Conestoga Or Flatbed: Which Should You Use?

The MAJOR question, Conestoga or Flatbed?

When it comes to hauling your freight across the country there are two commonly used trailer types that take the spotlight: The Conestogas and Flatbeds.

Conestoga trailers, equipped with their rolling tarp system, provide enclosed protection from the elements while ensuring efficient loading and unloading.

On the other hand, Flatbed trailers, with their open and flat platforms, offer the ultimate versatility, accommodating various shapes and sizes of cargo.

Both options have their unique advantages, and understanding their differences is crucial in making the right choice for your freight needs. So, let’s dive deeper into Conestoga or Flatbed: Which Should You Use?

When determining the best truck for your needs, there are some important questions to ask;


    • What is the cargo?

      It’s crucial to know the nature of the cargo to determine the appropriate handling methods

    • Does it need to be enclosed?

      Some freight will need to be protected from the elements 🌧❄️☀️

    • How heavy is the cargo?

      All trucks have different weight capacities 🚚

    • What’s the shape and size of the cargo?

      Different size cargo will need a different type of trailer 🚛

    • Is it Time sensitive?

      There might be a tight deadline for your freight ⏰

    • Does the freight need to be loaded/unloaded in a specific way?

      Depending on the pick up or drop off location, the freight might require a particular method of loading/unloading, e.g. into a dock, from the side or above 🏗


After figuring out the above, individuals and businesses can make a decision between a Conestoga or Flatbed trailer, to make sure the customers specific needs are met, cargo requirements, and operational efficiency.

So, What Is A Conestoga And What Sort Of Freight Can They Carry?

Conestogas come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They feature a rolling tarp curtain system as mentioned above that is securely attached to a sturdy metal frame. This design allows for quick and efficient retraction of the tarp during the loading and unloading of freight. It also simplifies the entire process as freight can be loaded/unloaded from all sides of the trailer, making it ideal for time-sensitive shipments.

Conestogas are the preferred choice when it comes to transporting cargo that requires protection from the elements such as sunshine, rain, or snow. Additionally, they offer excellent shielding from road debris, thanks to the enclosed and protected space provided by the tarp curtain.


Conestoga (Flatbed Trailer)

We use Conestogas to transport state of the art robotics

There are 3 main types of Conestoga trailers;

Conestoga Flatbed Trailer

Flatbed Conestogas serve the same purpose as regular Flatbeds, but with the added advantage of a tarp curtain system. This system provides a protective cover over the cargo. These trailers can ship cargo of up to 96″ in height and have a weight limit of around 44,000lbs. It’s important to note that, the weight capacity of Flatbed Conestogas is slightly lower than a standard Flatbed by about 4,000lbs. This is because of the additional weight of the tarp curtain structure.


Flatbed Conestogas are particularly well-suited for transporting large items such as;

  • CNC machinery
  • Other sizeable cargo that require protection during transit.

Step-Deck Conestoga

Step-deck trailers are an excellent choice when it comes to transporting oversized and taller freight. They offer the advantage of complying to height restrictions without requiring special permits or escorts typically needed for taller loads. How do they do it?

Well, step-decks have two deck levels. The lower level can accommodate freight up to 110″ at the end of the trailer, while the higher level, closest to the cab, has a slightly smaller limit of 96″. These trailers are available in different sizes, just like Flatbeds, ranging from 48ft to 53ft. However, it’s important to note that step-decks have a lower weight capacity, with a limit of 41,000lbs.

Step-decks are commonly used to transport a variety of freight including;

  • Machinery
  • Tractors
  • Building supplies

Double Drop Conestoga

Oh, size does make a difference 🫢…

Double Drop Conestogas come into play when we’re talking about cargo that is super tall. These trailers, much like the Step-decks, consist of two deck levels. But here’s where it gets interesting: the lower level on this truck sits as low as 18″ off the ground, allowing it to handle cargo with heights reaching a whopping 139″! The higher deck, on the other hand, can handle the standard 96″ cargo.

This unique design makes the Double Drop Conestoga truck a perfect choice for transporting;

  • Machinery
  • Any other equipment that requires that extra headroom.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a maximum weight limit to consider, which sits around 36,000lbs. As long as your cargo does not exceed this weight, this truck is ready for the job!


Aside from these more popular Conestoga’s there are also low-profile and ultra low- profile Conestogas as well as other customized Conestoga trailers. These low profile trailers mean almost every type of freight can be properly secured and shielded from view.

What Is A Flatbed And What Sort Of Freight Can They Carry?

Flatbeds are exactly what they sound like – they have a wide open, flat platform. These trucks come in various sizes, typically ranging from 48ft to 53ft in length, and they have an impressive weight capacity of up to 48,000lbs. It’s no wonder they are one of the most commonly used trucks in transportation.

Their versatility lies in their ability to handle loads of all shapes and sizes. Since they lack any sides or roofs, flatbeds are an excellent choice for transporting large, heavy, and irregularly shaped loads that may be exposed to the elements. With flatbeds, there’s no limit to the possibilities when it comes to accommodating diverse and unique cargo requirements.


PEI Flatbed

The most common cargo shipped on Flatbeds;

  •  Vehicles
  • Machinery
  • Equipment
  • Building materials

Just like Conestogas, they offer the advantage of easy loading and unloading from all sides. The open design allows for convenient access and makes for efficient loading/unloading. With flatbeds, versatility is key, making them a popular choice for hauling various goods across different industries.

After reading all of this, it’s clear the choice between a Conestoga or Flatbed depends on specific needs and priorities. The Conestoga offers enclosed cargo protection and versatility, while the flatbed provides an open platform and flexibility for oversized loads.

Both trailer types are popular for a reason, they’re great and both have their own unique advantages. Factors such as cargo type, accessibility, and weather considerations play a crucial role in the decision-making process of which is right for you and your shipment!

We’ve written another great blog post, running you through some other heavy-duty truck types like; Step Decks, Lowboys & RGN’s


Need help with your shipments?

At PEI we’re experts in dealing with specialized freight and can handle yours with any custom requirements.


Copyright © 2024 Premier Expediters Inc. All Rights Reserved.