You have most likely heard the terms “medium-duty” and “heavy-duty” trucks. But what exactly do these terms mean? Truck classifications are usually based on the maximum loaded weight of the truck, typically using the gross vehicle weight rating and sometimes the gross trailer weight rating. These ratings can vary among local or regional regulations. While some may think of equipment like tractor-trailers, flatbeds, and refrigerated units, there is a wide range of vehicle types in these categories. Let’s go over the different truck classifications.
How are Trucks Classified?
The U.S. Department of Transportation classifies trucks based on gross vehicle weight ratings, which is a safety standard used to prevent overloading the trucks. This standard is designed to limit a vehicle’s maximum weight, including passengers, freight, and fuel. The maximum acceptable weight of the vehicle is determined based on elements like axle strength, brake efficiency, tire capability, and the vehicle’s durability. Exceeding a truck’s maximum weight can cause safety issues like brake failure, tire strain, ineffective suspension, and other problems, so all drivers need to understand the limits.
Medium Duty Trucks
The term “medium duty” is a widely used truck classification by those in the trucking industry. Trucks and other larger vehicles are classified based on their gross weight. Medium duty trucks refer to truck Classes 6 and 7, which have a gross weight rating between 19,501- 33,000 lbs. Medium duty trucks are used in many applications. For example, pickup and delivery trucks, small utility bodies, service bodies, small dumps, and lighter garbage trucks can all be classified as medium duty. Medium duty and traditional commercial trucks also have a lower fuel economy than heavier trucks, making them ideal for lighter loads.
Heavy Duty Trucks
Heavy-duty truck classification refers to Classes 7 and 8. This is where you will start to find big rigs and other commercial vehicles. The gross weight ratings for class 7 and 8 trucks begin at 26,001 pounds and go over 33,001 pounds. Examples include city transit buses, mobile cranes, cement mixers, garbage trucks, tractors designed to pull heavy loads, and other equipment. The maximum weight for Class 8 trucks is determined on a case by case basis.
In some cases, bigger, heavier loads can travel along the highways safely. For example, a bigger 18-wheeler can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Understanding the different truck classifications is essential to ensure drivers and carriers are safe on the road.
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