When it comes to the freight-hauling industry, there are trucking jobs – and then there are flatbed trucking jobs. The latter are some of the most challenging and dangerous trucking jobs that the industry has to offer. Today,, we will delve into the reasons for that in order for you to better understand the job of flatbed trucking, its responsibilities, and its rewards.
Flatbed trucking jobs usually offer the widest variety of freight-hauling offers. Your routes can take you all over the United States and even onto military bases to deliver heavy military vehicles and other parts and equipment from factory to bases all over the country.
Flatbed truck drivers don’t just earn their money behind the wheels of their big rigs. They also get paid for their expertise while supervising the cargo-loading process, while they strategically place tarps and safely secure their loads, and other non-driving activities.
Flatbed Truckers Face More Stringent Inspections
There is no room for laxity when it comes to checking off each and every safety step so your commercial flatbed big rig will pass all governmental and company inspections. If you are the type of truck driver who champs at the bit at every phase of physical truck inspections, driving a flatbed truck might not be the best choice for your trucking career.
It is an old trucking trope that the more inconvenient it is to drive your rig, the higher you can expect your pay rate to be. Still, if you dread cooling your heels at weigh and inspection stations as government regulatory agents crawl around inspecting your load and its tarping and tie-downs, you might want to give flatbed trucking jobs a pass.
Can You Make Bank Driving a Flatbed Truck?
Flatbed trucking jobs are some of the most lucrative in the transportation and freight-hauling industry, based on their pay scales. A skilled and knowledgeable flatbed trucker with their CDL-A can earn more money faster driving a flatbed truck even as a newer driver than drivers of almost any other type of big rigs.
For instance, flatbed truckers earn annual salaries that run the gamut of $54,990 to $111,150, with the average paycheck being $1,472 for each week of driving flatbed trucks. These salaries top out at $76,526 a year. Those who analyze freight-hauling industry salaries state that flatbed truckers make approximately $13K more each year than other truck drivers hauling less complex loads of cargo.
Many factors affect these salary rates, of course. A willingness to go OTR, the routes the truckers drive, e.g., traveling through urban industrial corridors, and their driving hours each week are just a few to consider.
What Do Flatbed Truckers Haul?
These are the truck drivers you see on the highways and interstates that are transporting large, heavy, and unwieldy pieces of equipment through the USA and north and south of the borders. Below are just some of the cargo flatbed truck drivers might be required to haul:
- Oversized pipes
- Steel coils
- Mobile homes
- Farming equipment
- Industrial equipment
- Tow trucks
- Massive mining vehicles
- Heavy machinery
The above is only a partial list of potential flatbed cargo loads, as flatbed truckers must be able and prepared to haul pretty much any other oversized cargo that won’t fit inside of enclosed trailers. The length of flatbed trailers exceeds 50 feet, and they are more than eight feet wide. However, sometimes cargo exceeds even these sizes, requiring two or more flatbeds to be linked together by strong chains to accommodate these huge loads of heavy cargo.
Where the Dangers Arise
One can only imagine the catastrophic accidents that can occur if a flatbed trucker loses an unsecured load on an interstate crowded with vehicular traffic. Massive, life-altering injuries and multiple fatalities can result from a single incident involving a flatbed truck driver and a loose load.
Flatbed truck drivers must know how to work with multiple types of steel or lumber tarps. They must also be proficient using transport chains, ratchet straps, binders, and winch straps to properly secure their cargo to the flatbed truck.
Flatbed Truck Drivers Do Physically Demanding Work
In comparison to some OTR trucking jobs where the cargo is pre-loaded and lumpers are waiting to unload it at its destination, flatbed truckers do physically demanding jobs every day on the road. The frequent climbing upon, clambering around and crawling under their flatbed trucks while securing their cargo can keep these big rig drivers in good physical shape. This is in direct contrast to the typical health issues most commercial truck drivers face as a result of poor diets, a lack of regular exercise, and their too-sedentary lifestyles.
Job requirements for flatbed truck drivers include having flexibility, good balance, and the ability to lift 75 lbs. over their heads. While that can be quite hard and physically demanding now, it could be the key to better health later in life.
Flatbed Truck Drivers and the Companies that Hire Them Face Greater Liabilities for Mistakes
If you are hauling a load of canned goods or paper products and lose your load on the interstate or highway, you could wind up making a mess on the road. But if you are hauling a huge industrial pipe to a petrochemical plant down South, you could potentially kill everyone in the passenger vehicles in the lanes beside you if your load comes loose.
With more at risk, the liability is exponentially higher. That can be stressful for the flatbed truck driver who is behind the wheel of the heavily laden flatbed truck. But it also means that the truck drivers are intimately involved in the loading and securing of their cargo – and that can provide peace of mind for those tasked with driving these gargantuan loads.
Getting Your Flatbed Truck License
Those seeking to drive flatbed trucks here in the United States need more than just a commercial driver’s license. You will also need a Class A CDL. This does not just apply to flatbed truckers but also to those driving truck/trailer combinations, tank vehicles, livestock carriers, and every vehicle that has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 26,001 pounds for towing vehicles weighing over 10K pounds.
Flatbed Truck Drivers Face 4 Tests
To get a Class A CDL, flatbed truck drivers must pass the below four tests:
- General knowledge: This is the same driving test that all CDL applicants are required to pass.
- Pre-trip inspection: Applicants for Class A CDLs must be able to pass tests that focus on how to exit and evacuate the big rig in an emergency, check off each inspection point of the internal and external inspections, and note other safety considerations.
- Air brake endorsement exam: Knowing how to deploy the air brake system on a flatbed truck, and the proper way of inspecting their trucks’ air brake systems.
- Combination vehicle exam: Truck drivers must examine and inspect different driving combinations, coupling and uncoupling flatbed trailers and rigs, combo vehicle air brakes, anti-lock braking systems, and combination inspections.
All of these licensing requirements are specific to flatbed trucking, but applicants must also have a regular state driving license and traditionally have had to be 21 years old. Recent changes, however, have allowed some of the 50 states to bend those rules and legally allow truck drivers aged 18 to 20 to operate big rigs within their state.
Is Flatbed Trucking a Good Career Move for You?
If you are considering transitioning to a life of flatbed trucking, consider your prior safety record. If it is spotless or at least reasonably clean with any violations far behind you in your rear-view mirror, this could indeed be a strong and lucrative career option to jumpstart your freight-hauling capabilities.
Remember, the more trucking jobs for which you qualify, the higher the pay scale you can command, both as an independent trucker and also as a truck driver for a commercial freight-hauling company. Thus, obtaining a CDL-A license can be the right career move for many truck drivers.
Make the Right Career Move for Your Future
All economic indicators point to a major need for additional skilled and licensed truck drivers to haul freight of all kinds across the United States and across our northern and southern borders. Taking and passing the additional testing to allow you to safely pilot a flatbed truck with its massive cargo can only enhance your employability in the transportation industry.
But not everyone is well-suited to the physical nature of flatbed trucking. Learning to secure the complex tarping systems involved with hauling this type of large, heavy cargo loads demands an agility that most overweight or out of shape truck drivers will not possess.
If you want to add more zeros to your bank account, this could be the impetus you need to take the bull by the horns and begin a regime of increased physical activity. As always before beginning strenuous activity, make sure that you clear this with your doctor to ensure that you will be safe to embark on this new chapter of your life as a truck driver.