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Dry Van Shipping: How It Works and Pros and Cons

Dry van shipping is one of the most popular, reliable, and enduring shipping forms. Shippers choose dry vans because they provide protection from the elements, security, and 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.

dry van shipping

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 or “wet” goods. It carries things like boxed items, palleted materials, and most retail dry goods such as cereal, household supplies, and other non-perishables.

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

Dry van trailer dimensions and weight capacity

Dry van trailers come in a few different sizes. The most common dry van dimensions are 48- and 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 26 different pallet positions.

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.”

Technically, many straight trucks or box trucks are also dry vans by definition, but they primarily deliver local or short-range small cargo.

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, making this method the most efficient available.

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 the construction, publishing, and healthcare industries. 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. 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 dry van shipping is one of the most common and affordable ways to ship goods, there are some disadvantages.

The pros of dry van freight shipping

  • 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.
  • Enclosed, unlike flatbeds and other trailers. It’s easy to secure goods and protect them from the environment, 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

  • Less capacity due to height, length, and weight constraints
  • Less environmental control. Outside weather influences internal temperature.
  • Flooring 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.

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 approved brokers offering loads on a load board. This prevents deadhead runs, lost layover time, keeps your dry van loaded, making you money.

Schedule a demo.

Make more money starting now.

Get a demo

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. Truckstop.com dry van load boards have verified loads from verified brokers that keep you making money whenever you are on the road.

Ask for a demo and take one for a test drive today.

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