Dry vans are traditional semi-trailers that are designed to move dry goods. Despite being simple in concept, dry vans come in many forms, and choosing the right dry van can be difficult. In this guide, we’ll explain the basics of dry vans, what they’re used for, and how to choose the right dry van for your commercial shipping needs.
What Is a Dry Van?
Semi-trailers are towed, unpowered vehicles that lack a front axle, designed to be attached to a semi-truck or other towing vehicle. One type of semi-trailer is a dry van. Dry vans are fully enclosed units, meaning they’re protected from weather and other forms of damage. Depending on the setup, they can carry palletized, boxed, or loose freight.
One distinguishing characteristic of dry vans is that they’re not refrigerated or temperature controls; this means they’re unable to ship goods that require refrigeration. They’re also incapable of carrying oversized shipments; for that, you’ll need a flatbed trailer or something similar.
Dry vans are one of the most popular units for shipping due to their versatility. Most freight is transported using a dry van.
Dry Van Sizes
You can find dry vans in several different sizes. Some of the most common include:
- 53-foot trailers. If you hear someone refer to a standard “dry van,” this is likely the size they’re referring to. The typical dimensions for these vans are 53’ x 8’6” x 8’6”. With a typical dry van of this size, you can carry u to 45,000 pounds of freight. In terms of space, they can carry roughly 26 pallets.
- 28-foot trailers. Affectionately known as “pup” trailers, these dry vans are used for most LTL shipments. The common dimensions here are 28’ x 8’ x 9’. They can carry up to 22,500 pounds of freight, with special accommodation for 14 standard pallets.
- Straight trucks. You might also encounter dry vans in the form of straight trucks, sometimes called box trucks. These vehicles usually contain a liftgate and are primarily used for city deliveries. Common dimensions here are 24’ x 8’ x 8’6”.
Why Use a Dry Van?
There are some key advantages to using a dry van:
- Versatility. One of the benefits of a dry van is that it’s versatile. A dry van can be used to ship almost any type of consumer-packaged goods, such as clothing, furniture, or even electronics. They can also ship nonperishable food items, household goods, and heavier things like pieces of machinery and heavy equipment. They’re not locked into a single niche.
- Load protection. The semi-trailer itself is completely covered on all sides. You won’t have to worry about intense sunlight, direct heat, high winds, rain, snow, hail, or any other weather hazard. Additionally, as long as the trailer remains locked, you’ll have a layer of reliable protection against theft.
- Accessibility. Dry vans are one of the most common types of trailer in use. Accordingly, it’s not hard to find a unit available for sale. If you’re looking for used options, you should have a large selection to choose from.
- Affordability. Refrigerated trailers are sometimes necessary, but their advanced interiors tend to be expensive. Comparatively, dry vans are inexpensive. This makes them ideal for truckers getting started on a budget and small businesses trying to save money.
- Familiarity. Dry vans typically come in one of a few different standard sizes. You can count on these dimensions for loading and unloading.
How to Find a Good Dry Van
Are you looking for a dry van for your truck driving needs? There are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind:
- Get the right dimensions. Full-sized dry vans and pup trailers serve different purposes. Make sure you get the right size for your specific needs.
- Consider buying used. While dry vans are relatively cheap for semi-trailers, they can still set you back. Consider buying used to save money; used units are often almost as good as new units.
- Apply for financing. If you can’t afford to buy a dry van outright, consider applying for financing. Just make sure you have a decent down payment saved up.
- Compare lenders. If you decide to get a loan for your purchase of a dry van, you should compare lenders before moving forward. Sometimes, you can find better terms or a lower interest rate, all other factors being equal.
- Consider leasing. If you don’t want to buy a dry van, you may benefit from leasing. Don’t rule it out as an option.
- Inspect before you buy. Before finalizing a purchase, inspect the dry van. This is especially important if you’re buying used.
Dry vans remain one of the most popular and most important vehicles for ground shipping. They aren’t right for every shipment, but their versatility and availability make them highly used.