What is Specialized Freight & Do I Need It?

“Specialized freight” is a broad blanket term for any goods that can’t just be thrown into a basic box trailer and hauled as-is.

If regulations specify that the trailer must be modified in some way to move the goods safely, or that extra precautions must be taken (like the use of a special trailer type or an escort), then you’re dealing with specialized freight.

What is specialized freight image 44444If you have specialized freight, you’ll need a trucking company that is equipped to do the job legally and safely.

What is Specialized Freight?

Specialized freight is usually too heavy or too oddly-shaped to move with a standard trailer. It may also pose a unique hazard that has to be accounted for with extra safety measures – for example, flammable liquids or biological hazards. Living things also fall under the umbrella of specialized freight.

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) defines several different categories of specialized freight:

  • Bulk liquids
  • Dry bulk materials
  • Forest products
  • Used household and office goods
  • Other specialized freight except for used goods (for example, coal and livestock)

Specialized freight regulations apply to both local and long-distance trucking. However, a different set of regulations applies to local trash collection. If trash is being hauled long-distance, then it is considered specialized freight.

In addition to long-distance hauling, local movement of used household and office goods is also covered under specialized freight regulations.

The trucking company takes on nearly all of the responsibility for meeting specialized freight requirements. They are expected to have the right equipment for the task, to clean the equipment properly and not ship it with residue that could be damaging to the next load of freight, and to meet all documentation and safety requirements. A broker may work between the shipper and the transporter to ensure that the correct specialized freight hauler is contracted for each task.

Common Types of Specialized Freight

The following are common examples of specialized freight being transported on the nation’s roads every day. This market encompasses local transportation as well as long-haul trucking.

Dangerous Bulk Liquids

Dangerous bulk liquids are those that carry an increased risk of damage or harm to people or property if they should spill or ignite. This category includes gasoline, petroleum and its byproducts, hazardous chemicals, liquefied natural gas and liquid nitrogen among others.

Vehicles that carry these are often referred to as “tanker trucks,” and drivers have to obtain special Hazmat and tanker endorsements to haul them. In addition, the trucks require special safety measures for each type of chemical as well as loading and unloading procedures that must be observed.

Non-Dangerous Bulk Liquids

Bulk liquids are also trucked in specialized tanker trucks, but they do not require as many security precautions. Examples of non-dangerous bulk liquids include various food oils, milk, juice and corn syrup.

These trucks may be refrigerated, and will usually be equipped to conform to food handling requirements. For example, the tank may need to be pressurized or have special resistance to acid corrosion.

Agricultural Products

Most dry foods fit under the heading of “agricultural products,” whether they be for humans or animals. Examples would include sugar, peanuts, flour and livestock feed.

Refrigerated Goods

“Refrigerated goods” include foods, medicines and chemicals that have to be kept cold for the duration of hauling. You’ll frequently see these vehicles referred to as “reefer” trucks.

Obviously, these trailers are different in that they must be equipped with a refrigeration system. However, they also usually have special regulations about loading and unloading quickly so that the goods do not spoil.

Bulk Minerals

Bulk minerals include items such as gravel, sand, limestone, salt, copper and bauxite. Sand and gravel delivery companies ensure that the items are shipped in special containers that can be lifted and dumped with hydraulics, and they are loaded with a vacuum system. You will also often see two or three trailers of this type of cargo towed at a time by one truck.

Dry Chemicals

There is some “wiggle room” with the transportation of dry chemicals, as in some cases they can be placed in appropriate containers and shipped in a standard dry van trailer. However, the driver will still need to have a Hazmat and tanker endorsement even if they are shipped this way. Some also need to be shipped in refrigerated trailers.

Examples of dry chemicals include fertilizer, resin powder, synthetic fiber and plastic pellets.

Coals and Cokes

While coal is most commonly hauled by rail, it is sometimes taken short distances by trucks. A coal truck is similar to those used to transport minerals, usually having an open trailer and hydraulics to dump the coal out of the back. These trucks are also generally used for coal and nothing else.


Horses, pigs, cattle and bees are just some of the common examples of livestock that are on the road every day. These animals and insects need to be hauled in special trailers designed to accommodate them.

Livestock drivers also get exemptions for mandatory rest time, as livestock cannot be held up at a stop for long periods. For example, pigs are not able to sweat so they are kept cool in the summer by keeping the truck in motion. There are also special loading and unloading procedures to be aware of.

Forest Products

For the most part, the term “forest products” in the specialized freight world refers to logs, planks or even full trees. Due to the usual length, these items require a special long and flat trailer that they are strapped to. A crane is used to load and unload them.

Used Household and Office Goods

These regulations are more about granting consumers protections when they move from place to place, rather than any special road safety considerations. Still, the moving of household and office furniture and items is considered to be the transportation of specialized freight and regulated accordingly.

Trash and Biological Materials

Due to the potential for biohazards and disease-carrying items, garbage is considered to be specialized freight and is subject to a number of safety requirements when it is transported for long distances. Local trash collection (from homes and businesses to a local landfill) falls under a different set of regulations.

Oversized Items

There are all sorts of items that are greater than 80,000 lbs. or dimensions of eight feet and six inches that require a special “heavy haul” trailer. Some examples would be farm and construction equipment or disassembled structures.

List of Top Heavy Specialized Freight Carriers

Osage Specialized Transportation

Osage Specialized Transport is a leading heavy haul trucking company in Denver, CO. With over 40 years of experience in the industry, they are able to provide a broad base of varied equipment, and are proud to be a locally owned and operated small business.

Landstar System

Landstar System is an American transport company providing supply chain solutions and integrated global transportation services based in Jacksonville, FL.

Daseke Inc.

Daeseke Inc. is a flatbed and specialized transport and logistics company located in North America. They offer comprehensive services to industrial shippers worldwide.

Anderson Trucking Service

Since 1955, ATS has been providing transportation solutions that are about more than just getting the job done. As a family-owned company, they pride themselves on delivering value-added services as the standard.

PS Logistics

PS Logistics is a full service logistics solutions and supply chain solutions. They provide a variety of smart, viable solutions regardless of what logistics problems you face.


Interesting related article: “What is Cargo?