers, but there are also some differences that are important to understand before deciding which trailer is best for your hauling needs.

Generally speaking, any type of deck trailer, both step deck, and flatbed trailers, are good for hauling: 

  • Tractors
  • Excavators
  • Building materials
  • Construction supplies
  • Lumber
  • Pipe
  • Large Equipment

Deck trailers can be loaded from all sides – back, side, and front – making them very versatile. 

Deck height, length, and hauling height of step deck and flatbed trailers

Flatbed trailers typically have higher decks, whereas, step decks trailers have two deck heights making them much lower to the ground. Step deck trailers generally weigh more than flatbed trailers, meaning freight weight needs to be closely considered so it doesn’t exceed the 80,000-pound limit.

Flat deck trailers
Deck Height: 5 feet off the ground
Trailer Length: 48-53 feet long
Hauling Height: 8 ½ feet from the trailer deck

Step deck trailers
Deck Height: 3.5 feet off the ground
Trailer Length: Length is typically 48 feet: Generally an 11-foot-long upper deck and 37-foot-long lower deck. Can be as long as 53 feet.
Hauling Height: 10 feet from the trailer deck

This article by Lytx includes measurements and restrictions for all types of deck trailers.

Please note: BlueSwift Axles does not provide axle replacement for step-deck trailers at this time.

Advantages of deck-style trailers

Flatbed trailers in general are very versatile and easy to work with. Just about any type of large freight can be suitable for a flatbed trailer.

A step deck trailer differs from a flatbed trailer because it has two deck levels. Step deck trailers have a few advantages over a traditional flatbed trailer. The lower deck of a step deck trailer allows for the hauling of taller cargo, without having to apply for height permits. Step decks are also easier for forklifts to maneuver, which is a huge advantage when loading and unloading heavy equipment, lumber, and construction equipment.

Disadvantages of deck-style trailers

According to Mechanical Elements, the biggest disadvantage of deck-style trailers, specifically step-deck styles, is the low approach and departure angles. This can cause drag on the ground when driving on steep inclines or uneven surfaces. When the deck is low, the trailer frame and hitch are also low, giving smaller approach and exit angles.

approach exit angles of step deck trailer

Axle Replacement from BlueSwift Axles

If your flatbed trailer needs axle replacements, look no further than BlueSwift Axles. Our team is here to help you minimize costly downtime with our fast 48-hour replacements. Additionally, our easy-to-use online ordering system makes finding what you need simple and quick.