Conestoga vs Curtainside Trailer

what-is-the-difference-between-a- conestoga-vs-curtainside-trailer

Welcome back to our series on How to Buy the Best Flatbed Trailer. Today we’re reviewing the differences between a Curtainside and a Conestoga Flatbed Trailer. Both are great options to keep your cargo protected from harsh elements, and both are an easier, safer way of tarping your load than climbing on top and manually tarping it. 

Both curtainside and conestoga trailers are classified as flatbeds. So what is the difference between the two?

We’ll get into some of the similarities and differences here. Some of the questions we’ll ask are:

  • What is the difference between a curtainside vs. flatbed trailer?
  • What is a Conestoga flatbed trailer?
  • What are curtainside trailers used for?
  • What is a roll top trailer?

Curtainside Trailer


Curtain side flatbed trailer.


A curtainside trailer, or curtain van, is a dry van and a flatbed trailer combined into one trailer. It loads like a flatbed but protects like a van with a ceiling, front wall, and rear doors. The sides are open to allow access for loading, and the rear swing doors allow it to be dock loaded, similar to a dry van. 

Curtains hang from the roof on each side of the trailer, slide open, and close to provide an enclosed trailer. On the curtainside trailer, the frame does not move, and therefore top loading is not possible.


Curtain side flatbed trailer inside.


Curtainside trailers are a great option for loads that require more protection or when it’s more efficient to load from the side. It’s also a good option if you have multiple stops to make.

  • A curtainside trailer has rear doors like a dry van.
  • Typically has a support system for the roof, side and center supports, and a rear door frame.
  • They can be retrofitted to any flatbed but requires more modification to the flatbed trailer than a Conestoga kit.
  • It’s a heavier setup than the Conestoga kit because the system includes a roof, frame system, front bulkhead, and rear door.
  • They give the option to side load or rear load the trailer.

Conestoga Kit


Flatbed with Conestoga Kit.


A Conestoga trailer, or roll-top trailer, uses a sliding tarp system where the entire system (tarp roof included) slides from the rear to front or front to rear. This accordion-like system maximizes your loading options allowing for rear loading, front loading, side loading, or even top-loading if needed.

The tarp system includes a rollup tarp door, rear support, and a stationary bulkhead in the front. You can retrofit a Conestoga Trailer Kit onto any flatbed trailer.

Keep in mind that with Conestoga Kits, there are many moving parts and should be on a regular maintenance schedule to keep it in good working order.


  • More options for loading. 
  • Kits can be retrofitted onto any flatbed trailer.


  • The entire system is an accordion like system which presents an increased risk of mechanic problems. 
  • The frame requires regular maintenance due to all the moving parts. 
  • You are limited to the interior width of your tarp system. 


The Conestoga Kit is a great system if it’s well maintained and operates properly. You’ll defiantly want to have it on a regular maintenance program.

Available options on a Conestoga Kit:

  • Man door for added accessibility
  • Grab handles for safety
  • Steps
  • Front bulkhead clearance lights
  • Inside lights to increase visibility
  • Translucent roof
  • Skylights


Ultimately both the Curtainside and Conestoga trailers are safer options than manually tarping flatbed loads. Tarping loads is more labor-intensive and adds increased risk while climbing on and off of loads.

Utility Keystone works hard at finding the best solution to meet the demands of your hauling requirements.



Read more in this series, How to Buy the Best Flatbed Trailer.



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