What Is a Conestoga Trailer, and How Does It Work?

what is a conestoga trailer

Omar Founder of OJ Digital Solutions

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Keeping packages and freight secure is crucial in ground shipping. To achieve this goal, shipping and trucking companies must use the right equipment, like the Conestoga trailer.

What is a Conestoga trailer, and why is it crucial in the trucking industry? How much weight can a Conestoga trailer hold? What is a Conestoga truck?

I wrote this guide to answer these questions (and more). I’ll share everything you need to know about Conestoga trailers, Conestoga flatbed trailers, and more.

What Is a Conestoga Trailer?

what is a conestoga trailer

Conestoga trailers (aka Van Conestoga) refer to specialized trailers that trucking and delivery companies use to transport freight safely. It has a flatbed frame trailer with a sliding tarp system that can conceal freight, equipment, and loads.

Some people use Conestoga trailers to protect items from the weather and harsh elements. Other times, it helps hide items from plain sight for confidentiality.

The Conestoga’s rolling tarp is often a vinyl or seminar material attached to an extendible, retractable sliding system. This setup lets you quickly and conveniently access the cargo area without manual labor.

Don’t confuse a Conestoga with curtain-side trailers. Unlike a Conestoga, curtain-side Trailers use a more rigid framework. You can’t retract nor extend the roof of a curtain-side trailer.

How Does a Conestoga Trailer Work?

How Does a Conestoga Trailer Work?

The sliding tarp system of a Conestoga trailer provides easy access to the cargo area. You won’t need as much manual labor or additional equipment.

A Conestoga combines the advantages of a flatbed trailer’s versatility with the protection and security of an enclosed trailer. It works alongside a loading dock to let you unload freight from the back.

Conestoga trailers have multiple loading and unloading points, meaning you can also have multiple loading docks.

How Does Shipping Differ With a Conestoga?

The Conestoga trailer’s primary difference is its protection from harsh elements. The sliding tarp system allows for complete enclosure of the cargo area.

A Conestoga trailer’s tarp cover shields freight from rain, snow, sunlight, and other weather conditions. This design makes it suitable for transporting sensitive or valuable goods requiring protective shipping methods.

Normal trailers can offer the same protection, but a Conestoga trailer’s sliding tarp system offers easy cargo access.

Unlike traditional enclosed trailers with access through a rear deck door, a Conestoga trailer allows quick loading and unloading from the top and sides. This ease of access can save time and labor during the shipping process.

The Structure of Conestoga Trailers

The Structure of Conestoga Trailers

The structure of a Conestoga trailer is unique in both size and material.

Conestoga trailer dimensions vary depending on the size.

How wide is a Conestoga trailer? On average, it’s about eight feet and four inches wide.

How tall is a Conestoga trailer? A typical one is eight feet or 96 inches high.

A distinct aspect of the Conestoga trailer’s structure is the cover material. It’s often a vinyl tarp. This material is lighter, making Conestogas lighter than traditional trailers.

The Different Types of Conestoga Trailers

Different Types of Conestoga Trailers

Here are the different types of Conestoga trailers.

Conestoga Flatbed Trailers

Conestoga flatbed trailers are the most common type of Conestoga.

A Conestoga flatbed trailer has a system with a roll-over tarp for protection. Most truckers and logistics companies prefer the Conestoga flatbed because of its versatility.

You have two size options for flatbed Conestoga trailers: 48 and 53-foot sizes.

Flatbed Conestoga weight capacity – 44,000 pounds.

Step-Deck Conestoga Trailers

The step-deck Conestoga trailer is a Conestoga trailer with two decks: a longer, lower deck and a shorter, higher deck. These trailers are better for transporting freight requiring more height clearance.

Step-deck Conestoga dimensions differ because of the additional height. The upper deck is 8 feet, but the lower deck can be as high as 9 feet and two inches. A step deck can carry up to 41,000 pounds.

Double-Drop Conestoga Trailers

The double-drop Conestoga trailer is much like a step deck but has a lower bottom portion with one step deck in the back and a double drop in the front. This trailer is great for oversized equipment with high clearance.

The lower deck makes driving cars, construction power vehicles, and other driven machines easy onto the bottom trailer.

The front deck is 8 feet or lower, the lower deck is up to 139 inches, and the rear deck is up to 114 inches. Its maximum weight capacity is 35,000 pounds.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conestoga Trailers

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conestoga Trailers

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of Conestoga freight trailers.


  • Cargo protected from weather and elements

  • Convenient access to cargo from sides and top

  • Versatility for transporting various types of cargo

  • Enhanced security with a lockable tarp system

  • Potential for time and cost efficiency


  • Reduced payload capacity compared to standard flatbed trailers

  • Maintenance complexity for the retractable tarping system

  • Higher initial cost than standard trailers

  • Limited side access in certain loading configurations

Conestoga Trailers vs. Flatbeds vs. Dry Vans

Conestoga Trailers vs. Flatbeds vs. Dry Vans

Conestoga trailer vs. flatbed vs. a dry van: How do they differ?

What is a flatbed trailer? It’s a trailer that’s entirely flat, without walls or any covering. On the other hand, a dry van trailer has a closed box at the back of the hauler.

Conestoga Trailer Costs

Conestoga Trailer Costs

A Conestoga semi-trailer can cost significantly more than a traditional trailer. If you plan to use a Conestoga, expect to pay 10 to 15% more than a standard trailer.

What is the average rate per mile paid for a 48-foot Conestoga trailer? Current flatbed rates go between $2.31 to $2.78, depending on the US state.

This ground delivery option isn’t the cheapest, but you can find other avenues to save when shipping.

Consider the cheapest way to ship a package and use the savings to pay a little more for safer ground delivery.

What Trailer Is Best For Your Freight?

The answer depends on the cargo you are delivering. If your freight needs extra protection and isn’t oversized, you might be better off with a dry van trailer.

You can use a Conestoga Flatbed trailer if you need more flexibility in loading and unloading because of the size or shape of your cargo.

Conestoga Trailer Alternatives

Conestoga Trailer Alternatives

If you’re not particular about your cargo’s protection or loading and unloading requirements, here are simpler and cheaper Conestoga truck alternatives.

  • Step-deck – You can use this trailer on cargo exceeding the legal height limit of a Conestoga flatbed.

  • Flatbed – These trailers are excellent for simple cargo that you can load on a flat bottom with open sizes.

  • Low-boy – These specialized trailers are excellent for oversized and heavier-than-normal loads because they’re lower to the ground.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is the Use of Conestoga Trailers?

Most trucking industry players use Conestoga trailers to move oversized loads requiring additional layers of protection or concealment. These trailers are ideal for delicate and oversized loads.

What’s the Size of a Conestoga Trailer?

Sizing depends on the type of Conestoga, but they are typically eight feet high and wide (or a little more). Standard lengths are 48 feet and 53 feet.

What Are Curtain Side Trailers?

Curtain-side trailers are delivery vehicles with curtains on the container’s side, which you can flip open during loading and unloading.

What Are Curtain Side Trailers?

How Do Conestoga and Curtain Side Trailers Differ?

Curtain side trailers don’t have a retractable tarping system, but Conestoga trailers do. You can expose freight and load and unload Conestoga trailers more quickly.

How Do Flatbed Trailers and Conestoga Trailers Differ?

A flatbed trailer doesn’t have any covering on any of the sides or the top. You must cover your cargo with a tarp or keep them completely exposed.

How Do Dry Vans and Curtain-Side Trailers Differ?

Dry vans have solid covering throughout. Curtain side trailers have vinyl tarps as covering on the sides.

How Tall Can Cargo Be on a Conestoga Trailer?

How Tall Can Cargo Be on a Conestoga Trailer?

The normal-sized trailers go up to eight feet high. The step deck Conestoga can extend upward another 9 feet. Any cargo that can fit those specifications should be fine.

The Bottom Line

I hope my guide made it easier for you to understand what a Conestoga trailer is and why it’s crucial for certain types of cargo.

If you’re interested in other shipping solutions, learning about the differences between LTL vs. FTL freight shipping is ideal.

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