Lowboy Semi Trailers are what you would want to look into if you are hauling heavy or oversized loads. Lowboy Trailers provide a low ride height allowing for taller loads to clear under bridges, street lights, and powerlines to carry tall loads efficiently. There are many different lowboy trailer dimensions, the most common ranging between 48 to 53 feet in length. Most lowboy trailers are 102inches wide, with some equipped with swing-out triangle-shaped steel pieces called outriggers. Outriggers are used to extend the width of the trailer. Outriggers fold out from the trailer, allowing wood boards to be placed over the top to extend the width of the Well. Tonnage capacity is another factor to consider when deciding what type of trailer you need. "Tonnage" is the word used to describe the capacity that the trailer is rated. Lowboys' most common ratings are 35 Tons, up to 60 Tons on the heavier end.
The "Well" of a Lowboy is the area directly behind the neck to in front of the rear axles. The Well of the Lowboy can either stretch the length of the trailer or have a gap in the middle that can come in various designs. Lowboy Wells are most commonly floored with wood. Other flooring types could consist of aluminum, steel, or rubber. Most middle sections of lowboys will either be open or have grates in the bottom for carrying various tools that are useful when operating. This middle gap can also carry into the axle area, referred to as a boom trough. This area is used to reduce the height of cargo like an excavator, allowing the arm of the excavator to have more resting room taking down the overall height of the load. Moving back to the Well of the Lowboy Trailer, these can vary in length from the shortest being around 20ft and the longest reaching out to 30ft in a Non-Extendable Lowboy Trailer.
The Well of a Lowboy on an Extendable Lowboy Trailer can reach lengths much longer, with most Extendables reaching out to a 50ft Well. The Well is extended by pulling a pin on the trailer and moving the truck forward with the rear brakes engaged. These Extendable Lowboy Trailers allow for the hauling of longer cargo loads, machinery, or construction components. Refer to your owner's manual for detailed instructions on extending a lowboy trailer.
What makes Lowboy trailers so advantageous for hauling heavy machinery or equipment is the Removable Gooseneck or Detachable Neck. The neck of the trailer detaches from the Well allowing for the front loading of equipment with no risk of damaging the neck as it is completely detached from the trailer itself. Reattaching is just a matter of backing the semi-truck with the neck attached to the truck and reattaching it as described by the manufacturer.
There are two main types of lowboy trailers when detaching the neck of the trailer, Mechanical and Hydraulic. Lowboys have several advantages and disadvantages. Starting with a Mechanical Detach Lowboy Trailer, the neck is removed from the trailer by removing pins and pulling the truck forward. Unhooking does not require equipment or a truck outfitted with expensive hydraulic kits. Mechanical detach lowboys could offer a lighter weight advantage without the hydraulic rams, fluid, and hoses. However, mechanical-detach lowboy trailers can be more challenging and time-consuming to operate.
Hydraulic Detach Lowboys can be much faster and easier to use if your truck and trailer are set up correctly. Hydraulic Detach Lowboy Trailers are classified into two groups of their own, Ground Bearing and Non-Ground Bearing. Ground Bearing Lowboy Trailers are less desirable than non-ground-bearing Lowboy Trailers as Ground Bearing units are more challenging to operate and require assistance from the ground to detach. Depending on the weather and ground conditions you are loading and unloading from, it may require you to place dunnage below the piston feet to lift the neck under muddy occasions.
In contrast, Non-Ground Bearing Lowboy Trailers are the most preferred type of Lowboy, as the neck pushes off the truck or trailer's frame instead of the ground when detaching. This allows for quick and easy detachment, regardless of weather or ground conditions. How the neck attaches and detaches is an essential factor when deciding what kind of Lowboy to buy.
Another great item to consider when purchasing a Hydraulic Detach Lowboy is the system that operates the Hydraulics. Hydraulics require a form of powering a pump to push the hydraulic fluid, and these come in 2 different forms: a Wet Kit or Pony Motor. Wet kits are installed on the Semi-Truck and are powered by the truck's transmission. A Pony Motor is a power pack with a small engine, pump, and reservoir to hold the hydraulic fluid and is plumbed and assembled on about 40inch x 40-inch frame body that you secure on the trailer and is used to power the Hydraulics without needing a specifically outfitted truck. Pony motors are advantageous as they can operate no matter the truck pulling the trailer. If you have multiple trucks that need to pull the trailer and wet kits are not installed on the trucks, having a pony motor is beneficial, as you can pull the trailer with any of your trucks. Pony motors are not problem-free, and they will need to be maintained. Oil changes, refilling the gas tank and hydraulic tank, servicing the pump, ensuring all the plumbing is tight, and if battery operated, then a fully charged battery. However, a Wet Kit installed on your truck would be best if one truck pulls multiple trailers.
The number of axles is a significant factor when buying a Lowboy Trailer, as they are partially the reason you can carry the heavy weight the trailer is rated for. Typically, lighter-capacity lowboy trailers will have two axles. While the heavier the trailer is rated, the more axles it will need. These heavier trailers can have three, four, or even more axles. Lowboy Trailers can be fitted with mounts for "Flip Axles," "Jeeps," or "Stingers." These attachments add additional axles to the truck-trailer setup, allowing for the weight distribution needed for the heaviest loads. The addition of axles does not give you a higher-capacity rated trailer. The trailer capacity is rated by the manufacturer, not by how many axles you add. You can find the capacity rating of the trailer on the VIN plate, which is located near the front neck area. The GVWR and GAWR are not the capacity rating. It should show as 35-ton, 50-ton, 55-ton, etc. For example, a 50-ton rated lowboy trailer is rated to be able to hold 100,000 lbs, but that does not mean you can put 100,000 lbs of cargo on it and be legal on the roads. The distribution of that 100,000 lbs is where the additional axles come into play as well as the 80,000 lbs federal gross weight limit (total combined weight of truck, trailer, and cargo) is the standard legal weight allowed on the roads. To go above 80,000 lbs, you must keep a few things in mind.
• Do you have an overweight permit?
• Do you have a trailer rated to hold that much weight?
• Do you have the correct number of axles to distribute the weight legally?
• Do you have the proper axle spacing, spreader bars, flip necks, flip axles, fifth wheel positioning, and more to distribute the weight correctly among all axles?
• What tire size and rating of the tires are on your truck and trailer? Are the tires properly inflated?
• Do you have the right size and rated securement accessories to secure a heavy load effectively? The heavier the load you are hauling, the stronger and bigger chains, binders, straps, and securement points you will need.
• Do you have an experienced driver that knows how to best run heavy loads?
• Are you pulling the trailer with the right truck? Specifications of the truck matter when hauling heavy loads. Can it pull the weight? If the truck can pull the weight, do you risk destroying your engine and transmission trying to pull the weight? How is your truck geared? What are the axle ratings of your truck, the horsepower of your truck, and many other specifications.
Consider having some accessories when buying these Heavy Haul trailers. D-Rings are a vital accessory on lowboy trailers as they allow for a securement point for your chains and binders, as you will typically not have winches mounted to the sides like you would on a Flatbed Trailer. Like most other Semi-Trailers, these trailers can also have a Tire Inflation System. Tire Inflation Systems regulate the air pressure in the tires to a factory-set pressure. However, one concern with this is that the factory sets the pressure to specific tire sizes, so if different-size tires are used, this could cause blowouts. Lift Axles are also an excellent feature to have on a lowboy. Lift axles function like they sound and lift the axle off the ground while using the trailer, allowing the ability to distribute the cargo weight differently. If running empty, you can lift the axle up and not wear tires unnecessarily. Lastly, a flip neck can be another great option if you have a multi-axle truck, want to add a jeep to the trailer setup or adjust your weight distribution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the Ride Height of a Lowboy Trailer?
The ride height can vary dependent on the trailer you buy. Most Lowboy or Double Drop Deck Trailers have a loaded deck height of around 16-25inches. Some trailers even have adjustable ride heights, allowing the loaded deck height to change based on the setting selected by the driver.
Are Lowboy Trailers and Double Drop Deck Trailers the same?
Yes and no, most Lowboy Trailers and Double Drops have removable necks allowing for front-loading. However, Double drops are different as they have a deck on top of the neck, allowing for more loading area. Nevertheless, this deck usually carries dunnage, chains, boxes, and more. However, Double Drop Deck Trailers are mechanically detached, unlike a lowboy. Both trailers have the same loaded deck height range, but the double drops have decking over the neck and rear axles.
What is the Length of a Lowboy Trailer?
Typically, a lowboy's length will be between 48-53 feet long before adding Stingers, Flip Axles, or Jeeps. After those accessories, your length can vary dependent.
Do I need a Permit to haul with a Lowboy Trailer?
There are some unique lowboy trailers that, without a load, could put you overwidth or overweight. These are rare but do exist. Check the local width laws in the area you are hauling and know the width of your trailer. Most lowboy trailers are x102 inches wide and are fine. 80,000 lbs is the federal weight limit for the total combined weight of the truck, trailer, and cargo, so if the weight of your truck and trailer setup is over 80,000 lbs, you will need a permit. The combined weight and dimensions of your truck, trailer, and cargo will determine your need for overweight, over-width, and over-height permits.