Different Types of Commodity Trailers

The Right Trailer for the Right Haul

No two trailers are the same, and every operator has an idea of the “perfect” trailer for every haul.

From belt trailers to shuffle floor trailers, belly dumps, and more, there’s a lot to research and consider when selecting the right trailer for your operation. To make the decision easier, we’ve outlined some of the pros and cons for five of the most commonly used trailers in the commodity trucking industry.

Belt Trailers

Belt trailers use a hydraulically or electronically powered belt that carefully moves the product to the end of the trailer, quickly unloading in a pile. Drivers can unload an entire haul from the cab of the trailer. Depending on the type of load, belt trailers can unload a haul in under 4 minutes.

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Pros: Belt trailers are known for a quick, safe unload, and some brands can stand up to decades of wear and tear. They can haul a variety of commodities including recycling materials, potatoes, grain, feed, seed, mining aggregate and more. Trinity offers a more aerodynamic and lightweight construction which improves truck performance and fuel economy.

Cons: When it comes to grain, a belt trailer will need a grain funnel to unload into an auger. Luckily, these trailers can be equipped with a variety of optional add-ons that can fit the needs of a haul type or operation.

Bottom Dump Trailer
(aka Belly Dump or Clam Dump)

Also known as belly dump or clam dump trailers, bottom dump trailers have a clamshell dump gate at the bottom of the trailer. Haulers unload these rigs by electronically opening the clamshell. The materials then are either laid precisely as the gate opens from left to right, or they’re spread evenly across the rear of the trailer when the gate opens from front to rear.

Pros: On the construction site, bottom dump trailers are great for laying asphalt. The wheels never stop turning, allowing haulers to drive right through the dump zone and quickly unload a 21-yard load in just 25 feet. Other hauls can easily be handled and stockpiled using a loader or a dozer. Other common commodities bottom dump trailers haul include dirt and gravel.

Cons: While bottom dump trailers can be extremely versatile, there are some limitations on material size. Materials that average 1-2 feet in diameter won’t be able to unload through the gate and cleanly flow out underneath the axles.

End Dump and Side Dump Trailers
(also referred to as tipper trailers)

End dump and side dump trailers unload hauls by lifting and tipping the trailer upward or to the side. Hydraulic rams lift the trailer up into an angled position, allowing the material to quickly flow out into a pile in the dump zone. These are often ideal for hauling waste and garbage.

Pros: Both end dump and side dump trailers offer the option of rapid unloading at the job site. End dumps can carry larger loads than the typical dump truck, as well as handle tougher materials like demolition debris. Side dumps offer additional stability, and their 50-degree dump angle allows material to unload fast and clean.

Cons: While unloading, tipper trailers have a high center of gravity, making them more likely to tip over. Drivers need to be more experienced to know when to dump and where.

Shuffle Floor Trailers

Also known as live bottom trailers, shuffle floor trailers are often used for bulk material and palletized cargo. These trailers feature a series of narrow floor slats on the floor, which are powered by a hydraulic system that allows the slats to move forward and backward either in unison or alternatively. This “walks” the load toward the end of the trailer for an effective unload.

Pros: These trailers can work well for unloading loose goods, such as wood, slaughterhouse waste and chipped tires. The driver can easily unload from the cab without any additional equipment.

Cons: The unload time can be slow and tedious for these trailers, and the slats/hydraulic system may require careful maintenance. Shuffle floor trailers aren’t ideal for heavy, tough loads like gravel and mining aggregate.

Hopper Trailer

Hopper trailers are used in agricultural applications, mostly for hauling grain. These trailers use two hoppers to unload the product, with one placed at the front of the trailer and another at the rear. The unload is controlled by sliding plates at the base of the hoppers, which is operated manually by a crank handle.

Pros: During harvest season, hopper trailers can be driven out into the fields and used right alongside combines and grain carts. After transporting the haul, these trailers can easily unload dry grain into an auger for long-term storage in grain bins and silos.

Cons: Hopper trailers are limited in the range of different products they can haul. Larger commodities may be impossible to flow through the hoppers.

The bottom line: Choose the trailer that works best for your operation. Find a brand and make that can get the job done, from dawn till dusk — and then some.

Curious about belt trailers? Since 1975, Trinity has been building belt trailers that are faster, lighter and stronger than anything else on the road. With a 4 minute unload time and over 36 degrees of flexibility, you can max out your payload with every haul.

Check out what options we have available here.

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