Dry Van Shipping

The most common method of shipping by freight is the use of dry-van.  If you have ever travelled on an interstate, then you have almost certainly seen one of these in operation.  Any sort of basic freight that needs a limited form of protection from the environment will be appropriate for a dry-van.  Most factories, resellers, and even consumer outlets are equipped with the appropriate facility, such as a loading dock, to accommodate dry-van shipment and deliveries specifically.  The advantage of a dry van is its commonality; the wide usage and resulting high availability.

As you probably know, a dry-van is basically a massive box with wheels.  Unlike a shipping container, however, dry vans are connected to a tractor vehicle directly instead of being loaded onto a flatbed.  A dry-van does not make a good candidate for sea or air transit, and anything shipped by dry-van will have to be transferred to another platform to travel over the ocean.  Like a standard shipping container, however, most dry-vans are equipped with a wooden floor and many also have rails or tracks inside that can be used to secure a load.

The limitations of a dry-van come in size, proportion, and sometimes weight.  Length and height can vary between types, but width is almost always the same.  The standard dimensions of a dry-van’s cargo area are considered to be:

- 53 feet in length,

- 8 feet and 6 inches in width,

- and 9 feet in height.

Check with the freight company for specifics, but know that most dry-vans can legally handle no more than 45,000 pounds.
The only type of material a dry-van is not likely to carry is a liquid, hence the term “dry-van.”  The exception is liquids that are packaged in containers specifically designed for liquid shipping. Your dry-van shipper may have these available for service, or you may have to procure some on your own.

The use of dry-vans is the most common and preferred method of transporting perishable items such as meat, dairy, and some types of produce.  Refrigerated vans, which are commonly known as “reefers” are available through most dry-van operators.  While some can achieve only the mild refrigeration, others can easily reach a state of deep freeze if your products require it.  You’ll want to ensure the dry-van operator willing to accept liability for adhering to the applicable regulations on transportation of goods meant for consumption.  It’s beneficial if the operator can prove that equipment to be used for this purpose is reasonably new and well-maintained.

If you are the responsible party for loading and unloading the dry-vans, do everything you can to secure the shipment for transportation.  This is the one place you can’t afford a half-hearted effort.  The driver will not be willing accept liability for damages to cargo on an uneventful trip if he or she did not personally load your shipment.  Here are some tips for protecting your shipment:

- If you have many small or medium sized containers, it is best to have them palletized and preferably shrink-wrapped for extra security.  This will also speed the loading and unloading process at the dock. 

- Make sure to secure everything to the floor or walls of the dry-van with ties.  If the dry-van operates at a partial capacity, movement around the cargo area can be disastrous.

- Use padding or shipping blankets if the cargo needs to be protected from any sort of superficial damage. 

- If you have particularly fragile items to ship, you will probably be best served by a dry-van equipped with air-ride suspension.

International deliveries may be handled several ways.  Some dry-van operators will have the appropriate license to transport goods over borders.  In other cases, a two-part shipment in which the dry-van is dropped off and picked up at the border might be more practical cost-effective.