Unit 3: Different Trailer Types & Configurations

Navigation: ETAP 623 Fall 2017 Section 7619 | Akshar Shastri Mini-Course


Obviously, one of the most essential components of a tractor-trailer is the trailer that is used to transport freight. However, there are many types of trailers used to transport different types of goods on the nation’s roadways. This unit will examine these different trailer types, and help the student identify the variety of trailers that are present on the roadways of America.

Learning Objectives

1. Students will explore the different types of trailers present on the road.
2. Students will explain why companies prefer to use intermodal containers when possible.

The Standard and Refrigerated Truck Trailer

A refrigerated trailer (“A Guide,” n.d., p. 4).

The standard truck trailer is used to carry most types of freight. If the product can be fit into boxes and placed on pallets and does not need any special handling then it will most likely be transported by the standard freight trailer. These trailers usually have tandem axles that support four wheels each (“A Guide,” n.d., p. 2).

Refrigerated trailers carry perishable items and look very similar to the standard truck trailer. The dimensions of the typical refrigerated trailer are similar to the dimensions of the standard truck trailer (“A Guide,” n.d., pp. 2-4). Refrigerated truck trailers have a refrigeration unit and an onboard tank that stores fuel for the refrigeration unit. The trailers are also insulated to maintain the efficiently maintain the internal temperature of the unit (“A Guide,” n.d., p. 4).

The Tank Trailer

Image courtesy of granitefan713.

The tank trailer is used to transport fluid cargo (“A Guide,” n.d., p. 10). The tank trailers also usually have a pair of tandem axels with four tires on each axle. A 53’ tank trailer can carry approximately 9,500 gallons of fluid (“A Guide,” n.d., p. 10).

As pictured to the left, if the trailer is carrying 9,500 gallons of fuel it is imperative that the safety equipment is operating as intended. As discussed in Unit 2, if subsystems such as the air brake assembly are not working, this fuel can very easily become a hazard on the roadway.

Intermodal Freight

Photo courtesy of Schneider Intermodal.

Please watch this video advertising the benefits of intermodal freight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVu8spXa1XY.

The Advantages of Intermodal Transport

The video claims that a single CSX train can carry the load of 280 trucks (“CSX Commercial,” 2009). Intermodal transportation is “the movement of goods in one and the same loading unit or vehicle that successively uses two or more modes of transport without handling the goods themselves” (Viorela-Georgiana, 2017, pp. 259-260). As the video illustrates, trains are great for moving a large quantity of freight over long distances. Intermodal transport also allows for the movement of freight at a lower environmental cost (Viorela-Georgiana, 2017, p. 260).

However, it is important to note that there is still a need for trucks on the road. For distances less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) “road transport cannot be beat.” It is only when the distances exceed 500-600 kilometers (310 to 372 miles) that intermodal freight solutions are viable for moving goods (Viorela-Georgiana, 2017, p. 261).

Review Quiz

Please complete the following quiz:

Next Unit

In the next unit, the emission control systems on diesel vehicles will be explored.
Unit 4: Emission Control


A Guide To Truck Trailers [PDF]. (n.d.). https://www.allencounty.us/homeland/images/lepc/docs/TruckTrailerGuide.pdf
CSX Commercial. (2009, June 03). Retrieved December 18, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVu8spXa1XY
Viorela-Georgiana, S. (2016). ANALYSIS REGARDING THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF INTERMODAL FREIGHT TRANSPORT. Analele Universitatii Maritime Constanta, 17(25), 259-262.