Differences Between Lowboy and RGN Trailers

October 8th, 2019

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You’ve got oversized freight to haul. You need the right trailer for the job, but which one is best for your job: a traditional lowboy trailer or removable gooseneck trailer (RGN)?

Both lowboys and RGNs are commercial trailers known for their impressive hauling capacity, especially when it comes to moving tall, heavy freight. But there are some differences to understand to ensure that you’re choosing the right trailer for your job.

Often, this class of commercial trailers is used to haul oversized machinery such as construction and industrial equipment. People are likely most familiar with seeing these trailers moving bulldozers or excavators with “Oversize Load” across the back.

The advantages of using lowboy trailers lie in their ability to transport large loads without additional permits. They can have axles added for increased weight capacity, and the dropdown feature allows for taller equipment to be moved without height permits.

Having the ability to move equipment without additional permitting can save you time and money. As you consider lowboy vs. RGN trailers, make sure you know all the options to choose the right trailer for the job!

Lowboy vs. RGN: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to height and weight, certain types of lowboys are better, but what’s the difference between all the different types on the market? The most notable differences come in the loading functionality, hauling capacity, and costs.

Lowboy vs. RGN Hauling Capacity

The most important considerations when deciding between a lowboy and RGN trailer are the weight capacity and well length. A two-axle lowboy trailer can support a maximum weight of 40,000 pounds. However, the weight capacity can be increased up to 80,000 pounds by adding additional axles. The length of a lowboy well ranges from 24’ to 29.6’. A 25’ well is perfect for hauling most equipment, such as bulldozers.

The most common lowboy trailer configuration:

  • Tri-axle to support up to 55,000 pounds
  • Fixed neck
  • 25’ well

With a convenient ramp, RGN trailers are ideal if you can drive the equipment onto the trailer. RGN trailers can be configured with up to 20 or more axles to support up to 150,000 pounds. The well length (main deck) is typically 29’, which is ideal for hauling even the largest equipment, such as cranes or agricultural combines.

The most common RGN trailer configuration:

  • Tandem axle to support up to 40,000 pounds
  • 29’ well

The Ramp Advantage of RGN Trailers

One of the most common uses of commercial semi-trailers is to transport heavy machinery like bulldozers. When freight can be driven, there is an advantage to using a trailer with a ramp.

RGN trailers can be lowered to the ground to create a ramp for large vehicles or equipment to be driven directly onto a trailer. This is made possible by the unique design of a hydraulic-powered, removable gooseneck (called such because of its resemblance to the neck of a goose) at the front of the trailer. Once the gooseneck is detached, self-powered cargo can be easily loaded.

Using an RGN prevents you from needing additional equipment to aid with loading and unloading. If the accessibility of additional loading/unloading equipment is an issue, an RGN trailer may be your best choice.

RGN Trailer vs. Lowboy: Types of Trailers

Essentially, RGNs fall under the class of lowboy trailers. But lowboy trailers come in a variety of configurations that can affect the overall cost of a lowboy rental. Most of these differences have to do with the capacity of the trailer.

An ordinary lowboy trailer is a flatbed with one drop after the gooseneck. They were originally introduced in the 1920s as a viable option for hauling large freight. While they can carry heavy cargo, they cannot accommodate extra tall cargo. This is due to the higher platform on which cargo sits. Using a lowboy with less hauling capacity leads to less expensive rental or purchase costs and is a great option for shorter equipment.

Double drop deck lowboy trailers encompass the RGN and fixed-neck variations, each with their own pros and cons.

Fixed-neck lowboy trailers have the following features:

  • Neck is attached to the trailer
  • Lightweight for more carrying capacity
  • Loading from the side or back of the trailer

Fixed gooseneck lowboy trailers have the following features:

  • Adjustable gooseneck
  • Loading from front or back of the trailer
  • Easier backloading due to drop deck

Removable gooseneck lowboy trailers, which were introduced in 1958, have the following features:

  • Gooseneck can be completely removed
  • Some have hydraulics for easy removal
  • Loading down from above, by driving, rolling, pushing, or pulling cargo
  • Goosenecks without hydraulics are lighter weight

As you can see, each of these falls under a lowboy trailer, so it’s important to know exactly what features you need for your type of cargo and what your budget is. The more hydraulics, axles, and capacity you need, the higher the cost. But you may also save time and money by choosing a well-outfitted lowboy trailer.

When to Use a Lowboy vs. RGN Trailer

We’ve established that lowboy trailers of all kinds are great for heavy cargo, with certain types being useful for specific loads. With that in mind, if you work in certain industries, you’ll want to consider a lowboy for rent or purchase. Let’s take a look at some of the most common industries to consider a lowboy trailer, and more specifically an RGN trailer.

Trailers for Oil and Gas Industry

In the oil and gas industries, hauling large freight is essential. A variety of lowboy trailers are used to transport drills, mining equipment, high-capacity shovels, generators, and various cargo. Depending on the equipment being transported, it may be necessary to use RGNs or other customized versions of lowboy trailers.

Due to the rugged nature of this industry, trailers often need to be highly durable and sturdy to endure adverse conditions. Time is of the essence, so reliable performance is a huge factor when choosing an RGN trailer vs. a lowboy. If a trailer breaks due to poor construction, this can cost companies time and money in repairs.

The oil and gas industry will often have custom lowboy trailers manufactured to suit their specific needs. This requires clear communication between fleet owners and trailer manufacturers to ensure that the trailers are created with specific needs in mind. Unclear communication can lead to problems later.

Construction and Paving Industry

In this industry, lowboy or RGN trailers may be a bigger consideration due to the vastly different types of equipment being transported. Some cargo may be small enough to be moved on a fixed-neck trailer, while other cargo may require the functionality of an RGN.

Some common trailer variations for this industry are:

  • Beavertail
  • Drop deck
  • Folding gooseneck
  • Removable gooseneck
  • Sliding axle

Agricultural Equipment

Hauling agricultural equipment is incredibly important, especially in certain areas of the United States where agricultural is a primary industry. Thus, having the right trailers is key. The most common types of lowboy trailers are RGNs due to their accessibility in loading and unloading heavy machinery.

Towing Industry

When a large vehicle like a motor coach breaks down or needs to be transported, a heavy-haul trailer is essential. Choosing between a lowboy vs. RGN trailer comes down to accessibility.

Using an RGN is highly advantageous as it allows for towed vehicles to be loaded in a variety of different ways. There are also other specifications that can be added to customize a trailer, such as side extensions, winches, and ramps.

Regulations on Lowboy Trailers

When considering which type of trailer to rent or purchase, it’s always important to be mindful of the regulations in your state, or the states you’ll be transporting through. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration offers a list of regulations by state to ensure that you’re not exceeding legal limits.

Keep in mind that even though your cargo may meet the total weight limit, it could exceed the per-axle limit. This is important to keep in mind with lowboy and RGN trailers, as they can be customized to add axles if weight is a factor. When choosing a lowboy vs. RGN trailer for extra-large cargo, it will be helpful to know if you need greater axle capacity.

One other consideration is the potential need for an escort. If you have an oversized load, you’ll want to consider that for both your trailer choice, but also in your overall freight costs. Regulations vary by state, but generally, any load over 8.5 feet wide is considered oversize. This is based on the standard 12-foot width of interstate lanes.

Permitting will be needed if you are using a standard lowboy trailer to haul large loads. One of the advantages of using a specialized lowboy trailer, like an RGN, is that you can haul large cargo without a permit.

Lowboy vs. RGN: Know Your Cargo Needs

If you’re hauling heavy machinery, towing large vehicles, or transporting large equipment, you’re likely going to be using some form of a lowboy trailer. Which type of lowboy trailer is the larger question.

In making your decision, remember these key things: weight and height of cargo, your industry, budget, and federal and state regulations. Once you know the what, where, and why of your hauling needs, you’ll have more clear direction on what type of lowboy trailer to choose.

With Hale Trailer, you not only have access to high-quality new and used trailers, but also the luxury of 12 trailer rental locations across the United States. Additionally, we offer service, parts, and customized equipment to meet all your trailer needs. For more information on lowboy trailers, including RGNs, contact one of our knowledgeable representatives at Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel, Inc.

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