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Types of trucks used in auto transportation

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Types of trucks used in auto transportation
Types of trucks used in auto transportation

If you request auto transportation from an auto transport company, they will most likely offer you a specialized truck, otherwise known as a carrier. These carriers differ according to how many cars they can ship, in what conditions, and how they’re structured.

There are 2 main types of carriers: enclosed and open. We’ll briefly explain them before going further in depth.

Open carriers in the auto transport industry

Open auto transport carriers have a minimalist frame that allows them to pick up a maximum number of vehicles. While not all open trucks are the same, a common trait is that the cars they carry won’t be protected from environmental factors. However, they are very safe, and some rain or wind is rarely problematic to the cargo.

In the auto transport industry, open carriers are the standard trucks all companies employ. Carriers with a 10 car transport capacity are common. Despite this large number, the company’s driver will know how to handle your vehicle so no accidents occur.

Enclosed carriers in the auto shipping industry

Enclosed car shipping trucks have a ceiling and side walls that stop any objects before they can hit the cargo. This extra protection is why not all carriers are open, despite the fact that adding walls to a trailer will limit its carrying capacity.

If you own an exotic, luxury, rare, custom, or classic car, you may prefer this method. Shippers go above and beyond when handling enclosed transports, since they’re considered higher level services. It is also due to the types of vehicles that are usually moved with this method.

Further Classification

While the above 2 options are what a company may give you when talking about your car’s transport, open and enclosed trucks can be classified further. There’s a high chance your car will be moved with one of these types of open carriers:

  • Hotshot/single vehicle carriers. Dually trucks are usually used for this setup. The dual rear wheels placed on both sides of the pickup make it stand out. It transports one car at a time using gooseneck trailers. These types of carriers are usually employed for short distance transport. However, if the client requests expedited shipping, they may be used for long distance shipping as well.

Hotshot carriers shouldn’t be confused with tow trucks. Tow trucks have a hydraulic bed attached to the front while single vehicle carriers use a trailer.

  • Multi-car carriers with a single level. You can transport small RVs, trucks, or up to 6 cars at a time with this type of trailer. These carriers are composed of a dually truck carrying a bumper pull or gooseneck multi vehicle trailer. It may also include larger trailers with a single deck being carried by a semi. While such carriers can transport more cars and are generally larger than hotshot carriers, they can still access city streets unlike bigger auto transport trucks.
  • Multi-car, multi-level carriers. As the standard type of carrier in the auto transport industry, they’re the trucks you’re most likely to see on US roads. When someone requests open transport services, they’ll most likely be carried out with a semi-truck and a multi level trailer.

As mentioned above, some customers prefer enclosed carriers for the added protection. These types of trucks can be classified as follows:

  • Single car, single level, enclosed auto carriers. Usually reserved for short distance transports of very valuable automobiles, they’re composed of a dually truck carrying a bumper pull or gooseneck trailer. Expedited services may also be handled with this type of carrier.
  • Multi-car, single level, enclosed auto carriers. Enclosed trucks have a lower carrying capacity than their open counterparts. When it comes to single level, multi-vehicle carriers, their capacity is usually 3 vehicles. They will enter and exit the truck in a single file.
  • Multi-car, multi-level, enclosed auto carriers. To transport 2 rows of cars, one on top of the other, enclosed trucks keep vehicles as close to the road as possible. They can transport up to 8 cars at a time. They have adjustable ramps, so you can load automobiles similarly to an open auto carrier.

Enclosed carriers may have solid, hard sides or soft ones (also known as curtain sided). These flexible side curtains, made of vinyl fabric coated with PVC, can be lifted leaving more room for workers to strap the vehicles. Even so, most enclosed carriers have hard/solid sides.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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