Curious to know what types of trucks are out there? You see many different trucks on the road daily, but did you know a school bus is considered a truck? What about an emergency vehicle? And just how do you classify these vehicles? We’ll go over that and share the most common trucks we see every day.
Let’s get started.
How Many Different Types of Trucks Are There?
Although you may see hundreds of types of truck builds, in the United States we classify trucks based on their weight. These are categories specific to this country. For instance, Canada and the European Union use their own standards.
What Are the 3 Main Classifications for Trucks?
In the United States, we classify trucks based on their weight. Light-duty trucks (LT) weigh up to 14,000 lbs. This category includes your everyday vehicles like minivans, pickup trucks, SUVs, and even some lightweight tow trucks.
Medium duty trucks (MDT) weigh between 14,001 to 26,000 lbs. You’ll see these in the form of vans, flatbeds, RVs, and motorhomes. Finally, Heavy-duty trucks (HDT) weigh 26,001 to 33,000 lbs. This includes things like a semi-truck, dump truck, garbage truck, or cement mixer.
Following the three main classifications for trucks, you can further break the classes down into eight sub-classes. You can drive all of these trucks on the highway without any special permits or escorts besides a driver’s license of the right class.
To take any truck above this weight on the road you’ll need to secure a special permit and possibly an escort. Additionally, the United States has an 80,000 lbs gross weight limit for vehicles on the road today.
10 Most Common Types of Trucks You Should Know
Although there are many types of trucks, we’ll go over the 10 most popular. Here are the ones you should know.
1. Pickup Truck
Pickup trucks come in light and medium-duty models only. They have an enclosed cabin for the passengers. And they have an additional bed space behind the cab where you haul and transport cargo.
Pickup trucks originated from Henry Ford’s design of the Model T Runabout in 1925. You classify a truck based on its approximate historical payload capacities, like half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton trucks. Today, we still use these titles, although the payload capacities have risen.
Pro tip: We compared the best pickup truck brands on the market to discover which one is the best! Join the debate on Ram Versus Ford Versus Chevy.
2. Flatbed Truck
A flatbed truck is typically a medium-duty truck. It has a flat body behind the cab with no sides or roof enclosing the bed. This type of truck is ideal for carrying anything that wouldn’t fit in a pickup bed, like odd-shaped items or oversized cargo. You can load them more easily and quickly than a pickup since you don’t have to deal with sides or roofs.
These trucks are also very customizable and often used for bolting on special flatbed truck toolboxes and other equipment for a specific job. They often have a gooseneck ball hitch for heavy towing.
3. Heavy Duty Truck
The Heavy-duty truck category includes semi-trucks, also know as “semis”, “semitrailers”, “tractor-trailers”, “big rigs”, “eighteen-wheelers” or “semi-tractor-trailers”. While they come in all shapes and sizes, these trucks all are designed to carry and/or pull lots of weight.
Trucks are heavy-duty if they fit two different categories: they’re a class seven or above and weigh more than 26,000 lbs. These include a city bus, which is a class seven, and a class eight garbage truck, which weighs greater than 33,000 lbs.
Common Sub Categories of Heavy Duty Trucks
To round off our list, we can break the heavy-duty truck category down into subcategories. These types of trucks range in size and function.
4. Car Transporter
A car transporter, or a car carrier trailer, is any truck that transports at least one car. Typically, it transports lighter pickup trucks or cars. Car transporters can even carry up to nine vehicles at one time. This type of truck includes built-in ramps where loaders drive the cars onto the transporter.
5. Refrigerator Truck
A refrigerator truck is a semi-cab pulling a refrigerated trailer. Commonly called a “reefer,” this truck’s responsible for hauling over 90% of our country’s food. Additionally, they can transport medicines, insects, and animals. The refrigerated unit typically has a power source to keep the contents cool even without the semi-cab attached to it.
6. Cement Truck
A concrete mixing truck mixes concrete and takes it to the construction site. It either mixes the concrete en route or transports already-mixed concrete. It then turns the drum to keep it the right consistency. These trucks can weigh anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 lbs and carry around 10 cubic yards of material.
7. Garbage Truck
A garbage or refuse truck collects solid waste and transports it to a landfill or solid waste treatment facility. Front-loader garbage trucks transport trash from commercial customers. These have the powered forks on the front that pick up the large dumpsters with lids.
Rear-loaders open in the back, allowing the trash handler to throw the bags in. A rear-loader can also lift a trash bin into a slot. It then compacts the waste against a moving wall inside the truck bed. These trucks typically have an empty weight of around 15,000-3o,000lbs and can be loaded to upwards of 50,000lbs, depending on the model.
8. Dump Truck
This is a type of truck you might avoid on the highway. A dump truck carries loose material, like waste, dirt, gravel, and coal. They often have no top, so some debris may come loose during transit. Once at its site, the bed opens, and the hydraulic lifts in the front allow the debris to fall out.
9. Emergency Vehicles
Emergency vehicles have specialized designs to serve specific functions. Ambulances, county emergency services, and fire trucks fall into this category. These are all publicly-owned vehicles, and you’ll typically see features like lights on the tops and signage that identify them from privately-owned trucks.
10. Crane Trucks
The last type of truck on our list is a crane. This truck lifts, lowers, and moves heavy objects from one location to another. The engine powers the crane and uses hydraulics to transport the load. With a crane truck, you can lift something at one location and then drive it to a different point while carrying cargo.
Various industries, like construction and transportation industries, use crane trucks to simplify their work and create safer conditions while on the job.
What Is the Number One Truck Brand?
It should be no surprise that the first truck brand would also be the number one truck brand today. Ford has been the leading truck manufacturer for over 45 consecutive years. You’ll hear a lot of debate about who sells a better truck, but these statistics have to stand for something.
While there are many truck brands out there, there are a handful of common truck brands that are top of mind: Ford, Chevy, Ram, GMC, Toyota, and Nissan. New truck brands like Rivian and Canoo are trying to break into the truck space with electric vehicle technology, but they have a lot of ground to make up with these long-standing brands.
Pro Tip: Want to travel the world in a Ford? We uncovered Is a Ford Transit a Good Camper Van?
What Is the Most Popular Truck of All Time?
The Ford F-150 truck has been the best-selling truck for 45 years. On top of that, it’s been the best-selling vehicle for over 40 years. Now that’s a legacy. Although the truck category is a broad one, chances are you think of a pickup when you hear the word.
This truck is a “half-ton” light-duty truck. But just because it is the most popular doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best option for your job. There are multiple types of trucks precisely for doing different jobs.
What Type of Truck Works Best For You?
Chances are that unless you are a professional driver, you’re going to fall into the light-duty or medium-duty truck categories. If you’re hauling something big for recreation, like heavy equipment or an RV, you just need to make sure your truck is rated properly for the job.
Which truck is the best is largely debatable, as so many factors go into your decision. The best truck for towing a fifthwheel RV won’t be the same best truck for hauling a truck camper. Similarly, an overlanding pickup is going to have many different specs than one used for hauling.
With so many types of trucks to choose from, one thing is for certain: there is a truck out there for your job.
What type of truck do you drive? Tell us in the comments!
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