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Trucks are strong motor vehicles designed mainly for commercial purposes. There are many types of trucks that vary in size, configuration, power, and purpose.

Common types of trucks include pickup trucks, tow trucks, sedan delivery trucks, box trucks, flatbed trucks, fire trucks, tankers, cement trucks, log carriers, crane trucks, garbage trucks, and chiller trucks.

Whether you want to cargo produce or machinery, pick up garbage, or transport cars, there is a truck for every need. This article aims to discuss the different types of trucks that have dominated the automobile market. These are mostly divided into three categories: light, medium and heavy trucks. If you are confused about the type you need to select, we can help you make a wise decision!

For decades, we have been working closely with automobile companies and businesses that require trucks for commercial purposes. Over the years, the data we have gathered has allowed us to compile this article and allowed us to educate current and potential truck users. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of trucks and discuss their features and characteristics so you can make an informed decision before you make a purchase.  

Table of Contents

Light Trucks

Light trucks, also known as light-duty trucks, are trucks that have a gross vehicle weight of up to 8,500 pounds and a payload capacity of up to 4,000 pounds. Keep in mind that this is a US-based classification and might be different for other countries.

Examples of light-duty trucks include pickup trucks, tow trucks, and sedan delivery trucks, to name a few. These vehicles typically look like most cars on the road but are mainly cargo or fleet vehicles used for commercial purposes.

1. Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks are the #1 household trucks.  They have an enclosed cabin and an open cargo area with low sides. They are very popular among small business owners like local café owners and fruit and vegetable suppliers.

Pickup trucks are not only great for businesses but also for large families with children. They are very convenient for people who are always in a rush. If you have a pickup truck, you can easily haul your kids’ bikes and sports gear around by just chucking it all in the back.

Pickup trucks are one of the fastest-growing vehicles in the light-duty truck category. This category is growing exponentially if you include SUVs and crossovers. It makes up 69% of all family vehicle sales. According to Business Insider, as of 2018, the Ford F-Series was the best-selling pickup truck, with Chevrolet Silverado and the Dodge Ram coming in second and third.

2. Tow Trucks

Tow trucks, also known as breakdown lorries and recovery vehicles, are trucks designed to move impounded, indisposed, or wrongly parked vehicles. These trucks are usually brought in after an accident has occurred or a law has been broken (such as parking in a “no parking” zone). In some cases, a tow truck may also be called when infrastructure has been damaged, and a vehicle needs to be extracted from the damage.

A tow truck is very different from a car trailer carrier. Many people end up confusing the two. A car trailer carrier mainly moves vehicles for basic transportation. On the other hand, a tow truck moves them from places of danger or to avoid danger.

Tow trucks were first invested in Tennessee in 1916 when a car that fell into a creek was pulled out by six men using ropes. Today, adjustable boom poles act as ropes and are used to recover vehicles stuck in similar situations.

3. Sedan Delivery Trucks

Sedan delivery trucks were the first crossover vehicles introduced by Chevrolet in 1928. A hybrid between trucks and cars, these vehicles can carry tools, products, equipment, or merchandise in an enclosed area. Unlike pickup trucks, sedan delivery trucks have protected cabins that keep items secure.

Since the sedan delivery truck is based on an automobile body, it drives like a car. Unlike most pickup and panel trucks, it can maneuver in tight spots. It can also reach certain suburbs or areas in the city where big trucks are not allowed to enter. Some owners also use the panel area on their sedan as a moving billboard that advertises their business.

Historically speaking, cars have always had a more aesthetic appearance than trucks. Hence, the car-like styling of the sedan delivery truck has had a positive impact on customers over the years.

Medium-Sized Trucks

The category we will shed light on is the medium-sized trucks category. Medium-sized trucks are generally used to haul loads across long distances or haul items to and from factories and construction sites. In the US, these trucks are classified as vehicles that weigh between 14,001 and 26,000 pounds.  You may have seen a variety of medium-sized trucks on the road. They may arrive at your door to deliver a package, or you might have seen them hauling gravel on the road or carrying beverages.

1. Box Trucks

The box truck, also known as the chassis cab truck, is a truck with a box-shaped (cuboid) enclosed cargo space. Like pickup trucks, most box trucks have cabins that are separated from the cargo space. However, some companies build box trucks with doors that connect the two areas.

Box trucks are usually 10 to 26 feet long. They have rear doors that resemble garage doors that roll up. Companies mostly use box trucks to transport home appliances, furniture, etc. A moving truck is a classic example of a box truck.

2. Flatbed Trucks

A flatbed truck or lorry is a medium-sized truck with a completely flat level bed as the cargo area. The bed does not have any sides or roof. It allows easy loading and unloading of goods and is mainly used to transport very heavy loads that do not require delicate handling. Most flatbed trucks are used to transport heavy containers to and from ports. Unfortunately, these trucks cannot transport goods that can get damaged due to rain or snow.

The bed of a flatbed truck is just that – completely flat. The loads are tied down to the flat surface using thick ropes. The truck comes equipped with hooks on the sides, so it is easier to tie the ropes down than simply tying tight knots.

Unfortunately, flatbed trucks are becoming less popular each day. This is because there have been several cases of improperly fastened loads sliding off the truck during transport, leading to damaged goods and loss of lives.

3. Fire Trucks

Fire trucks are not cargo trucks. They do not transport goods from one place to another. Instead, their main goal is to carry the equipment needed to put out a fire. Usually fitted with ladders, hoses, water pumps, and sirens, a fire truck has enough cargo space to transport a team of firemen to the fire source.

Fire trucks are built with health and safety standards in mind. They are fitted with first aid kits and breathing apparatuses like oxygen containers and masks. They also house uniforms and protective clothing for firemen so they can perform their jobs effectively. Equipped with two-way radios and walkie-talkies, fire trucks allow instant communication for swift action.

The Knox Automobile Company from Springfield, Massachusetts, produced the world’s first modern fire engine in 1905. The company became defunct in 1924.

4. Tankers

A tanker is a cargo truck used to transport liquids or liquefied materials. All over the world, tankers transport water, oil, gasoline, chemicals, or liquid fertilizers and pesticides from one place to another.

Like most trucks, a tanker has an enclosed driver’s cabin and a cylindrical cargo container attached to it. The container is often insulated and pressurized. Tankers are very difficult to drive because they have a high center of gravity. They can also be extremely dangerous because they contain spill-able cargo.

Heavy Trucks

Moving on to the last category of trucks: heavy trucks. Also known as heavy-duty trucks, these are commercial trucks used by large businesses and companies for transporting goods for heavy-duty industries such as garbage, construction, and logging.  In the US, a heavy truck is classified as a truck that can carry 26,000 pounds or more.

Let's take a close look at six different types of heavy trucks popular in the US:

1. Cement Trucks/Concrete Mixers

A cement truck is a heavy-duty truck with a cylindrical concrete mixer/drum attached to it. The drum is usually made out of steel or fiberglass. The truck carries cement mixture and mixing equipment and delivers it to construction sites. The truck uses powerful revolving machinery that mixes water and cement to make concrete and pours it into designated places like the pavement or special molds.

A concrete mixer is a heavy-duty truck because the machinery (which is constantly in motion) allows the cement to maintain its liquid state for a prolonged time. This gives the cement longer-lasting quality and use period.

2. Log Carrier Trucks/Logging Trucks

A log carrier truck or a logging truck is a heavy-duty vehicle used to carry huge amounts of timber from the source to nearby cities and towns or between far apart destinations. These trucks have integrated flatbeds or tractor units. The load is spread between these units and a trailer dolly.

The first log carrier truck was built in 1913 by the Emporium Forestry Company. Its purpose was to carry logs cut down alongside river beds to nearby cities and towns. At the beginning of World War I, the timber industry boomed, and the demand for timber increased. As a result, more and more logging trucks were built to serve the demand efficiently.

3. Crane Trucks

Crane trucks, better known just as cranes, are trucks fitted with cable-controlled, hydraulic power cranes mounted on crawlers. They are designed for easy mobility and are very popular in the construction industry. They do not require a lot of setup or assembly. They come fitted with large hooks suspended by sturdy wire ropes. These ropes are controlled by movers that operate the truck from their cabin.

Crane trucks were first introduced in 1867 when Appleby Brothers demonstrated steam-powered cranes in Paris. Before this time, cranes were usually confined to a single spot and had to be moved from place to place to function. There have been several crane developments over the years, such as the inclusion of an internal combustion engine in 1922 and the invention of the tower crane in 1949.

4. Garbage Trucks

Garbage trucks are our friendly neighborhood vehicles, and we see them almost every day. Also known as waste collections vehicles, garbage trucks are important to all homeowners. They make stops at homes in different neighborhoods according to a pre-decided schedule to pick up household trash. This trash is then taken to a recycling plant, a treatment facility, or a local landfill.

In 1937, George Dempster introduced the first modern garbage truck that mechanically tipped waste containers into the truck. This truck was known as the Dempster-Dumpster, and the containers were known as Dumpsters which is how the word "dumpster" entered the English language.

Garbage trucks have three large blind spots: the front of the engine and the left and right sides of the vehicle. Therefore, all garbage truck drivers must drive very carefully.

5. Chiller Trucks

Chiller trucks, also known as reefers, are popular types of trucks fitted with cooling equipment. They are mostly used to carry food supplies and produce and keep them fresh during transportation. Around the world, these trucks are most commonly used to carry and transport meat, fruits and vegetables, and seafood.

Chillers trucks were first introduced in the 1920s and were fitted with high-density polymer foam for insulation. They were mostly cooled using ice at that time, but nowadays, they have mechanical refrigeration powers. Some companies even use liquid carbon dioxide at high pressures or dry ice for cooling purposes. Chiller trucks used today come equipped with displacement diesel engines and offer better ventilation.

Types of Trucks

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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