Hauling flatbed loads is one of the most physically demanding types of trucking. What makes a trucker want to endure the challenges of flatbedding? What makes them pull a skateboard, drop-deck or removable goose-neck trailer? What are the benefits and drawbacks of running a flatbed operation? Let's find out.
Owner-Operator for JGR, Inc.
Main office: Gaffney, SC
Terminals: Hiram, GA; Greenville, SC; Richmond, VA; Ft. Worth, TX.
What year did you start trucking?
My career began long before I actually obtained my CDL. I had a pure passion for the big rigs and set my mind to learning how they operate, to repairs, to driving them. We had an old two-stick GMC truck converted into a flat to haul hay. I learned to drive that truck in '96 while working on a saddlebred farm. That was all it took; I wanted my CDL and vowed to get it in the next few years. I studied hard, learned how to drive a tractor-trailer, and I backed with the best, eased through the gears and thought, "I'm ready to go to DMV!"
I failed that day in '99; I was ready to pass the driving, but didn't have the skills to do the pre-trip. Time for plan B. I saved and saved and put myself through Nationwide Tractor Trailer Driving School in Rhode Island. Within one month, I was ready … I found out that I REALLY WAS ready and passed with a 99.9% overall score. The journey began that cold winter day of 2000 in Rhode Island.
When did you start flatbed hauling?
I got my first taste of flatbed in 2002 and I was hooked. I was still hauling reefers, containers and occasional vans, but the few flatloads I had kept me wanting more. I didn't want to be a freight hauler; I didn't want my career to end with freight! I wanted to pull big and bigger loads, so I set a goal to transition from general freight to heavy haul and flats.
By 2007, I was an established 0/0 with a w900 & Pitts tri-axle lowboy, a milestone for me. I was pulling all types of equipment and machinery using lumber and block as filler loads. I also gave birth that year to our daughter. I had a job offer to pull lowboy for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which I took, and sold off the truck & trailer. I worked there four years when the opportunity to do OD arose. I grabbed my chance in a small company pulling precast, which is what I currently haul and I've not looked back since.
I love what I do. It's almost all (on average) 58' to 80' long x 12' to 14+' wide, and heavy. With the support of my company, JGR, I became an O/O again this year and bought a 2006 379 Peterbuilt.
What do you like most about flatbed hauling?
I love this industry most because it's an unspoken brother/sisterhood. The level of respect is at its highest OTR. I love the challenges this type of load presents, and there are always new challenges with just maneuvering roads and into job sites.
What's the hardest part of being a flatbedder?
The hardest part of this industry is leaving my children, my farm, and family. This job takes me away from my daughters and husband. I work long days and am often gone overnight. My typical day begins with getting my girls off to school, feeding my horses (I have a show barn, teach and train). Then off to the plant to begin my often 15-hour days. I see very little of my children. It's a hard, hard industry out here.
The toughest challenges I've had so far would be maneuvering these really wide loads through heavy traffic. You're constantly checking mirrors side-to-side, being so careful to watch all corners of your load, while watching the cars and other rigs that often want to pass and push you in tight situations. It takes the highest concentration and skill you've got to maneuver one of these loads.
Why did you choose to run flatbeds?
I chose this because of its constant intrigue! I want to go bigger, longer, wider, with more axles. Flatbed was my start to my OD career. It can only go bigger from here!
What's been your most challenging haul?
A notable but a very “watchful” load was a 121' steel bridge beam. It went from Virginia to New Jersey, to be offloaded onto the NJ parkway at night with police escorts. It was indeed pretty darn cool, but one of the toughest hauls to date. I loved it!
What were the greatest challenges? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge on this run was having to make a U-turn from the east side of the parkway to the west side. The rest area turnpoint wouldn't allow the flip, so after careful backing and reworking where my trailer needed to be sitting to attempt this, it was decided that my escorts would have to shut down the West side for me to drive over the median into traffic. We pulled it off very slowly and carefully.
If a trucker wants to get into hauling flatbed loads, what advice would you give him or her?
My best advice is to listen and be willing to learn It's a whole different world pulling open deck. You can never have too many straps or chains on your load. Securement is extremely important!
If you know a flatbedder who'd like to have their story told on why they do what they do, please send their contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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