The terms used to describe the various HGV trailers we have for rental or sale differ slightly between countries, manufactures and between those people who use them. In order to help us make sure we are talking about the same trailer we have compiled a HGV Trailer Terminology Guide of common terms used in the UK and Europe to describe the main types of trailer we have available.

Beaver tail

Beaver tail is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height and two ramps at the back to allow drive on loading. When upright the two ramps look like the prominent two teeth of a beaver. The ramps can be hydraulic or detachable. These type of trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, low-loader, machinery trailer, step frame, plant carrier, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Chipliner trailer

Chipliner trailer is a name for a curtainsider with extra-thick curtain sides, and capable of loading through the roof. Chipliner trailers are frequently used for transporting woodchips and sawdust.

Curtainsider trailer

Curtainsider trailer is a term used for a trailer, usually a flat decked trailer, with a rigid frame above the deck with a solid roof and rear doors, and removable curtain sides secured by straps. Curtainsider trailers are often used for transporting palletised goods.

Drop frame

Drop frame is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height. These trailers are also sometimes known as: swan’s neck, machinery trailer, low-loader, step frame, plant carrier, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Extending trailers

Extending trailers are versatile and suitable for a variety of long loads. ‘Extenders’ as they are sometime known can be single, double or even triple extending. Their length can go from 13.6m to a staggering 53m. Extenders are also known as extendable straight frame and trombones. Low loaders, step frames and urban trailers can also be extendable.

Flat trailers

Flat trailers are the backbone of the general haulage industry. Regularly used for the road transport and storage of steel, pre-fabricated concrete and timber building sections. Generally 13.6m (45 feet) long and 1.5m (5 feet) high. Suitable for crane loading, side loading with fork lifts or rear loading from a loading bay. When fitted with twist locks can be used for the carriage of sea containers and when fitted with posts and sockets suitable for steel bars, pipes, poles and other circular material. Also known as platforms.

Hydraulic ramp

Hydraulic ramp is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height and two hydraulic ramps at the back to allow drive on loading. These type of trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, low-loader, machinery trailer, step frame, plant carrier, beaver tail and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Hydraulic steering

Hydraulic steering trailers enable skilled HGV drivers to access sites which would be otherwise inaccessible. The longer the trailer, the more difficult it is to manoeuvre around corners, as the rear of the trailer tries to take the shortest route to the position of the front of the trailer. To overcome this problem, some trailers have steering back axles. So called ‘self-tracking’ axles enable an axle to freely rotate up to about 15 degrees from its natural position. Self tracking axles are designed to help with tyre wear and only marginally help with manoeuvrability. Generally only one axle on a trailer will be self tracking. Hydraulic steering trailers enable all axles to rotate upto around 45 degrees from their natural position. The degree of rotation is controlled by a wedge on the trailer’s king pin which communicates the degree of rotation of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel in relation to the main axis of the trailer. The axles of a hydraulic steered trailer will be mounted on turntables. Turntables capable of taking very heavy weight will be large and high, while turntables low enough to fit under a step frame or low loader trailer will not be capable of carrying so much weight.

Low loader

Low loader (low-loader or lowloader) trailer is a name used for trailers with a main deck height lower than the height of the trailer’s rear wheels. The deck of a low loader trailer has two steps in it: one from the upper deck above the tractor unit’s fifth wheel, and one from the rear deck above the trailer’s wheels. The term is also used to describe a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height. These trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, machinery trailer, step frame, plant carrier, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Machinery trailer

Machinery trailer is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height. These trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, low-loader, step frame, plant carrier, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Plant carrier

Plant carrier is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height. These trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, low-loader, machinery trailer, step frame, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Platforms trailers

Platforms trailers are the backbone of the general haulage industry. Regularly used for the road transport and storage of steel, pre-fabricated concrete and timber building sections. Generally 13.6m (45 feet) long and 1.5m (5 feet) high. Suitable for crane loading, side loading with fork lifts or rear loading from a loading bay. When fitted with twist locks can be used for the carriage of sea containers and when fitted with posts and sockets suitable for steel bars, pipes, poles and other circular material. Also known as flats.

Semi trailer

Semi trailer is a term commonly used for a stepframe / step frame trailer. Semi trailer is short for semi-lowloader trailer, indicating a trailer which shares the lowloader’s characteristic low deck height, but not as low as a lowloader proper. Semi trailers are also distinguished from lowloaders by not having the detachable neck frequently found on lowloader trailers. These trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, low-loader, machinery trailer, step frame, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or  plant carrier depending on their specification.

Step frame

Step frame is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height. These trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, swan’s neck, low-loader, machinery trailer, plant carrier, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Swan’s neck

Swan’s neck is a trailer with a main deck which is lower than the height of the tractor unit’s fifth wheel height. These trailers are also sometimes known as: drop frame, machinery trailer, low-loader, step frame, plant carrier, beaver tail, hydraulic ramp and/or semi trailer depending on their specification.

Tautliner

Tautliner trailer is an alternative name for a curtainsider trailer.

Specialist Low Loader Trailer Hire & Sales

We buy, sell and rent extendable and non-extending flatlow loader, step frame and urban trailers plus plant, tractor, wing and truss carriers.

The majority of the 600 plus modern trailers on our fleet are made by Broshuis, Dennison, Montracon, and SDC.

We also offer repairs, re-furbishmentHGV DVSA testingsparesservice, test preparation, tachograph calibration and brake analysis. These services are suitable for most trucks, trailers, buses, tractor units, lorries and PSV’s.

Privately owned, John Hudson Trailers Ltd is a family company based in the UK at Bawtry in South Yorkshire. We have been working in the HGV specialist transport industry since 1959 and are members of the Heavy Transport Association.