specialized trucking of pipes

Specialized Trucking: What Is It & Why Do We Need It?

The term specialized trucking is a fairly broad one. We tend to define it as involving tailored solutions for transporting unique, delicate, high-value or oversized cargo.

Most specialized shipments fall under one or more of these categories:
  • Oversized loads with special permitting
  • LTL, partial truckloads, and other small shipments
  • Special equipment that’s large and bulky
  • High-value/one-of-a-kind/prototypes
  • Conestoga truck deliveries
  • Multiple delivery destinations
  • Complicated delivery schedules
  • Port services
  • Transloading of flat racks including out-of-gauge and container loads

At PEI we have a saying that nicely summarizes specialized shipments:

“If it’s special to you, it’s special to us.”

The importance of specialized logistics cannot be overstated. When you think of the word trucking, UPS, FedEx or even Amazon might come to mind. These companies are great at delivering packages to your door, but when it comes to transporting specialized freight, you’ll need a specialist logistics partner.

In this post, we’re going to dive deep into what’s really meant by specialized trucking, some of the industries that rely on it the most  and some of the challenges that come with it.

So let’s get into it!


Understanding Specialized Trucking

Contrary to what we said above, specialized trucking doesn’t just apply to the type of freight you’re moving. In fact, a specialized shipment could be the size of a regular parcel, but with the complexity of needing it to be delivered at a super-precise time or in a very particular way. However, for the sake of this post, we’re going to be focussing mostly on the type of freight and the types of equipment often needed to transport it.
Flatbed trailer transporting specialized freight

When it comes to specialized freight that’s too big, or too bulky to fit inside a regular straight truck, you’ll need to use a more specialized trailer. Different trailers serve different purposes. Whether it’s to accommodate tall & oversized freight or to allow for loading & unloading from the side or above. Specialized trailers are used across all different industries and tend to have one big benefit, flexibility. Flexibility to transport non-standard loads, while keeping it safe & secure.

Types of specialized trailers include:

  • Flatbeds
  • Hot shots
  • Conestogas
  • Step decks
  • Lowboys
  • Double drop decks
  • Removable goose necks (RGNs)
  • Reefers (refrigerated trucks)

We’ve written a blog post explaining the difference between Conestogas & Flatbeds and another post comparing Step decks, Lowboys & RGNs.


The Challenges of Specialized Shipments

Unlike regular shipments, specialized ones often face additional regulatory requirements. Specialized trucking companies (like us 😉) need to follow specific rules and get permits for transporting unique cargo, like oversized or hazardous materials. Aside from being a legal requirement, following these rules helps prevent accidents, protects the environment, and keeps operations running smoothly. Plus, nobody likes getting fined for not following the rules!

Aside from obtaining permits, each shipment often requires custom solutions and specialized equipment to transport it, making planning and execution more intricate. Coordinating routes, obtaining permits, and ensuring proper handling can be time-consuming and demanding, but it’s crucial for safe and successful deliveries of unique cargo types.



While we did briefly touch upon it, the proper handling of specialized shipments is critical to a successful shipment and its importance cannot be understated. Incorrect handling can pose a series of problems, such as risking damage to the freight and its surroundings as well as risking other people’s safety. Some shipments can be more challenging than others when it comes to unloading, especially when the freight is super-heavy and you’re in a tight spot. Margin for error in these most extreme cases can be tiny.

Another factor that makes specialized shipping more challenging are the costs associated with it. This is because, especially with large & oversized loads, you’re more than likely going to need exclusive use of a vehicle, rather than sharing the trailer with other loads (and therefore the costs). Not only that, but using specialized trailers like step decks also requires a driver who knows how to load and unload it. This additional expertise typically costs more.

All this being said, every specialized shipment should be meticulously planned and coordinated to ensure the whole process runs as smoothly as possible. This is why it’s crucial to partner with a transportation provider with plenty of experience working with specialized shipments.


Industries That Need Specialized Trucking

There are a ton of different industries that rely on specialized trucking to get their freight from point A to B. But, in this post, we’ve decided to focus on some of the key industries that we at PEI often work with.

These industries recognize the importance of having their freight handled by a specialist. After all, any damages, delays or disruptions can cost companies within these industries lots of money.


Aerospace, Aviation & AOG Shipping

A perfect example of the need to prevent delays or disruptions can be found in the aerospace industry. In fact, Boeing estimates that a 1-2 hour situation where an aircraft is stranded on the ground costs an airline $10,000 – $20,000, and sometimes as high as $150,000. That’s money airlines cannot afford to lose!

Now imagine this, an airplane engine worth over $10 million needs transporting to its new aircraft. It’s therefore easy to see why any damage, no matter how seemingly small, can wind up being a very expensive repair. Airlines are therefore incentivized to choose specialized trucking companies who’ll know exactly how to transport these engines, safely.

Energy & Utilities

Energy companies undertaking large-scale infrastructure projects often face needing to transport huge, out-of-gauge cargo. Think, turbine blades, pumps & drilling equipment. Aside from using the correct trailers and sourcing the right permits, in some cases escort vehicles may also be required. These are usually required to comply with local traffic laws and are used to help oversized loads avoid any hazards on the road.



Robotic arms used in PEI's specialized shipping


Robotics are extremely specialized pieces of equipment. As such, they also tend to be very expensive. This coupled with the fact that their role is often critical to their job means that delays can cost the consignee lots of money in downtime.

And, when dealing with robotics that are too large to fit in a regular trailer, they’ll probably need to utilize one of the specialized trailers we listed above. A common trailer type used for transporting large robotics such as robotic arms is the conestoga trailer. This trailer provides two massive benefits.

  1. The robots can be loaded from any direction (sides, rear or from above).
  2. The conestoga has a retractable curtain which keeps the freight protected from the elements.

Essentially, it means these robots can be easily loaded and unloaded, reducing the risk of damage during handling. While at the same time, keeping it protected during transit.


Need help with your specialized shipments?

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

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