02/20/2023 10:36AM

5 Questions To Ask Before Buying a Used Dry Van

Not all dry van trailers are the same, so it’s a good idea to research before purchasing a used dry van. Here is a list of 5 things to ask yourself before buying your next used dry van

1. Translucent vs. Aluminum Roof

Choose the best roof for your dry van trailer and your application. Here are some things to consider:

Translucent Roofs 

  • More Light Inside: A Translucent roof allows light to flood the trailer, making it much easier to see inside. It is also beneficial for forklift operators loading and unloading from your trailer.
  • Internal Temperature: The trailer’s interior temperature fluctuates more with a translucent roof vs. an aluminum roof. Some shippers with photosensitive loads may reject the translucent roof for shipping their product.
  • Shorter Lifespan: Typically, translucent roofs have a shorter lifespan than aluminum roofs, although they have improved over the years and last longer. You may need to replace the roof if it cracks and begins to leak over time. 

Aluminum Roofs

  • Long Life: Aluminum roofs will typically last the life of the trailer. 
  • No limitations: More shippers prefer aluminum roofs on a dry van trailer to ship their product.

2. Swing Door vs. Roll-Up Rear Doors?


Choosing a roll or swing door on your dry van trailer is a personal preference. However, knowing where you will be making deliveries can help you determine which door is better for you. 

Roll-up doors are often used for deliveries with multiple stops, and swing doors are typically used for one-stop deliveries.

Be sure to talk with your used dry van salesman about which door is best for your application. 

Pros of a Swing Door Trailer:

  • More Cargo Space: Maximizes the dry van trailer’s opening clearance and allows the product to be loaded to the ceiling.  
  • More durable: Swing doors are constructed of reinforced materials and can be more secure than roll-up doors.

Cons of a Swing Door Trailer:

  • Operating can be Cumbersome: Swing doors must be opened before backing into a dock and closed after pulling away from the dock. 
  • Safety Risk: The driver must walk through the loading dock area several times, getting in and out of the truck to open and close the doors.
  • Restricted in Tight Spaces: The swing doors may need more room to swing open in tight spaces, like urban environments and curbside deliveries.

Pros of a Roll-Up Door Trailer:

  • Access to Tighter Spaces: Roll doors roll into the trailer, requiring no outside clearance. They can access tighter spaces for delivery, like in urban areas and curbside deliveries. 

Cons of a Roll-Up Door Trailer:

  • Reduced Clearance: Roll doors roll up into a pocket in the top of the trailer, reducing the clearance and may take up load space.  
  • Less Durable: Roll-up doors can be slightly less durable than swing doors. And can require more maintenance. 

3. What Trailer Size is Best?

Most shippers posting available loads on a freight matching service, or Load Boards, for dry van loads, require a 53′ Swing Door, Aluminum Roof, with Air Ride suspension to ship their load simply because these are the universal specs for dry vans. However, shorter trailers are typically only used in city deliveries where a 53′ trailer is too long to fit into the tight delivery areas in cities, for example.

There are a variety of sizes of dry vans, anywhere from 28′ to 57′ in length, and the height is 12.6″ to 14′. But the overall length will typically not go over 53′ long and 13’6″ high.

Dry Van Semi-Trailer Types and Dimensions:

  • Straight Truck (Box Trucks): Typically features a liftgate at the back of the box and is mainly used for city deliveries. The most common dimensions are 24′ x 8′ x 8′ 6.
  • 28′ Dry Van Trailers (Pup Trailers): Are used for LTL (Less than Load) deliveries and are often used in city deliveries. Pup trailer dimensions are 28′ x 8′ x 9′. There is space for 14 standard pallets across the floor, and they can haul up to 22,500 lbs.
  • 53′ Dry Van Trailers – The most common dry van used on highways. Dimensions are 53′ x 8′ 6″ x 8′ 6. There is space for 26 standard pallets across the floor, and they can haul up to 45,000 lbs. 

 4. What Floor Rating Do I Need? 


Standard Floor: (18000 lb. or 20000 lb.)

Most standard floor ratings are 18,000 or 20,000 lb. flooring systems, which is the standard for many trailer manufacturers.  

  • 90% of all commodities are shipped with this flooring.
  • The most popular wood flooring options are oak, Rockland or Havco
  • Types of product hauls:
    • Snacks foods 
    • Mail
    • Electronics
    • Retail (clothing)

Heavy Duty Foor: (24000 lb.)

  • Used for heavier loads
  • Types of hauls:
    • Beverages, water, soda, beer
    • Machinery, Paper rolls
    • Automotive parts

 Do you need a Forklift Package?

Ask what type of tow motor will enter your trailer. 

If you have 10,000 lbs. loaded onto a tow motor that weighs 20,000 lbs. (total of 30,000 lbs.), 80% of the total weight on the front axle, which means at 24,000 lbs., you’ll be 4,000 lbs. over the maximum allowable capacity for a standard floor.

5. Which Trailer Type Do I Want?

Plate Van vs. Sheet & Post. The big difference in the type of vans is weight. 

Pros of a Plate Van:

  • Strong Heavy-Duty: The walls of a Plate Van are 4′ heavy-duty full-composite sections that interlock and are secured by an upper and lower rail. It makes for a heavy-duty solid trailer that weighs more. 

Cons of a Plate Van:

  • Difficult to repair: It can be more difficult to repair a section of a plate van.
  • Weights more: Plate Vans weigh more than Sheet & Post vans. 

Pros of a Sheet & Post Van:

  • Easy to patch: A metal sheet can be cut to repair the damaged sidewall.
  • Weighs less: Sheet and post vans weigh less, allowing more products to be loaded into the trailer.

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