There are many trucks that could lay claim to being the workhorse of the country. Certainly the big 6×2 and 4×2 tractors haul a huge amount of payload up and down the country and they can adapt to pull containers, fridge bodies or normal trailers. Tippers, on the other hand, are the heavy-duty trucks of the country, lugging around aggregate and rubble between major construction projects. The dropside truck is perhaps not as impressive to look at as either of these wagons, but it might just be the nation’s real workhorse.
The layout of the dropside truck is pretty straightforward. It is an open body, rather than a box truck or curtainsider, and can be thought of as a flatbed with a little enhancement. Simply put, it is a flatbed truck with modestly sized restraining sides and rear. This simplicity, though, is the key to the dropside truck’s success. It can be loaded and unloaded from either side or from the rear. Where there are cranes it can even be loaded from above. Indeed, many dropside trucks are operated with an onboard crane to take advantage of this very flexibility. The dropside can be used to transport aggregates and loose materials and can also be loaded with pallets. It is ideal for handling awkward sizes and shapes, such as light plant, and is a welcome vehicle wherever such flexibility is valued.
The flexibility of a dropside truck extends beyond the body type. The wheelbase can also vary according to need, and the truck can be fitted with a day cab, crew cab or sleeper cab. Where aluminium sides are fitted, this reduces weight to maximise payloads. Do check their condition when buying a used dropside, though, as welding the metal is a specialist job and can be pricey. That aside, the simplicity of the body type lends itself well to the used-truck market. They are reasonably cheap to buy and run and easy to repair.
The natural home of the dropside is probably the builder’s merchant. This is not surprising, given the truck’s ability in delivering all manner of aggregates, supplies, plant and bulk material. The ability to be offloaded to either side or to the rear also makes them ideal for deliveries in tight site environments. Some dropside trucks are also fitted with tipping mechanisms to offload those aggregate loads. In combination with an onboard crane, this makes them incredibly useful onsite. They are also fast to load and unload and this can mean more deliveries in a shift, which can be a massive boost to productivity. Although dropsides are extremely popular in the building industry, they really can be found anywhere that a versatile truck is needed. You will find them in all sorts of distribution operations and in many municipal fleets.
The simplicity of a dropside body means that you shouldn’t expect too many problems with them as second-hand buys. Clearly, if they come with additions such as cranes or tipping mechanisms then these should be thoroughly checked out. They do tend to have tough lives but a careful purchase can make a used dropside truck a very canny buy.