That Big Truck Blog

An American Car Hauler's Blog




The following is an independent, unbiased review and commentary by CB Stephens of Carl’s Car Carriers Inc and is based on regular, everyday usage of the equipment in the course of automobile transportation activities for which this trailer was intended. CB Stephens is a 33-plus year veteran in the car haul field as an independent owner/operator and small fleet developer. Carl’s Car Carriers Inc. is a Tennessee-based automobile transportation service chartered in 1991. Cottrell Trailers can be visited by clicking this link:

After working with this “post forward” design high-side automobile transport trailer for some 225,000 miles, I thought I would share a personal experience review for others considering a new high-side Cottrell Trailers purchase.

I ordered a new C-10LT A (short decks with flippers) in early 2007 after speaking to a factory rep that informed me they had one opening available due to a customer declining a previously placed order. It was explained to me that the Cottrell factory order process includes fabricating, cutting and preparing all parts and specifications about 30 days in advance. That means after that 30 day window, a customer cannot make many changes to the spec’d trailer order. Maybe paint, tire brand, etc? That was early 2007 BEFORE the Wall Street bust and the current economy woes that hit most all industry pretty hard. Car hauling was no exception and possibly was hit as hard as any. At the time of my order, there was still quite a backlog on getting a new trailer unless someone opted out of an order and you were Johnny-On-The-Spot or one of the larger companies that handled a number of trailers on a regular basis. Being a single trailer purchase, I got lucky when Motor City Auto Transport changed their mind from a high-side post forward model to another model, leaving that pre-cut trailer within the 30-day window looking for a buyer. I was at the right place at the right time and my name was placed on that trailer schedule. A Viper Red paint choice and a few small changes moved me up from a 3 to 4 month wait to a 30 day delivery ETA at the Cottrell Trailers factory in Gainesville, Georgia.

I have had extensive experience with many manufacturers of auto transport equipment over my car haul career that began officially for me in the early 1970’s. Even before that, my Dad, Claude Curtis Stephens, was a well-known, well respected car hauling professional for many years and I grew up around his trucks and trailers…all “high” 5th-wheel models. For much of his career, Troyler Trailer out of the Scranton, Pennsylvania area, was some of his favorite equipment but keep in mind this was a different day and there were some pretty stringent regulations for car carrier equipment back in those days. I remember maximum length limits of 55 feet overall in most states…8 feet wide was the limit before the 102″ allowances came along with the STAA (Surface Transportation Assistance Act) of 1982. Stinger-steered trailers (described mostly as a tractor/trailer combination where the kingpin is 5′ or more behind the rear axle centroid) were around then but the companies my Dad was leased to operated mostly high-5th wheel trailers and utilized a single car headrack (the super-structure custom fitted around the cab/roof design of various truck/tractors to facilitate the loading and transport of an automobile). It was not unusual in those days for heavy modifications to be performed on trailers as regulations changed to accommodate the maximum load potential. Steel frame rails in those days were substantially heavier and stronger and lent themselves well to complete frame stretching with a multitude of design options and changes per the operator’s ideas.

On to the C-10LT A review…it is my desire to provide an unbiased perspective on this trailer model with NO hidden agendas. I have no connection with Cottrell Trailers other than being a current user of one of their models and having used many different models of Cottrell trailers over my 30-plus year car haul career. I also have owned and operated Delavan trailers, Boydston trailers, Stuart trailers, Troyler trailers (both highly modified and factory 10-car units) and a host of other cut, hammered, chopped and stretched pieces of auto transport trailers as I did my best to put food on the table for my family like Dad taught us.

This particular Cottrell model C10-LT has the unique distinction from the earlier CS-12 models that include the “post forward” design which simply means the first 2 upright posts have been brought closer to the front of the trailer and at slightly less angle than the CS-12LT.

These images reveal this feature at the locations of the red arrows…the first being a 2000 model CS-12 with traditional post positioning while the second image is the C10-LT A 2007 model “post forward” design.

I have owned and operated about half dozen various CS-12 trailers prior to this newer design. It is this author’s opinion that the Cottrell high-side trailers are at the highest level attainable in the auto transport industry today as it applies to design, versatility and current regulatory limitations for size, dimensions and weight. Most of my own business will include used car dealers buying a mix of cars, large and small, and sport utility vehicles along with minivans and light trucks. This requires the versatility of the high-side design, again…my experienced opinion…where load potential can be maximized AND in the case of split buyers/split loads…requiring a minimum of loading/unloading to accomplish the task of delivery. With this design and the CS-12 models, it is possible to bring a unit off one of the top forward positions without unloading the top rear positions in many cases. While there are those times when this cannot be accomplished due to the size and dimensions of a particular unit on these trailers, there are many times I have been able to save double handling of cars just to get one unit off. This is enough to keep me in the “high-side” market alone but there are other reasons I personally choose to run one of these trailers. Versatility is the chief reason for a high side model as far as my car hauling niche goes. If I were operating short haul and quick load/unload was a priority, I may consider a 9-car quick-loader or comparable offering. I would be shorting myself if I went with any other design for my current customers.

I will continue my review of this trailer and include various load images, etc on subsequent posts here in this blog. If you have comments or images of your own, please forward them to and I’ll see what I can do about including them here.


December 24, 2009 - Posted by | Auto Transport Trailers | , , ,


  1. Curious too see how you like the post forward design. I have always run a cs12 style. Do you have any trouble getting room for turning radius with a 10 car load?

    Comment by LowandSlow | March 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Hey Matt. I ran CS12’s myself as well as my brothers and cousins, etc so I am familiar with the difference. I have no problem with turning radius with the post forward design in 250,000 miles of use. Full disclosure however, I am not running a minimal wheelbase truck either. I built this as my last blast (old guy here and getting older) and threw out all the conventional wisdom that I and so many others fell into over the years trying to stuff 20 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bucket. I ordered a new Y2K model Pete and Cottrell with the CS12 and little rubber (275/70×22.5) on the truck thinking I had to have it to get down. 49,000 miles I was replacing steer tires and the ride was so harsh on this truck, I couldn’t believe it. I attributed it to the minimal sidewalls on the tires as well as realizing these 16 ply tires were actually trailer designed tires. The “flex” wasn’t there to give any kind of ride even with the air-ride. I stayed with the drop front axle this time but I went with 295×22.5 rubber (regular low pro) all the way around the truck and got my ride back. Made all the difference in the world. I still put minivans (Siennas, Caravans, Explorers etc) out over the hood and don’t have to bottom ’em out. The extended hood allows more forward positioning and every bit forward gets you lower. I get plenty of weight on my front axle too where short wheelbase trucks normally can’t…or at least my earlier short WB trucks with Cottrells.

      But back to the turning radius…no problems for me the way I’m set up. A shorter wheelbase truck would probably require the lift on the position behind the cab to swing over the tilt unit sometimes but that’s extra weight as far as I’m concerned. And besides, I think you would have that issue with the CS12 also…don’t think it would be any diff with this C10.

      C10 PROs: Pull even large SUV’s on the #3 table and swing the door open and step out. CS12 will not accommodate this very long until a ramp bends in the middle or breaks…too much hanging out in front of the support point. It’s just common sense. This is do-able on 10-car loads too and you can get the tall unit down to 6 (or under) if the tilt car under is backed closer to the truck leaving proper turning room. Again, all this is affected by the wheelbase of the truck and if you’re short, things start to get tight. But we’re carhaulers…2 fingers is all kinds of room, right? It’s that occasional bad dip getting in and out of a parking lot that can mess up a good day. That’s when you appreciate the time & trouble you took to install the lift valves on truck & trailer…just in case. 🙂

      C10 CONs: Only thing I see in 250K miles is the front post issue I described on my “blambling”. But Cottrell was on it and devised the fix. I would prefer a trailer be tested in this manner before I fork over $80K however. Yep, they pay for it but I don’t like having to weld and burn paint on a new piece of equipment. Only other thing I’ve had an issue with on the trailer is the screw for the shotgun on this model. They did away with the in-and-out cylinders over the trailer tandems which makes for a clean design. The screw works…doesn’t seem very “powerful” but it works. Feels weak as far as I’m concenrned and you just look for it to “screw” up (no pun intended). There was a bulletin on these for an updated bearing housing to be installed with zerk fitting. I did this myself and it wasn’t too big a deal…even in the cold weather. I experienced one time recently (winter, snow, ice, COLD) when I retracted the deck all the way back and when I got to the loading point the next morning, the screw would not push the ramp back out. Felt like it was locked and something was holding it. I investigated and found nothing. Wrote it off as frozen due to weather but that shouldn’t be. I hooked a chain from the upper deck and telescoped it out placing a little pressure on the shotgun ramp and couldn’t get it to come. Next I grabbed my trusty pipe wrench in the extra heavy duty size and placed it on the end housing of the screw and gave it just the slightest bit of pressure in the forward rotation and felt the screw release. It was like it caught between “come & go”. Worked fine since then. I don’t retract it completely anymore…no need to.

      Probably more info than you were looking for, Matt. 😉 Thanks for visiting.

      Comment by thetruckist | March 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. Not too much info at all. I have some money put away, just waiting to see what the economy is going to do and maybe pull the trigger on my own truck. Maybe.

    Our new trailers here have those screw drives on the shotgun also, we were told if you bottom them out, you can crack the collar at the bearing, seizing the screw. Sometimes you can free them up, but I would check that collar, it maybe broken.

    Great site btw.

    Comment by LowandSlow | March 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thank you much, Matt. I’ll inspect that collar.

    Comment by thetruckist | March 18, 2010 | Reply

  4. im wondering by you putting 295/75r22.5 all the way around on you truck how does that affect you overall height? By how much does it raise the truck up? and also would this be something i could do to most other car haulers?

    Comment by mastllc | September 22, 2011 | Reply

    • Hello, MastLLC. Thanks for reading.

      Obviously the 295/75R22.5’s are taller than, say, 275/70R22.5’s, which is somewhat popular for the car haul crowd. I know there are a lot that even get down to 255/70R22.5’s. I’ve ordered new trucks both ways. After seeing the life of a 275/70R22.5 on my steer axle (HAD to remove after only 49K miles) and experiencing the terrible ride from these lower tires, I chose to go with the taller “regular” 295/75’s on any new truck I operate. The ride is back and the life is outstanding compared to the lower, smaller diameter tires. Steer tires on the most recent truck went 150K miles and wear was even all around and these were factory 14 ply tires rather than 16 ply. There is no comparison as far as I am concerned.

      About overall height…I too was stuck in that mindset that this is a car hauler I’m spec’ing…blah, blah, blah. I have never missed a beat with my set up because of “too tall” rubber. I have safely hauled 8 Chevrolet Uplander vans (3 on the head rack, 5 on the wagon) from Florida to Ohio. I regularly put Chevy Suburbans, Tahoes, large SUV’s on position # 2 on the headrack with cars underneath. I have removable aluminum pans on the top deck that gains me sometimes up to a full 12″ of height, if I choose to remove them. In 300K miles, I have only took them out a half dozen times.

      I have no desire to run around these roads today with the weight of a Ford Expedition out over my hood pounding on that steering axle but if I wanted to, I have a headrack designed to drop the rear wheels (backed on, of course) in a pocket and lower my rack down. I have hauled anything & everything that I have wanted to and never leave a spot blank due to height concerns…and that is also including the inches lost over the drive axles due to the fiberglass fenders.

      The ride alone is cause enough to go with the taller rubber but the mileage and life expectancy of the taller tires…at approximately $600.00 a pop now…makes me glad I chose this particular spec.

      Comment by thetruckist | September 25, 2011 | Reply

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