Trucking is one of the biggest industries in the United States, and it continues to grow!
These large trucks and their expanding transportation industry have now become an essential part of the US economy. They also contribute a considerable amount of the commercial vehicles’ annual mileage.
In this article, I’m going to tell you all about vehicle classifications and semi-truck weight variation, as well as some FAQs and general statistics about trucking. Let’s dig in!
Classification of Trucks
Before we get to the details about semi-trucks, let’s take a minute to zoom out and explore a bird’s eye view of trucks in general.
The Federal Highway Administration classifies trucks into three groups labeled; light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks. Each of these groups includes a number of sub-classes depending on the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR.)
1. Light-Duty Trucks
This group includes non-commercial vehicles such as vans, minivans, SUVs, and pickup trucks, which fall under three classes as follows:
- Class 1: Truck GVWR of 0 – 6,000 lbs
- Class 2: Truck GVWR of 6,001 – 10,000 lbs
- Class 3: Truck GVWR of 10,001 – 14,000 lbs
2. Medium-Duty Trucks
Medium-duty trucks include commercial as well as non-commercial vehicles.
- Class 4: Truck GVWR of 14,001 – 16,000 lbs, such as box trucks
- Class 5: Truck GVWR of 16,001 – 19,500 lbs, such as bucket trucks and cherry pickers
- Class 6: Truck GVWR of 19,501 – 26,000 lbs, such as rack trucks and school buses
3. Heavy-Duty Trucks
- Class 7: Truck GVWR of 26,001 to 33,000 lbs, such as transit buses, furniture trucks, and smaller semi-trucks
- Class 8: Truck GVWR includes 33,000 lbs and above. This one includes the biggest road vehicles, known as severe-duty trucks
Weight of Semi-trucks and Its Influencing Factors
Semi-trucks typically consist of two basic parts:
- A semi-tractor: which is the part that tows the loaded trailer. This is where the driving and sleeping compartments would be. Depending on the size of the semi-truck, this part usually has a weight range of 10-25 thousand lbs.
- A trailer: which is where the cargoes are loaded. There are a number of factors that contribute to the final weight of a semi-tractor. The size of the driving section, sleeping compartments, engines, fuel tanks, and even the number of gears in the semi-truck are all a few factors to consider.
Q: How many semi-trucks are there in the United States?
A: There are about two million operating semi-trucks in the US. Each of these semi-trucks drives an average of 45,000 miles per year.
According to the US Bureau of labor statistics, the trucking industry now has close to two million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, over 200,000 of which are located in Texas.
Q: What is the safe distance between semi-trucks while driving?
A: To estimate the safe distance between semi-trucks, you need to keep in mind that many factors affect the time a semi-truck would need to stop before reaching the car ahead of it.
These factors can be vehicle-related, like the speed, brakes, and tire condition, or other external factors like the weather, traffic, and road conditions.
According to the FMCSA, a semi-truck driver should leave at least one second per 10 feet of the truck’s length and add one more second if your driving speed is above 40 mph.
For the average 70-foot-long semi-truck, you’ll need to leave seven seconds or more between the truck and the cars in front of it. Because of their huge sizes, this relatively long braking time is what a semi-truck would need to fully stop from the moment the driver hits the brakes.
Also, note that legal speed limits for a semi-truck can vary from one state to the other and according to different driving areas inside or outside the city.
Q: What kind of goods are usually transported by semi-trucks?
A: About 70% of total freight in the US is transported by trucks, which means a whole lot of goods are often transported with trucks in general, and semi-trucks in particular!
Retail goods are some of the most popular items that can be transported by semi-trucks. These include any type of products that are normally sold in retail stores like clothes, tools, appliances, and non-perishable foods.
On the other hand, perishable goods might require a shorter delivery time, but they can also be safely transported by semi-trucks. These can be food products like meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and medications.
Semi-trucks are also commonly used for transporting chemicals that are in a liquid form like petroleum oil, cement, or even other hazardous materials.
There are also many more types of items that are usually hauled by semi-trucks in bulk, including construction materials, heavy machinery, dry grains, and all kinds of electronics.
Q: What is the load limit for semi-trucks?
A: Federal and state regulations limit the maximum gross weight for semi-trucks and other large commercial motor vehicles to 80,000 lbs.
With the trailer weight included, this means a semi-truck can haul a load of 42 to 48 thousand pounds.
Q: What’s the average size of semi-trucks?
A: The semi-truck market offers many sizes and designs that are suitable for different jobs. After all, not all semi-trucks are designed to transport the same types of cargo.
However, an average choice in the US is the 72 feet long semi-truck. This one is usually 8.5 feet wide, 13.5 feet tall, and can safely carry the 80,000 lbs load limit.
Pick up trucks, tractors, semi-trucks, tow trucks, the long list of trucks goes on!
In this article, we talked about semi-truck weight variation, sizes, and classification, and I’ve also answered some of the most asked questions about semi-trucks.
Now you know that not-very-popular fact that these heavy-duty trucks might look intimidating, but they’re definitely contributing their fair share to our economy.