At Mytee Products, an Ohio company that carries cargo control supplies for the trucking industry, they deal with a lot of interesting characters every day. They can testify that flatbed truck drivers are a unique breed. In fact, flatbed truckers are not just drivers. They are also customer service representatives (CSRs) and engineers at the same time.
The one thing that makes flatbedding unique from all other forms of conventional trucking is that cargo is not confined to an enclosed trailer. When you are running dry goods vans, refrigerated vans, and tankers, cargo is completely enclosed. Not so on flatbed trailer. This opens the door to all sorts of concerns that apply only to flatbed drivers.
The Truck Driver
Driving a flatbed rig is no different than driving a dry goods or reefer, at least in principle. You are still shifting gears and steering the truck down the highway while navigating other drivers, road conditions, and weather. But principal and reality are different things.
The reality is that environmental conditions influence the driving habits of flatbed truckers more than their dry van or refer counterparts. Why? Because drivers have to be more concerned about their cargo when running flatbed loads. High winds can be a nightmare for trucker hauling a piece of heavy construction equipment where it might not bother another driver running refrigerated cargo. Therefore, flatbed drivers need to be skilled drivers who are always at the top of their game.
The Customer Service Rep
Dry goods and reefer drivers are fortunate enough to be able to hook up and go on the receiving end, and then drop and go on the delivery end. Rarely are they required to handle anything involved with loading or unloading a trailer. Therefore, their interaction with customers is limited. Things are completely different for the flatbed driver.
Mytee Products explains that flatbed drivers are responsible for supervising both loading and unloading, and they must secure cargo for the journey. This requires a lot of customer interaction. Flatbed drivers are also CSRs who must do everything they can to keep shippers and receivers happy. If a shipper wants a certain kind of canvas tarp used, the driver makes it happen. If a receiver wants to see edge protectors in place when the tarps come off, drivers have to make sure they are used.
Flatbed trucking is unique in yet another aspect: drivers have to be engineers to some degree. They have to know how to securely tie down various kinds of freight based on weight, size, load limits, and the kinds of cargo control supplies they have to work with. Circumstances change with every load, too.
For example, a driver needs to know the working load limit of every strap and chain used. He or she needs to make sure that he/she uses enough straps and chains to both keep freight secure and satisfy federal safety regulations. But that’s not all. He/she has to know how to apply truck tarps in a way that will not damage freight or waste fuel. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of engineering that goes into cargo control.
The interesting thing about flatbed trucking is that most of what a driver should learn in order to be successful can’t be learned in CDL school. It can only be learned on the job, through patience and experience. Drivers who love flatbed work are often heard to say they would rather do nothing else. They do not mind being a driver, CSR, and engineer because they love the challenge of wearing three hats.