How to Load a Dry Van Trailer

Securing a load properly in a dry van trailer is important for keeping both people and cargo safe. Many accidents can be prevented if the rules were followed regarding securing cargo.

Properly Distributing Dry Van Weight

It is important when operating a dry van trailer that you properly distribute the weight. Having the proper weight distribution can help reduce the risk of damaged freight along with wear and tear on your truck. Also, some states have laws regarding the weight limits, and law enforcement monitor these weight restrictions closely

Before you load your trailer, ensure you have the proper loading equipment. Proper loading equipment can include a hand truck or forklift. When loading cargo, pay close attention to the two axles under the truck. These hold approximately 43% of the total truck’s weight. The other 14% should be evenly distributed between the front axle that supports the cab and engine

Once you begin loading your cargo, if you have a full truckload, begin placing your cargo at the front of the truck and work your way back. Do not fill your trailer up, instead, you will need to save space at the back of the trailer. Keeping space at the rear of the trailer helps prevent cargo from falling out when opening the doors. Space also helps reduce pressure on the trailer doors and reduces the risk of product shifting while traveling.

According to the United States Department of Transportation regulations, trucks that have two axels can hold up to 34,000 pounds per axle. To prevent wear and tear on the tires, begin loading a partial load at the front axle, and stopping before the second axle

Once you have successfully loaded your shipment, weigh the truck to ensure the weight is evenly distributed over each axle, as well as being compliant with the state laws in which you will be traveling through.

How to Load a Dry Van Trailer

Prior to Loading

  • Clean the trailer out
  • Inspect for any nails or sharp objects
  • Check for any holes – patch if needed


  • Ensure shipment is secure and tight
  • Load cargo evenly. Ensure the weight is distributed evenly on both sides of the trailer
  • Ensure the trailer is not top nor side heavy
  • Use correct securement when hauling poles, pipes, reels, or lumber to avoid any tears to the side, doors, or cab of the trailer
  • Do not load loose steel without using securements. Quickly stopping can cause the steel to slide through the cab of the truck or out the back doors
  • Do not load loose steel coils without proper securement
  • Keep axels below 34,000 pounds
  • Keep orders together – load your first stop last
  • Load cargo based on the layout of the warehouse
  • Load more substantial items on the bottom and lighter items on the top
  • Use pallet securements to avoid shifting while traveling
  • Do not load small pallets on the floor alone – make sure all pallet heights are the same size
  • Use fillers with shipments that do not fit properly on the pallet

Distributing Weight on the Trailer

There is no one way to distribute weight across the truck axles evenly. You can change the weight distribution by –

  • Moving the weight of the shipment lengthways –or move the shipment around once the truck has been fully loaded. This changes the weight between the drive axles and trailer tandems.
  • Moving the trailer tandems backward and forward helps rearrange the weight between the drive axles and trailer tandems.
  • Moving the 5th wheel helps change the weight between the steer axle and drive axles.
  • Adding or losing fuel can help change your trailer weight on the steer axels and a little on the drive axels. This depends on how the fuel tanks are placed.

Weight Transfer Restrictions

Several influences can help lower the weight between the different axels on your truck. These include:

  • The Bridge Law Formula restricts the top weight that can be carried on any axels depending on the number of axels and the spacing.
  • Federal Law restricts the top weight for axels and the gross weight of the truck to be 20,000 pounds per axel, 34,000 pounds for the tandem axels, and 80,000 for the gross weight.
  • The allowed length between the trailer kingpin and the tandems determines how far you can move your tandems.
  • Your tire load rating will impact the highest amount of weight you can carry per tire.
  • The suspension system load rating also impacts how much weight you can carry per axle.

As a dry van driver, there are a lot of rules and tips to remember. Along with rules, there are a lot of decisions you must make to ensure you are compliant with state laws and you deliver an undamaged load. However, following these tips and tricks can help make loading a dry van trailer easier and legally.