9 Different Types of Semi Trucks (With Photos)

Trucks are built in different categories for different purposes, and each truck category has many types. Semi-trucks or semitrucks are trucks built by combining a tractor unit and one or more “semi-trailers” for use in transporting freights; they are typically longer and different from tow trucks.

Choosing the best semi-trucks to include in your fleet can be quite confusing as you have to consider loading capacity, road usage rules in your city, and other factors.

However, here’s an overview of the different types of semi trucks and how they function. Some people may refer to this type of truck as a tractor-trailer.

What is a Semi-Truck?

A semi-trailer truck, or simply a semitruck, is a type of truck vehicle featuring a tractor unit paired with one or more semi-trailers to achieve a certain length for the purpose of shipping/transporting goods interstates or across borders. Semitrucks may have an open or closed rear–carriage bed.

The semi-trailers attached to the main tractor unit in a semitruck are connected with a type of hitch called a fifth wheel.

There’s a noticeable difference between the tractor units used in Europe and the ones used in North America. Majorly, European models feature a cab over engine design, while North American models are “conventional.”

Semitrucks have varying lengths, depending on where they’re made. They are built to meet a certain legal maximum total length. Notwithstanding, however they are built, a semitruck must feature a tractor and a connected trailer.

See Also: Types of Pickup Trucks

Types of Semi Trucks

1. Day Cabs

Day cab trucks are the commonest type of semitrucks – you see them more frequently; they are also called cab-over trucks. These are versatile commercial trucks used in hauling and transporting a wide variety of goods; they may feature an enclosed or open cargo area and are available in different lengths.

Day cabs only provide seating space for the driver and one passenger and may include rear windows. In most cases, day cabs are used for short-distance shipping – trips that do not require the driver to drive all through the night.

This type of semitruck features a shorter body, which makes it easy to drive them in tight areas.

2. Container Chassis

A Container Chassis or skeletal trailer is a type of semi-trailer truck for carrying “intermodal containers.” It is usually the best option for cross-country hauling and shipping of goods.

These semitrucks are typically long and used in ports/depots; they feature a long open cargo area on which the intermodal containers are loaded.

This type of truck is mainly found in container depots and shipper facilities; it is also called drayage. Containers are lifted onto the truck’s chassis by a specialized crane and locked to the chassis using pins.

A 40-foot-long container chassis can carry a 40-foot-long container; the length of the chassis determines the length of container the semitruck can carry.

3. Lowboy

A lowboy/low-loader trailer is a type of semi-trailer with two drops in deck height: the first one right after the gooseneck and the second before the wheels – this characterizes a lowboy truck. The design allows the deck to be extremely low, hence the name “Lowboy” or “Low-Loader” in the UK.

Lowboy semitrucks can be used to legally carry loads up to 12ft tall – no other truck or trailer can legally carry loads of such height. This type of semitruck is used to move heavy plants and vehicles or construction equipment such as bulldozers. Lowboys are built very strong and lengthy.

4. Sleeper Trucks

As the name connotes, this type of semitruck features “sleeping quarters” where the driver may revert to – to have a nap during a long shipping trip. Sleeper trucks are built with additional amenities inside the main cab; they are similar to day cabs – the difference is the addition of a sleeping chamber for resting.

This type of semi-trailer is built in different sizes and styles. Some models are built with a full RV setup, featuring a much more elaborate styling to provide maximum comfort to the truck driver.

However, majorly, sleeper trucks have space for only one person – the driver. Sleeper trucks can be hooked onto any trailer chassis.

5. Reefer

A Reefer or Refrigerated Container is a semitruck used in shipping intermodal containers – an intermodal freight transport vehicle with a built-in condenser to keep the cargo cool/refrigerated at specific temperatures.

This type of semitruck is used to transport temperature-sensitive goods or perishable cargo such as meat, vegetables, fruits, and other items. Design of Reefers is quite spectacular; while they feature an integral refrigerator unit, the unit is powered externally from electrical power points at a “land-based site” or on a quay.

6. Tank Trucks

Tanks are also considered a type of semitruck due to the body design. This type of semitruck is used in transporting liquid cargo such as oil, milk, water, or even liquid chemicals. In most places, this semitruck is called a “Tanker.”

The cargo area is always enclosed and oval-shaped. Many variants of tank trucks exist due to several types of liquids that can be transported.

Depending on the intended use, a tank truck may be pressurized or non-pressurized; insulated or non-insulated; and designed for carrying a single type of liquid or multiple types. This type of semitruck is a bit difficult to drive due to the cargo area design, which is highly susceptible to rollover.

7. Flatbed Trucks

A flatbed truck is a semitruck type with an entirely flat cargo area featuring no sides or roof. This type of truck can either be articulated or rigid.

Due to the design, it is easy to load and unload goods on the trucks – you can go from any of the sides. Flatbed trucks are typically used in moving heavy loads that won’t be affected by sun or rain.

Loads on flatbed trucks are manually tied down with ropes – the ropes are secured using the hooks on the bed sides.

If the goods being transported are prone to weather changes, the goods may be covered using a “sheeting” or tarpaulin held down by ropes. Flatbed trucks are not so commonly used due to the manual actions required.

See Also: Types of Dump Trucks

8. Dumpers

Dumpers, or Dump Trucks as they are commonly called in the US, are a type of semitruck for carrying construction materials or dirt to a dump site, mining site, or any specific location. These are heavy-duty trucks with a large, guided cargo area. There are many types of dump trucks used for various specific purposes.

A typical dumper is equipped with an open-box bed hinged at the rear and a hydraulic ram to lift the bed and dumps the content. Semi-trailer dump trucks are used to carry heavier and larger loads due to the design, and they are usually very long. Some dump trucks are used “on-site” due to their weight level.

9. Car Carrier Trailer Truck

A car carrier trailer, also called a car hauler or auto transport trailer, is a type of semi-trailer specially designed for shipping automobiles – majorly passenger cars. The car carrier trailer unit connects to a truck unit, which pulls it as it goes.

This type of semitruck can transport sedans, SUVs, vans, and other types of passenger vehicles. Modern car carrier trailers may be open or enclosed with integrated ramps for loading and offloading the cars.

What More?

These are the different types of semi-trucks used today; they are handy for specific needs and can come in various designs and lengths.

Semitrucks are mostly used for freighting and similar services like dumping construction materials or equipment on site. They are heavy-duty vehicles driven with strict road usage regulations.

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