How to Choose the Right Lowboy Trailer

Are you looking for a well-built, durable trailer to haul equipment and machinery all across the United States? No matter what you’re hauling, it’s important that your goods arrive safe and secure. As you know, accidents and damages have the potential to lead to major losses in profits, downtime, reputation, and more.

One of the most common equipment transportation methods is the semi-trailer. This type of trailer is quite advantageous for companies that need to load large items. However, without a drop deck, it is nearly impossible to load oversized pieces.

So, what should you do if you need to haul something so heavy and so large that it can not be easily inserted into a standard semi-trailer?

You get a lowboy.

What is a lowboy trailer?

We’re glad you asked! The lowboy trailer is an incredibly useful item in the world of shipping and hauling. Though it’s known by many different names from the low-bed to the float, the classic lowboy trailer is easily identifiable with its semi-trailer style and double-level drop system. The deck height of these semi-trailers can be adjusted to drop at the gooseneck (more on that later) or just before reaching the wheels.

Standard flatbed trailers do not feature a double-level drop system and are more commonly used for shipping and hauling standard sized equipment. Lowboy trailers, on the other hand, can haul and carry equipment up to 12 ft in height. A standard two-axle trailer of this kind can haul up to 40,000 pounds. However, you may increase the limit to 80,000 pounds by adjusting the number of axles if needed.

The added capacity of the double-drop deck makes the lowboy trailer an excellent option for hauling heavy machinery and anything that fits neither a flatbed trailer nor a single-drop deck trailer (also known as a step deck trailer). As the deck lowers to near-ground level, oversized items can be more easily inserted into the semi-trailer.

Lowboy trailers can be loaded from the front or behind depending on the design. Some models allow you to place the trailer under the load and lift it.

So, what kind of items are typically hauled in a lowboy trailer?

  • Bulldozers
  • Backhoe loaders
  • Excavators
  • Heavy vehicles
  • All of other types of heavy machinery or equipment

As we mentioned earlier, many construction, freight, and shipping companies rely on lowboy trailers to ship important items across the country. But how did lowboy trailers come about, and what is their history? Let’s take a closer look into the origin of this shipping and hauling essential.

The history of lowboys

The very first lowboy trailer as we know it today was invented in the 1920s. The early model featured a riveted gooseneck, which hooked to the trucks by the front of the trailer. The back of the trailer had several solid rubber tires and could only be loaded from the rear. Due to this design, any pieces of operable equipment had to be driven onto the deck over the back tires.

In the 1950s, the lowboy got a bit of a facelift. A detachable gooseneck, or removable gooseneck (RGN) was added to make loading much easier in 1958. While the first model could only be loaded from the rear (due to the riveted gooseneck), the new lowboys in town featured the capacity for front loading. Like the detachable trailers of today, heavy equipment is inserted from the trailer. This feature might not sound like much at first, but it actually completely negated the need for loading ramps.

Modern lowboy trailers typically work with hydraulic systems; a hydraulic ram lifts the trailer to meet the unit post-loading. They also include air breaks and are towed by semi-trucks.

3 primary types of lowboys

You’ll find several different options for lowboys out there, and it can be difficult to determine the right one for you. To make deciding easier, we’ll review some of the most common types of lowboys and their purposes.

1. Fixed Gooseneck (FGN)

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We’ve discussed fixed gooseneck lowboys a bit already, but what are the advantages to using this type? First, the adjustable gooseneck makes it easier to load drop decks from the rear. Second, you can re-attach the gooseneck after loading to ensure that any loaded items stay in place.

2. Fixed-neck

Just as the name sounds, a fixed-neck lowboy is firmly attached to the trailer. This style is especially lightweight compared to the other options on the market. Just keep in mind, the fixed-style means you may have more difficulty loading items in through the front.

3. Removable Gooseneck (RGN)

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If you’re looking at an RGN trailer, you’ll have several options. First, the highlights. This style works well for when your equipment needs to be loaded by driving, rolling, or otherwise, pushing and pulling. You can also load any items from above if needed.

In this same category, you’ll find mechanically detachable and hydraulic detachable goosenecks. Mechanically-detachable goosenecks are lightweight and do not require a pony motor on hand. If you choose to go with a mechanically detachable gooseneck, you may consider foldable models, which offers the capacity to fold the deck to the ground for loading.

Hydraulic detachable vs. mechanically detachable

Hydraulic detachable goosenecks are easy to detach and assist in adjusting the height of the trailer. They generally require more maintenance than mechanically-detachable gooseneck because of the hydraulic system.

Suspension Options for Lowboy trailers

As for suspension, you have several choices including hydraulic, air ride, independent, and spring ride. The spring ride is the most economical option while the hydraulic suspension provides for a smooth ride.

Maximum dimensions for lowboy trailers

While lowboy trailer dimensions vary according to the model you select, there is a limit. Check out the following maximum dimensions:

  • Freight weight: 40,000 pounds for two axles, 80,000 pounds for anything beyond two axles
  • Well height: 18 in. to 24 in (The well is the container.)
  • Well length: 24 ft. to 29.6 ft
  • Legal width: 8.5 ft
  • Legal freight height: 11.5 ft. to 12 ft.
  • Legal overall load height: 14 ft.

It’s very important that all trailers adhere to legal height, weight, length, and width maximum dimensions to comply with Federal size regulations. Even custom trailer models will have to meet these requirements.

Ton Carrying Capacity: 25/35 vs. 50-ton platforms

Lowboy trailers can also be categorized by their ton carrying capacity. The 25-ton lowboy can carry up to 50,000 pounds while the 35-ton lowboy has a carrying capacity of 70,000 pounds.

Keep in mind that we’re referring to the net carrying capacity. Some lowboys might be described as having a carrying capacity of 70,000 when actuality they can only haul 20,000 after the weight of the 50,000-pound trailer has been subtracted. That’s quite a difference in capacity!

25- and 35-ton lowboy carrying capacity

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Our 25-ton and 35-ton lowboys include the following features:

  • Straight air brakes
  • Single point spring suspension
  • 17.5 x 6.75 10 bolt disc wheels
  • 215/75R x 17.5 tires for 25-ton models
  • 255/70R x 22.5 tires for 35-ton models
  • Beavertail and ramps
  • Canted wide flange gooseneck
  • Sealed lighting system

You can review the full list of features and specifications for our 25-35 ton lowboys here.

35- and 50-ton lowboy carrying capacity

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Our Detachable Gooseneck Lowboy trailers come in 35 and 50-ton carrying capacity platforms. These lowboys are operated from a wet neck or Power Pack while control valves are easy to lower and raise the height of the gooseneck. Our 35-ton Detachable Gooseneck trailer can carry up to 70,000 lbs while the 50-ton hauls a maximum of 100,000 pounds. Either model can be purchased with a two- or three-axle design.

Here are some of the features you can look forward to with your 35- or 50-ton lowboy.

  • 8.25 x 22.5 10-hole disc wheels with 255/70R22.5 tires
  • Double drop feature
  • Single point spring suspension (35-ton model)
  • Tri-Axle spring (50-ton model)
  • Optional air ride, airlift, and tri-axle suspensions
  • Vapor proof lighting system

Which trailer is right for you? Check out our 35- and 50-ton lowboy trailer guide.

Consider a custom-built lowboy trailer

If you can’t find the exact lowboy trailer for sale that you’re looking for, go custom! A custom-built lowboy trailer can be made to suit your hauling needs. Take the heavy lifting out of equipment transportation and make hauling complex loads a breeze.
At Overbilt Trailer Company, we take pride in manufacturing custom trailers of all kinds, from lowboy trailers to flatbed trailers and more. Our custom models are expertly designed to meet your business objectives and provide a smooth ride each and every time. Contact us today to get started on designing your custom-built lowboy trailer.