Hopefully, you have found yourself shopping for a dry van trailer and landed here; we should have what you are looking for. We do our very best to list as many quality trailers as possible. Dry Van Trailers come in a few different sizes, with the most common and desirable being 53x102, 53 feet in length, and 102 inches in width. Another dimension that Dry Vans come in is 48x102.
A subset market of dry vans is called a "pup trailer" these are shorter box trailers that are hauled two or three at a time, each of which hooks onto the next. These van trailers allow a driver to deliver dry freight to multiple locations without reloading the trailer. These "pup" trailers are usually 24x102 or 28x108. There are some outliers regarding the dimensions of the trailers. Rarely will you come across them, but you can find them 45, 55, and even 57 feet in length. The universally desired size is 53x102. The standard height for dry van trailers is 13ft 6in, but a taller variant is called a "High Cube," "Hy-Cube," or "Hi-Cube," depending on the manufacturer. When buying High Cube trailers, you must know your routes as these trailers are 14 feet tall. Knowing the height of your trailer is crucial, so you are not hitting bridges, lights, or other low-hanging obstacles that will damage your trailer or loads.
Dry Van Trailers are one of the best trailers for hauling cargo that has to stay dry, hints the name Dry Van. Your freight could include boxed goods, pallets, and most household retail items, including packaged food, cans, and general home supplies—the 360-degree coverage from the elements is essential. While dry box trailers are not temperature controlled, they provide a dry atmosphere to the goods on board, shielding them from any rain, wind, or snow in the area. These trailers are sealed all around with a door at the back. Some of these trailers will have small vent doors in the front and rear of the trailer to help with air circulation that protects your cargo. There are two types of doors on Dry Van Trailers; the most common are Swing Doors. These doors open French Door style with a seam in the middle and hinge on each side. Most of these swing doors require one door opened before the other. Swing Door Dry Vans are more desirable than other door options as they do not constrict your loading capabilities like different door configurations.
In contrast, Dry Vans can also have a Roll-Up Door, which, as its sounds. The door retracts from bottom to top, with the door having many horizontal panels so that it can be rolled up and stored along the trailer roof while the door is raised. These Roll-Up Door trailers could not be as desirable as they take up more of your loading room, cutting off a few inches from the back that can be necessary for loading the trailer. Along with this space constraint, the door along the top can also reduce the height that can be loaded while the door is raised. Space constraints could also be an advantage as you don't need space at the rear of the trailer to swing any doors open. Knowing your customer needs, routes, cargo hauled, and space availability at pickup and drop-off locations can all factor into what kind of dry van you need to buy.
What are the different axle configurations on a dry van trailer? Great question! They usually come standard with Tandem Sliding Axles. This means that two axles are paired together that can be slid back and forth to distribute the cargo weight to best suit your needs. The two ways the sliding axle operation works are either manually by a lever or with an air-operated button knob. The manual lever and air-operated button knob you push or pull are commonly in front of the front axle on the driver's side. Both of these operations, other than the initiation, are the same. You either pull the lever or push or pull the button with the trailer brakes engaged, hop back in the connected semi-truck, and drive forward or backward to move the trailer's body along the slide rails. Once you find the desired position, you'll hop back out of your truck, push or pull on the lever or button to pop the pins back out, then hop back in your semi-truck to ensure it is all locked into place. You might have to do this process several times before getting the axle positioned just how you need it. At times this whole process can work a lot easier with two people! You must ensure the pins are through the holes and locked into place before getting on the road. If you have a trailer manual, it could be beneficial to reference it to ensure all proper steps were taken. Here is an introductory video showing the general steps on how to do this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mtdfc39u0Rs
The interior of dry box trailers has a few options for the internal arrangement of construction materials, starting with the roof. Dry Vans have two main roof options: aluminum, which is more desirable but expensive. Or translucent, which are cheaper, but also at the same time less desirable. Aluminum roofs are panels of aluminum sheets laid across the support walls of the top of the dry van. Translucent roofs are constructed similarly to aluminum roofs. But they are made from fiberglass reinforced by plastic, which is less durable than aluminum. Translucent roofs allow more light inside the box, can help your driver see better while inside, and reduce potential accidental damages. More light inside has the visibility pro, but as much as it is a pro, it is a con as it heats the inside of the trailer, and if you have sensitive loads, you might want to consider this before purchasing a translucent roof dry van trailer. Some shippers can be demanding and refuse to load you with a translucent roof. An experienced trucker could argue this point and have ingenious ways to make a translucent roof trailer work with a quick visit to the local supply store to build a roof liner. Previous customers have told us that translucent roofs crack out fast and are more prone to leaks and others say the materials used these days are getting better at letting light in while also keeping the heat out. Talk to your customers and fellow drivers, and do some research, so you are sure to make the right decision.
The two main types of walls will be plywood or plated. Starting with plywood walls, it is just like it sounds, sheets of plywood laid across the outer wall of the dry van to protect the aluminum exterior walls. These plywood walls are not as sought after as they are not considered food grade, as possible contaminants in the trailer can be soaked into the porous material of the plywood. While the plated walls, also called "Dura Plate," "Z-Plate," or "Composite," are based on the manufacturer of the trailer. These walls can be considered food grade, as the plastic material of these walls will not host contaminants and allow for the allergen-free carrying of goods. These panels of wood or plate material are all connected by vertical pieces of slotted aluminum to enable the straps to be put from side to side in the trailer to retain cargo in its allocated space. These are called Logistics Posts. Another form of cargo securement in Dry Van trailers is called E-Tracks, which are very similar to Logistics Posts in their function. Still, E-Tracks are typically laid horizontally throughout the trailer. Lastly, the floor is essential to the dry van trailers' interior. The most common type of floor for a box trailer will be wood, but dry vans can also have a mixture of wood, aluminum, or even rollers for the floor.
The last major part of dry vans is the suspension. Dry Van Trailers have two basic suspension systems: air and spring ride. We have found that more drivers prefer Air Ride Dry Vans, as they provide a smoother ride compared to leaf springs. It allows them to haul more fragile goods that would prove difficult in a harsher Spring Ride Dry Van ride. The "Air Ride" Dry Vans require more maintenance than their "Spring Ride" counterparts. That is the advantage of having a Spring Ride Dry Van. Not as many hoses, airbags, and tanks have to be maintained on Air Rides—allowing for a cheaper cost to operate but losing the ability to carry some loads with a Spring Ride System.
The Tires of Dry Vans are very uniform, with the Wheel Diameter being 22.5 and the width and aspect ratio changing dependent on the needs of the driver. These trailers typically utilize a dual setup with four wheels and tires per axle. This is preferred to the Super Single option, as the tires are much less expensive and easier to find. Super Single tires are very hard to come by in case of a blowout and could leave you stranded if one blows.
Dry Van Trailers can come with various accessories/add-ons to help you with the cargo you are hauling—starting with debatably the most critical Side Skirts and Aerodynamic Tails. Side skirts are used to improve fuel economy but are essential because these are required by law to enter California. So these skirts may be something you want to look into when searching for a Dry Van Trailer. Another helpful accessory is a Tire Inflation System, which regulates the pressure of your tires and keeps them at a set pressure determined by the setting. One of the few downsides to this is that the stress is determined by the specific tire that the trailer was bought with, so if you go with a thinner tire down the line, the tires may be overinflated and cause your tires to blow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who makes Dry Van Trailers?
The most popular manufacturers of Dry Van Trailers are Utility, Great Dane, Wabash, Hyundai, Strick, Vanguard, and Stoughton. In contrast, you can find an occasional Dry Van made by a lesser-known company, such as Atro, Trailmobile, and Fruehauf. I would stick to the first bunch of manufacturers as they have a better reputation for making Dry Vans go. We aren't the be-all and end-all of what is good and bad, though. Decide for yourself what features and build work best for your business!
How Much weight can I carry in my Dry Van Trailer?
Dry Vans typically average being able to carry around 40,000lbs to 45,000lbs. Depending on the configuration of your trailer, you may be able to haul more, but most Dry Van Trailers can pull in this range. You would want to have the weight of your truck + trailer + cargo at or under 80,000 lbs in most cases. The distribution of weight is important too. Here is a decent video explaining some of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eW0QCGtRFg
Do I Buy a Dry Van or A Reefer?
Great question. Before purchasing a Dry Van or a Reefer, you will want to consider what you will be hauling. Dry Van Trailers will transport goods like clothing, electronics, and general goods that would go to retail stores. While reefers, on the other hand, carry goods that will go to grocery stores, like perishable goods, Ice Cream, or anything that will need to be kept cold or frozen to be sold. Reefer loads typically bring in more money but are somewhat offset by the trailer's operating cost and general cost. Reefers are subject to more maintenance as the units have diesel engines that need service to ensure that your trailer is hitting the temperature required to haul the loads.