The difference between trucks and tractor-trailers

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There are different types of trucks that vary according to the type of use to be made of them; those who are not well versed in the field tend to generalize terms and sometimes misuse them despite the fact that there are obvious differences between one means of transportation and another.

The difference between a truck and a tractor-trailer is very clear; they are both vehicles used by people who work as haulers, but with different dimensions and characteristics.

Truck, dimensions and characteristics

Atruck is a vehicle intended for the self-contained transport of goods by road; it is a single vehicle and differs from other vehicles such as trailers or semi-trailers in that it is provided with its own traction.

Article 47 of the Highway Code (“Classification of Vehicles”), classifies trucks as motor vehicles belonging to category N:

  • Category N: motor vehicles having at least 4 wheels intended for freight transport
  • Category N1: vehicles intended for freight transport with maximum mass not exceeding 3.5 t
  • Category N2: vehicles intended for freight transport with a maximum mass exceeding 3.5 t but not exceeding 12 t
  • Category N3: vehicles intended for the carriage of goods with a maximum mass exceeding 12 t

The essential components of the truck are the driver’s cab and the cargo area, in modern truck models, are two separate parts.

The cab, typically is a passenger compartment that can accommodate varying numbers of passengers and may also include a bunk to allow the trucker to rest during layover hours. The cargo compartment can be either curved or van mounted; in the former case, there is a frame composed of metal bars and panels that can be opened on all sides of the compartment, which is covered with a tarpaulin made of synthetic waterproof material.

This system allows loading and unloading operations to be done quickly, being much more flexible and convenient.

The van truck, on the other hand, has rigid walls that demarcate the vehicle’s cargo volume; this is a method that offers greater safety but is less flexible and convenient when loading and unloading because, generally, only the rear has an opening tailgate.

As for the dimensions of trucks, current regulations specify specific limits: the length cannot exceed 12 meters, the width is a maximum of 255 cm or 260 cm if it is a van truck with cold storage, while the height cannot exceed 400 cm.

La traction of trucks is supported by Large displacement diesel engines up to 16,000 cc., with V- or in-line architecture and power outputs of up to 600 hp, while the transmission is almost always entrusted to the manual and 5-speed gearbox which, is often coupled with the gearbox to obtain good power at low engine speeds, especially useful on road surfaces that are not in good condition.

Articulated truck, dimensions and characteristics

The tractor-trailer or semi-trailer, is also mistakenly called TIR, is pier similar to thetruck but differs from the latter in that it consists of a tractor, cab but no cargo area. The latter is replaced by a fifth wheel on which rests or is fixed, the semi-trailer part.

The hitching area was one of those most subject to technical studies to allow for standard solutions that would allow easy hitching and unhitching and, at the same time, allow the fifth wheel to be lowered further and further toward the ground.

Le dimensions of tractor-trailers in Italy and also in many European countries have some upper limits very precise: length of 16.50 m; width of 2.55 m or 2.60 m if refrigerator or temperature controlled is present; height 4 m; weight 40 t if with 4 axles and 44 t if with 5 or more axles.

The typical load of an articulated truck is 33 pallets of 80×120 cm, so 83 cubic meters, but some vehicles intended for transporting more voluminous goods, can reach 100 cubic meters.

Unlike trucks and tractor-trailers, tractor-trailers allows a uniform load floor with a length of up to 13.60 m, which is useful for loading particularly bulky items.

Another advantage is to be able to separate the two units and use the tractor part for hitching for another semi-trailer; moreover, more possibilities are offered in intermodal transport, as only the rear part can be loaded onto a ship, ferry, or railroad, which can then be retrieved and hitched by another tractor-trailer.

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