Flatbed Trailer Outlook Stronger in 2021


Affected by a crawling energy sector and slow automotive sales – both compounded by an economic gut-punch courtesy of COVID – the flatbed market took a hit in 2020. However, Keith Monroe, director of Great Dane’s flatbed division, expects 2021 to tell a different story, in part due to the outlook of the housing market.

The 2021 Housing Market & Flatbed Trailers

According to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) housing outlook for 2021, the forecast is for ongoing gains for single-family construction, and residential construction will remain a leading element of the recovering economy. Residential construction added 15,400 net jobs in November and was one of only a few sectors of the economy to post a year-over-year jobs gain (26,000).

“If COVID stays in a manageable situation I think we will see improvements in flatbeds,” Monroe says. “There’s going to be some pent-up demand because there were very few fleets buying last year.” NAHB expects much of this construction boost won’t be seen until Q3 or Q4 of this year, anticipating GDP growth to accelerate after a majority of the U.S. population has been vaccinated. Until then, “the deployment of a vaccine, while representing good news for the overall economy, will place upward pressure on interest rates. In turn, the combination of higher prices and rising rates will price some households out of the housing market next year,” NAHB says.

Shopping for a Flatbed Trailer

Monroe says Great Dane has “a larger variety of flatbed stock than we ever have,” adding fleets will likely find a solution to fit almost any flatbed trucking need. When shopping for a flatbed trailer, fleets should stay focused on the overall condition of the unit, giving extra attention to kingpin wear; kingpin plate wear; galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metal surfaces (especially at the suspension and fifth wheel plate areas); suspension bushings; tire and brake condition; floor liner condition; and floor wear conditions.

When it comes to hauling construction site cargo via flatbed, the key to proper load securement is for the driver to examine every tie-down before taking off. Tie-downs shouldn’t drag and each one should be clear of cuts, burns, and holes.

“Load securement is a top priority with flatbed trucking,” Monroe says.

“To support that, we’ll install a decal that gives ratings for those attachment anchor points,” adds Roger Roach, Great Dane’s director of Freedom Product Engineering. “That includes information and math to figure out how many chains or how many straps a driver might need for a load.”

Whether shopping for new or used flatbeds, Monroe recommends fleets give his team a call to be sure they’re walking away with a flatbed spec’d to fit their needs. The company is always working on new flatbed designs, he says; for example, Great Dane currently has a new flatbed in testing that features lower-weight components and a new side rail design.

“We have seen just about everything you can haul on a flatbed,” Monroe says. “We will help you develop a trailer for a specific haul.”

Learn more about Great Dane’s full line of flatbed trailers.