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Heavy Haul

Dry Van Shipping: Pros, Cons, and Rates

Dry van shipping is one of the most popular, reliable, and enduring shipping forms. Shippers choose dry vans because they protect from the elements, provide security, and offer versatility. But what is dry van trucking, when and why should you choose to offer dry van shipments, and what are the pros and cons?

We’ll start by defining what a dry van is.

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What is a dry van?

A dry van trailer is essentially a box on wheels. Not temperature controlled, it’s specifically designed to handle dry freight rather than temperature-sensitive freight or “wet” goods. It carries boxed items, palleted materials, and most retail dry goods such as cereal, household supplies, and other non-perishables.

Dry van trucks are easy to secure. The fully enclosed space protects freight from the sun, rain, snow, and other elements. Because dry vans can haul so many different kinds of loads, more jobs are available in various shipping lanes.

Dry van trailer dimensions and weight capacity

Dry van trailers come in a few different sizes.

48- and 53-foot trailers

A dry van’s typical dimensions are 48- or 53-foot-long trailers. Most of these trailers are a maximum of 8.5 feet wide, 110” high, and can carry a legal maximum of 45,000 pounds with up to 26 pallet positions in the interior.

28-foot trailers

Besides the longer 48- and 53-foot trailers, there are also short 28-foot trailers. They are generally a little narrower and lower, with a maximum load capacity of 22,500 pounds. Sometimes you will see these shorter trailers in two or three trailer chains. These  “pup” trailers can typically accommodate 14 standard pallet positions.

Box trucks

By definition, many straight trucks or box trucks are also dry vans, but they primarily deliver local or short-range small cargo. Box trucks come in a variety of different sizes.

Does dry van shipping pay well?

Dry van trucking is the most common form of freight transportation and is almost always in high demand. While flatbed trucks may earn slightly more per load, dry van shipping does pay well, especially in crunch times when there is a capacity shortage due to high demand.

Dry van shipping rates are usually determined by five specific things:

  • Supply and demand
  • Delivery distance
  • Freight type
  • Weight, density, and freight rates
  • Fuel costs

Accessorial charges and extra services also add to the cost of what shippers pay.

Who uses dry van carriers?

Nearly all industries that produce or ship non-perishable goods use dry van carriers. Even companies who ship some perishable cargo like produce or frozen foods use dry vans for specific products. They can often be combined with other products in a single shipment or LTL shipments making this method exceptionally efficient.

Here are some common examples of dry van freight:

  • Construction materials
  • Retail products and dry goods
  • Agriculture equipment and materials
  • Automotive parts and service products
  • Beer, wine, and spirits
  • Publishing and printing, including paper, finished books, and equipment
  • Oil and gas equipment and materials
  • Healthcare equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and non-perishable goods and medicine

Many industries rely on dry goods shipping to get work done, like construction, publishing, and healthcare. Like retail and automotive outlets, others directly profit from the goods shipped in dry vans. They are, in turn, sold directly to customers or to wholesalers who then distribute them to retail outlets.

Efficiency and cost are some of the primary reasons these companies rely on shipping via dry vans to keep their supply chain moving But not all goods can be shipped this way. As with any shipping method, there are pros and cons.

Pros and cons of dry van shipping

While full truckload (FTL) and less than truckload (LTL) dry van shipping are the most common and affordable ways to ship goods, there are some disadvantages.

The pros of dry van freight shipping include:

  • More affordable than other shipping methods
  • Can ship a versatile range of goods
  • Efficient. You can consolidate a variety of goods and materials into a single shipment, avoiding redundancy.
  • Fully enclosed, unlike flatbeds and other trailers. It’s easy to secure goods and protect them from outside elements, damage, and theft.
  • Drop and hook option. Dropping an empty trailer and picking up a full one speeds up turnaround times and prevents wasted time at either end of your runs.

Cons of dry van shipping include:

  • Less capacity due to height, length, and weight constraints
  • Less environmental control. Bad weather influences internal temperature control.
  • Flooring is more susceptible to damage from heavy items, those with some moisture (like produce), or weather at pick-up or drop-off points.

In some cases, dry van shipments might not be the best option. It’s essential to think about transportation logistics, including cargo, your lanes, weather, and other factors that come up on your route.


Flatbed drivers make more money for several reasons, including that they tend to haul freight for longer distances. Loads are typically heavier and may include oversize or specialty loads. There’s also a greater risk for drivers, so flatbed drivers need specialized driving and hauling skills.Since everything is in the open, you might need to add tarping to protect the load during transport.

Using the Truckstop.com Load Board for Carriers, you can search for available loads from tens of thousands of legitimate loads posted by pre-vetted brokers and plan your trips. It’s easy to search by equipment type and lanes and view truck-to-load ratios and truck activity by origin and destination.

You can haul just about any non-perishable goods that fit inside a dry van. Some of the more common types of freight include:

  • Construction materials
  • Retail products and dry goods
  • Agriculture equipment and materials
  • Automotive parts and service products
  • Beer, wine, and spirits
  • Paper and books
  • Oil and gas equipment and materials
  • Healthcare equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and non-perishable goods and medicine

Box trucks are usually medium-sized trucks used to haul smaller goods locally or hot shot trucking for time-sensitive LTL loads to a single customer or destination. Because of the tight time restrictions, drivers can often get premium rates, but drivers may also experience more deadhead miles.

Use a dry van load board to find carriers and compare rates.

Finding dry van freight can be a cinch. One of the simplest ways is to find trusted brokers offering loads on a load board. Staying loaded prevents deadhead runs, lost layover time, keeps your dry van loaded, making you money.

Load boards help you find the best loads that keep you in your preferred lane and end as close as possible to where you will pick up your next load. The Truckstop.com Dry Van Load Board has verified loads from vetted brokers that keep your business making money whenever you’re on the road. Sign up today.

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