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How to Ship Freight: Equipment Types and Services

Posted by Barry Weir on September 24, 2020 - 8:01 AM
View of the road coming out of a tunnel.

What types of transportation equipment are available? 

No matter what industry you’re in, getting products to your customers on-time and in good condition is vital to your business’ success. But with multiple modes and equipment options to choose from, it may not be immediately clear which option to choose. Each capacity option comes with multiple considerations and understanding the available equipment types for each solution can help you decide what you need. Keep reading to learn about the different types of trailers, planes and containers used to transport goods across the globe. Then check out our equipment infographic to see more.  

Truckload equipment options 

Have a large shipment or need exclusive use for your freight? Full truckload shipping may be right for you. Choose from a variety of equipment options to fit your freight needs:  

Dry vans 

Dry vans are enclosed trailers that protect freight from weather and other environmental elements. They are typically used to transport dry goods and other nonperishable items.  

Flatbed trailers 

Flatbed trailers allow cargo to be loaded or unloaded from the top, sides or back. There are several kinds of flatbed trailers — step deck/drop deck, double drop, removable gooseneck, Conestoga and curtainside — each with unique dimensions to accommodate the needs of any shipment. Tarps may be used to cover the freight while in transit. 

Refrigerated trailers 

A refrigerated trailer (also known as a reefer trailer) is a specialized piece of equipment used to transport temperature-sensitive freight. The temperature inside the trailer can be set to stay within a particular range, regardless of outdoor elements. 

Intermodal containers 

These containers are used for rail and provide versatile shipping options and lower shipping costs. They also offer an environmentally friendly solution. Other benefits include less handling and increased security.  

Power only 

Power-only trucking is used when you already have a trailer but need to hire a driver to move your freight. This can be a good way to manage your supply chain if you have a limited amount of warehousing space. 

LTL equipment types  

Less-than-truckload shipments don’t need standard-sized equipment. These trailers are the right size for the job:  


Pups are 28-foot semi-trailers used to transport less-than-truckload shipments. Their smaller size makes moving through cities easier, which is beneficial for picking up and delivering to residential and business addresses.  Some pups are specially equipped with liftgates for ground delivery/ground pickup. 

Doubles (pup sets) 

Doubles refers to two pup trailers joined with converter gear that are pulled by a single tractor and driver. Doubles allow for more flexibility when there are multiple freight loadings.  

Options for time-critical shipments 

If time is of the essence, time-critical service is what you need. These equipment options are built for speed so your freight can arrive on time:  

Cargo Vans  

Cargo vans are commercial vehicles with space for two passengers and room for cargo in the back. These are frequently used to expedite smaller shipments.  

Straight trucks 

Straight trucks are a great pickup and delivery option for shipments that are too big for a cargo van but still need to be delivered fast and may require liftgate/ground delivery 


Passenger, charter and cargo planes are used to quickly transport freight domestically or internationally. Shipping by air is ideal for high-value items that need fast transit or specialized handling.  

Shipping equipment FAQs 

What does exclusive use mean? 

Exclusive use means your freight is the only freight transported on the trailer. 

What’s the difference between a tractor and a trailer? 

Tractors (aka trucks) have an engine and can operate separately from the trailer. Trailers are the cargo areas attached to the tractor, which are configured on single-, tandem- or tri-axles. 

Why are big trucks called semis and 18-wheelers? 

Because trailers on big trucks don’t have a front axle, they’re considered semi-trailers. The terms semi and semi-truck are just shortened versions of the full “semi-trailer truck” name.   

18-wheeler refers to the number of tires a typical semi-truck has: 10 on the tractor and 8 on the trailer.   

Why is it called a straight truck? 

Straight trucks (aka box trucks) are trucks that have the cab and liftgate van body on the same frame. “Straight” likely refers to the fact that the trailer can’t be disconnected from the engine, meaning there’s no separation on the vehicle.  

Why are 28-foot trailers called pups? 

28-foot trailers are often called pups because they’re smaller than standard semi-trailers (making them seem like “puppy” trailers). 

Ship freight with ArcBest 

Along with a full suite of supply chain services, ArcBest offers access to each of these equipment types for seamless shipping anywhere in the world. Learn more about our transportation and logistics solutions and how we can help improve your supply chain by completing the contact form above.