Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Which Is Best For Large & Heavy Loads?

If you are shipping goods or loads, standard trailers and trucks cannot be used every time. Dry van trailers aren’t always necessary or feasible for many freight loads. For instance, some cannot be loaded and unloaded off a dock. 

Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Which is best for over-dimensional and oversized loads? What is the difference between the two? What is the better option?

In the following article, you’ll find concise and clear information that answers the desired questions. Let’s analyze these 2 heroes of the shipping industry.

Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Quick Comparison Table

In this specifications sector, we will cover both Step Deck and Flatbed measurements for trailers. Then, you can choose which is the best fit for your loading needs.

SpecificationsStep Deck Flatbed
Length:- 48 to 53 feet long (11 feet is top deck long)48 to 53 feet long
Width:-8 feet, 6 inches8 feet, 6 inches
Deck height:-60 inches top deck & 42 inches bottom deck60 inches
Weight capability:-44,000- 45,000 lbs48,000 lbs
Price:-Lower than FlatbedHigher than Step Deck

Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Whats The Difference?

You have to consider the height, the weight, and other factors when choosing a flatbed versus a step deck trailer. Well, let’s discover.


A step deck trailer, which is also known as a “low boy” trailer or “drop deck”, enables a large load to be transported on a flatbed trailer.

The step deck trailer features two decks, one on top and one on the bottom. In many cases, step decks include ramps, which make loading and unloading equipment easier.

Since they are lower, forklifts can access cargo more easily since they are nearer to the floor. Options include gooseneck, fixed-neck, and removable goosenecks (RGNs), according to type and unloading/loading requirements. 

Flatbeds are excellent, a type of trailer without roof or sides, frequently used for moving standard-sized loads. When hauling heavier loads, flatbeds can be equipped with additional axles in order to comply with federal restrictions.

Drop deck and step deck trailers are basically flatbeds with a different deck. Flatbed trailers are often built out of aluminum, composite and steel, and can include curtain sided walls, multilevel decks and extendable decks. 

Who wins in this features category? The answer is Step Decks. Step decks are used to transport tall goods, preventing drivers & operators from obtaining permits. This would otherwise be illegal.

Carrying Capability

The larger size of step deck trailers makes them ideal for transporting heavy cargo and machinery. Various states have different cargo height laws; however, the maximum cargo height is commonly 13′ 6″ to 14′, regardless of a permit. In particular, this is essential to ensure driver safety and safe bridge operations.

A step deck trailer is commonly used to transport the following freight types:

  • Agricultural materials
  • Excavators
  • Tractors
  • Building materials
  • Machinery

If heavy or extra-large loads are involved, double drop step deck trailers can be used. Then after the 2 higher decks (one upfront & one at the back) on either side of the lower deck. Lower decks are often referred to as wells.

A Flatbed trailer is an excellent option for moving a wide range of cargo, such as large quantities of heavy items. Taller cargo does not fit well in them, and they are limited in terms of loading & unloading.

A flatbed trailer is commonly used for transporting:

  • Raw materials
  • Lumber
  • Formed concrete
  • Heaters and air conditioners
  • Equipment and supplies for construction
  • Vehicles

Obviously, the step deck is clearly the winner here. Because they can carry two or more wheels, they’re able to carry taller & heavier loads. Flip axles are generally found on decks with double drops. While not in use, the carts can be folded down when hauling heavy loads.


Many people consider step-deck trailers to be superior to standard flatbed trailers. This particular design also gives step decks another major advantage: forklifts can move quickly on step decks, due to the low height of the step deck trailer.

Forklifts make moving heavy loads safer since they require less lifting of the forks. The first concern is height restrictions. It is often seen as an advantage since it allows you to transport larger loads, as well as higher loads, without requiring additional permits. 

According to the type of cargo, flatbeds may be loaded with cranes, forklifts, or additional equipment. Any kind of large shipment can be handled with a flatbed truck, which can be customized in countless ways.

Transporting bulky equipment, pipes, machinery, steel, and drilling rigs is made easy by flatbed shipping, which dominates industrial shipping. In most cases, over-dimensional shipments can be shipped by flatbed as long as there is no concern about external weather factors.

Finally, step deck trailers are also dominating the market due to their ability to transport large equipment, such as construction and farming machinery. It is effortless to load, position, and secure large pieces of equipment.


Two levels make up the step deck, which differs from the flatbed. The shorter, higher one is located closest to the tractor hitch, which is located on the front of the trailer. A longer, lower one occupies the remaining length. 

Because a flatbed has no physical walls, it is very versatile when it comes to moving large loads. Flat beds are exactly what they sound like they are flat bottoms on trailers. An enclosed flatbed truck can be loaded from any angle, just like a dry van trailer that has a rear door and can be opened.

Flatbeds won the race here. Flatbeds are very versatile, which makes them a very easy tool to use. Oversized loads can be placed down easily because of their specific design.

Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Price Range

The price range for Step Decks trailers is approximate $30,276-$45,305.

Prices for Flatbeds trailers are usually in the range of $6,750-$69,900.

It is very important to understand that the cost may vary depending on the release year, trailer dimensions, materials used, as well as state laws.

Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Which Is Right For You?

When comparing Step Deck Vs Flatbed trailers, the first question to ask is, what should you buy? What trailer will give you the best experience in shipping all kinds of cargo?

Basically, a flatbed trailer can be used if your freight is short, it’s not designed for longer items to load and move. 

When your shipment exceeds 8′-6″ tall, the step deck trailer is the best option. A step deck trailer usually weighs more than a flatbed trailer, which means it exceeds the 80,000-pound weight limit.

As a major advantage, you do not need to obtain additional permits to haul higher loads. When you need to ship bulky, oversized, or awkwardly-shaped machinery, a step-deck can be the ideal solution.


What are the dimensions of a step deck?

In general, step deck trailer decks have 3 feet 6″ of height, which means no freight can stand over 10 feet tall. Generally, stepdeck trailers have a 12-foot upper deck, with a 37-foot ground deck.

What is the maximum weight a step deck can support?

Step decks trailers are designed for long-distance hauling of heavy freight. Whether it is hefty industrial equipment, pipes, lumber, or heavy cargo hauls, they can handle it perfectly. It is legal to haul 53-step decks at a maximum legal weight of 48, 000 pounds.

What is the weight capacity of a flatbed trailer?

There are a variety of factors that determine the maximum weight capacity of a flatbed truck. As a general rule, you should expect to have a bridge weight load capacity of 24-feet 3-axle truck maximum load of 54,000 Pounds. Then, a 36-Foot, 4-axle truck maximum load of 66,000 pounds.

Final Word

Step Deck Vs Flatbed: Both are versatile, easy to load and unload with a variety of equipment, and have an open design. In terms of cargo height, flatbed trailers and step decks differ most notably. Both have the same length of 48-53 feet and a maximum weight of 48,000 pounds. 

However, the step deck, since the deck is lowered, allows for a slightly higher load, with minimal logistical implications for transport.

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