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When do You Need a Tailgate for Your Pallet Shipment?

Posted on Feb 7, 2023 12:00:00 PM by Brandon Draga

Whether your business is new, or is growing, there can be a lot to learn about the process of shipping pallets. 

Depending on the characteristics of a shipment, specialized equipment may be required.

These are known in the industry as accessorial services.

Utilizing these services correctly can be the difference between the straightforward transport of goods, and a host of problems for both the shipper and recipient. 

Arguably the most used accessorial service for LTL pallet shipping is the tailgate, or liftgate.

For newer pallet shippers, this may lead to some questions. What is a tailgate? When should I book a tailgate for my shipment? What happens if I don’t use one?

For shippers new to the world of pallet shipping, and even seasoned shippers who may want a refresher, we have the answers that you’re looking for.


What is a Tailgate?

The short answer is that a tailgate is a mechanical platform that lowers from the back of a truck bed, allowing pallets and other heavy goods to be raised from street level into a truck’s trailer, and vice versa.

The now commonplace device was developed by American engineer William Anthony, who designed the tailgate in the late 1930s after working with Ford to fit their Model T cars with a dump bed that Anthony had also designed.

Following advancements in hydraulic technology, Anthony patented his design in 1939, releasing it to market in 1941.

While the tailgate was used primarily for military logistics during World War II, it quickly became commonplace in the professional civilian market following the end of the war.


what-do-they-call-tailgates-in-the-uk-FreightcomSource: Wikipedia


When is a Tailgate Required?

In the case of pallet shipping, tailgates are required for any pallet shipment where, for either pickup or delivery, a dock is either not present or not available.

In many cases, such as with residential delivery or pickup or delivery from a limited access location, the use of a tailgate is one of several accessorial services required for a particular shipment.

However, tailgates can serve a wide variety of functions outside of the logistic space.

Aside from their use within shipping, tailgates are also widely used in making passenger vehicles accessible for individuals with disabilities.

In recent years, emergency vehicles have begun to implement the use of tailgates as well, particularly in ambulances.


Are There Any Limitations on Tailgates?

While the tailgate is a valuable tool, it does have its limitations, specifically in regards to the weight and dimensions of what is being picked up or delivered.

Typically, a tailgate will not exceed 48” in width and will only be long enough to accommodate a standard-sized pallet (40” x 48”). This can be different depending on the carrier that is used.

Further, as with any pallet shipment, it is prudent to ensure that the height of your pallets doesn’t exceed the maximum height of the trailer.

It’s also important to note that, as tailgates use a hydraulic system, in extreme cold conditions they may have a reduced weight capacity or may not even work!

As for weight, while it is not unheard of for a tailgate to have maximum weight capacity of 2000 lbs., tailgates with a 1500 lb. weight limit are far more common, and so keeping each pallet in your shipment within that lower limit is a far safer decision.


the-first-hydraulic-device-clepsydra-FreightcomSource: Flowtech

What Happens if You Need a Tailgate and Don’t Book It?

The short answer to this question, and the most common result whenever incorrect booking information is concerned, is that you will be charged fees by the carrier on top of your initial quote.

Further, because tailgates are not a default feature on every freight vehicle, failure to book a tailgate when it is needed will almost always result in your shipment not being delivered by the expected arrival date, or extra charges being applied to the shipment.

The longer answer is that what happens is dependent on when and where the tailgate is needed.

For instance, if the shipment’s destination is lacking a dock, such as might be the case with a residential or limited access delivery, the non-delivery fee from the carrier will not only be higher, but your goods may even be held by the carrier until the correct services needed for the shipment are booked and paid for.


How Do I Know When to Book a Tailgate?

Knowing when a tailgate service is required for your LTL shipment is simply a matter of asking oneself “does the pickup or delivery location have a shipping dock?” If the answer is no, then a tailgate is required.

Finding out this information may take a little bit of research on your part, however taking the time to be sure that you are booking the correct accessorial services for every shipment more than makes up for the potential headaches and lost revenue that my result from a failed shipment.




Trust Freightcom with All Your LTL Shipments, No Matter How Complex

LTL shipping, or any shipping for that matter, can be a complex process to navigate as a small business. Luckily for small business owners across North America, Freightcom is there to help every step of the way.

We partner with North America’s leading LTL and parcel carriers to offer you better rates on domestic and cross-border LTL, domestic and international parcel shipping, and many other shipping services, all with zero upfront and monthly fees!

Contact one of our shipping experts today and see how Freightcom can help you make sure you’re making the right shipping choices for every shipment you book.

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Topics: Shipping Tips, LTL

Brandon Draga

Written by Brandon Draga

Brandon Draga is a full-time content writer at Freightcom, the leading shipping solution for businesses in Canada. When Brandon is not writing content to help businesses with their shipping needs, he can be found at local skate parks or writing fantasy novels.

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