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How Much Weight Can A Flatbed Haul? The Power of Axles

April 10, 2024
 By Jacob Lee
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How Much Weight Can A Flatbed Haul? The Power of Axles
Last Modified: April 10, 2024
Flatbed trailers can be used to haul large and bulky cargo. That said, they still have weight limits. We’ll discuss what those limits are to help you can find the equipment that’s right for you.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) states that flatbed trailers can legally haul between 46,000 and 48,000 pounds. Tandem axles are capable of hauling 34,000 pounds and spread axles can carry 40,000 pounds. The remaining weight of a load is evenly distributed along the length of a flatbed trailer.

Each state has varying regulations regarding the amount of weight that’s allowed to be hauled on this equipment. If these rules aren’t followed, then you and your transportation company can face hefty fines. Overloaded trailers can also become damaged and put the freight they’re carrying at risk.

By learning how much weight these trailers can carry, both legally and actually, you’ll be able to avoid fines and ensure safe transportation of your cargo. 

What Are the Federal Axle Weight Limits?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), single axles and tandem axles are permitted certain weight limits. We’ve included the maximums for each type.

Tandem and Single Axle Weight Limits

Axle TypeWeight Limit
Tandem34,000 LBS
Single20,000 LBS

Provided by the DOT

Despite these federal requirements, states have unique axle weight maximums that can fluctuate slightly above or below these limits, sometimes on a situational basis. Fortunately, flatbed trailers are equipped with the right type of axle configurations to abide by state and federal guidelines. 

How Many Axles Can a Flatbed Have?

Most flatbed trailers have two axles located at the rear. However, it’s possible for flatbeds to have three to four axles, which allows them to tolerate even heavier loads. 

Tri-axle flatbeds can tolerate up to 65,000 pounds, while quad flatbeds can handle a maximum of 72,000 pounds. Depending on the weight of your shipment, the transportation company moving your load might have to use one of these trailers for extra support. 

One semi and flatbed trailer traveling behind another semi hauling a flatbed with tubing

How Much Weight Can A Tandem Axle Flatbed Carry?

Tandem flatbeds trailers can carry the federal limit of 34,000 pounds. The axles on these trailers grouped between 40 and 96 inches apart. As their name implies, axles are placed one after the other.

Despite tandem axles only being able to carry 34,000 pounds, the added length of a 43 to 53 foot deck allows these trailers to carry a total of 46,000 to 48,000 pounds worth of cargo. 

When To Use Tandem Axle Flatbed

Tandem axles are the most commonly used flatbed trailers on the road. This makes them great for hauling an assortment of large cargo that require an open deck for transport.  

This includes:

  • Lumber
  • Steel beams
  • Concrete blocks
  • Generators
  • Tractors
  • Plows

Regardless of what type of cargo is placed on a tandem axle flatbed, the freight should be loaded across the length of the trailer to ensure stability. 

Every state in the U.S. allows the use of these trailers, which means you won’t run into any regulatory trouble when using them to move your freight, so long as you stay within the legal limits.

How Much Weight Can A Spread Axle Flatbed Haul?

Each axle on a spread flatbed trailer can hold the federal limit of 20,000 pounds, which allows them to carry a maximum weight capacity of 40,000 pounds. The axles on these trailers can have up to 10 feet of space between each other. 

The exact amount of space will vary based on the length of the trailer. Since the spread axles are further apart, hence their name, it allows transportation companies to distribute more cargo across the deck. 

Due to the space between the tires, these trailers can carry an additional 8,000 pounds. 

When To Use Spread Axle Flatbeds

Thanks to their ability to carry more weight, spread axle trailers are beneficial in a variety of circumstances.

This includes:

  • Handling heavier loads
  • Improved stability and safety

Spread axle flatbeds have the ability to carry heavier weights than a tandem axle trailer. This makes them perfect for transporting cargo that’s excessively large, like construction equipment

The added length and spread of the axles gives these trailers more stability. As a result, they’re also safer to use when transporting oversize loads. 

Unfortunately, spread axle flatbeds aren’t permitted for travel in every state. Due to the space between the axles, these trailers are often subject to kingpin laws. Kingpins are the metal pin on the bottom of a trailer that connects to the 5th wheel of a semi. 

Not every state implements these laws, but we’ve provided some information regarding the ones that do.

Kingpin Laws for Each State

StateDistance Between Kingpin and Rear Axle
California40 feet
Connecticut 43 feet
Florida41 feet
Illinois 45 feet, 6 inches
Indiana43 feet
Maryland48 feet (for 53 feet trailers) and 41 feet (for 41 feet trailers)
Michigan37.5 feet
Minnesota43 feet
New Hampshire41 feet on Interstate and designated highways, 48 feet on all other roads
New Jersey41 feet on Interstate and designated highways, 48 feet on all other roads
New York43 feet
North Carolina41 feet
Pennsylvania41 feet
Rhode Island41 feet
South Carolina41 feet
Tennessee41 feet
Vermont43 feet
Virginia41 feet
Wisconsin43 feet

*Provided by Industry Professionals*

While kingpin laws apply to all types of trailers, spread axle flatbeds are especially susceptible to these regulations due to the space between each axle. Transportation companies strictly adhere to these requirements when traveling through states that apply the regulations. 

A semi trucking hauling a bulldozer on a flatbed on a busy highway

Why Is It Important To Abide by Axle Weight Limits?

Axle weight limit requirements are an essential part of heavy haul shipping regulations. There are many problems that can arise for shippers if their shipment doesn’t abide by the rules set by DOT. This includes:

  • Safety
  • Fines
  • Fuel efficiency

If too much weight is placed on an axle, it can seriously impact the safety of a shipment. As a result, a load could potentially suffer damage resulting from a blown tire or other incident stemming from a badly loaded trailer. 

You might also face some hefty fines and penalties if your load doesn’t abide by axle weight requirements. This can inflict high, but unnecessary costs on you.

Finally, excess weight on the axles can cause the semi hauling your load to burn even more fuel than usual. Increased fuel consumption will result in higher transportation costs.  

When using an experienced 3PL like Heavy Haul & Oversized, you can find a reliable carrier that will be able to circumvent these challenges. 

If you’re afraid a flatbed isn’t long enough, then read our article on trailer overhang regulations. 

Heavy Haul & Oversized Will Find the Right Trailer That Can Carry Your Freight

At Heavy Haul & Oversized, we specialize in accommodating a wide range of shipping requirements with precision and care. We work alongside small-scale oversized carriers across the country to move our customer’s freight. With their skill and our expertise, we guarantee your shipments will arrive safely and in a timely manner. 

Our expertise extends across:

  • Standard Flatbed Shipping: Ideal for a multitude of cargo types, offering flexibility and ease of loading.
  • RNG Shipping: Catering to the unique needs of renewable natural gas equipment and materials.
  • Lowboy Shipping: Perfect for those especially heavy or tall items that require a lower deck for safe transport.

Heavy Haul & Oversized is here to provide the best solutions for your specific needs. Get the transportation services you require by filling out our risk-free quote today. Contact us at (866) 902-2713 to simplify your shipping challenges with our reliable, efficient service. Your next successful haul is just a phone call away.

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