Truck Definition for the Freight Industry presented by Apparel Search 

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A truck is a motor vehicle for transporting goods. Unlike automobiles, which usually have a unibody construction, most trucks (with the exception of the car-like minivan) are built around a strong frame called a chassis. They come in all sizes, from the automobile-sized pickup truck to towering off-road mining trucks or heavy highway semi-trailers.

The term is most commonly used in American English and Australian English to refer to what earlier was called a motor truck, and in British English is often called a lorry, a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV), or (slang) a wagon (sometimes spelled waggon). This type of truck is a motor vehicle designed to carry goods, with a cab and a tray or compartment for carrying goods. Other languages have loanwords based on these terms, such as the Malay lori.

In Australia and New Zealand a small truck with an open tray is called a "ute" (utility vehicle).

"Pantechnicon" is a British word for a furniture removal van that has now fallen out of usage. It was originally coined in 1830 as the name of a craft shop or bazaar, in Motcomb Street in Belgravia, London. The shop soon closed down and the building was turned into a furniture warehouse, but the name was kept. Vehicles transporting furniture to and from the building, known as pantechnicon vans, soon came to be known simply as pantechnicons. A Pantech truck or van is a word derivation of pantechnicon commonly and currently used in Australia. Pantech refers to a truck and/or van with a freight hull made of (or converted to) hard panels (ie. chilled freight, removal vans etc).


Steam trucks

Trucks and cars have a common ancestor: the steam-powered "fardier" Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built in 1769. However, steam trucks were not common until the mid-1800s. The roads of the time, built for horse and carriages, limited these vehicles to very short hauls, usually from a factory to the nearest train station. The first semi-trailer appeared in 1881, towed by a De Dion steam tractor. Steam-powered trucks were sold in France and the United States until the eve of World War I, and the beginning of World War II in the United Kingdom.

Internal combustion

The first internal combustion engine truck was built in 1898 by Gottlieb Daimler. Others, such as Peugeot, Benz and Renault also built theirs. Trucks of the era mostly used two-cylinder engines could have a carrying capacity 1500 to 2000 kg. In 1904, 700 heavy trucks were built in the United States, 1000 in 1907, 6000 in 1910 and 25000 in 1914.

After World War I, several advances were made: pneumatic tires replaced full rubber, electric starters, power brakes, 6 cylinder engines, closed cabs, electric lighting. The first modern semi-trailers also appeared. Touring car builders such as Ford and Renault entered the heavy truck market.

Diesel engines

Although it had been invented in 1890, the Diesel engine was not common in trucks in Europe until the 1920s. In the United States, it took much longer for that type of engine to gain acceptance: gasoline engines were still in use on heavy trucks in the 1970s, while in Europe they had been completely replaced 20 years earlier.

Legal Issues

Trucks have often had to pay higher tax rates, and have been subject to extensive regulation. Partly this is because they are bigger, heavier, and cause more wear and tear on roadways. This is one reason that UPS vehicles are called 'package cars', because that exempted them from certain tax-rates.

Rules are in place for tractor-trailer rigs, regulating how many hours a driver may be on the clock, and how much rest time/sleep time is necessary (11hrs on/10hrs off; 60hrs/7days; or 70hrs/8days). Many other rules apply. Violations of these laws are subject to large fines.

Notice that these hours are different in other jurisdictions. Always check up before you go. Types of trucks by size

Light trucks

Light trucks are car-sized (in the US, no more than 6,300 kg (13,000 lb.) and are used by individuals and commercial entities alike. They are comprised of:

  • Pickup trucks
  • Full-Size vans
  • Minivans
  • SUVs
  • Luton van body - where the load area extends over the cab.

Medium trucks

Medium (or medium-duty) trucks are bigger than light but smaller than heavy trucks. In the US, they are defined as weighing between 6,300 kg (13,000 lb) and 15,000 kg (33,000 lbs.). For the UK the cut-off is 7.5 tonnes. Local delivery and public service (dump trucks, garbage trucks) are normally around this size.

Heavy trucks

Heavy trucks are the largest trucks allowed on the road. They are mostly used for long-haul purposes, often in semi-trailer configuration. In Australia many trailers are connected to make road trains.

Anatomy of a Truck

Almost all trucks share a common contruction: they are made of a chassis, a cab, axles, suspension and wheels, an engine and a drivetrain.


A truck chassis consists of two parallel U-shaped beams held together by cross members. It is usually made of steel, but can be made (whole or in part) of aluminum for a lighter weight. The chassis is the main structure of the truck, and the other parts attach to it.


The cab is an enclosed space where the driver is seated. A sleeper is a compartment attached to the cab where the driver can rest while not driving. They can range from a simple 2 to 4 foot (0.6 to 1.2 m) bunk to a 12 foot (3.7 m) apartment-on-wheels. Modern cabs feature air conditioning, a good sound system, and ergonomic seats (often air suspended). There are a few possible cab configurations:

  • cab over engine (COE)or flat nose, where the driver is seated on top of the front axle and the engine. This design is almost ubiquitous in Europe, where overall truck lengths are strictly regulated. They were common in the United States, but lost prominence when permitted length was extended in the early 1980s. To access the engine, the whole cab tilts forward, earning this design the name of tilt-cab.
    • conventional cabs are the most common in North America. The driver is seated behind the engine, as in most passenger cars or pickup trucks. Conventionals are further divided into large car and aerodynamic designs. A large car or long nose is a conventional truck with a long
      6 to 8 foot (1.8 to 2.4 m) or more
      hood. With their very square shapes, these trucks offer a lot of wind resistance and can consume more fuel. They also offer poorer visibility than their aerodynamic or COE counterparts. By constrast, Aerodynamic cabs are very streamlined, with a sloped hood and other features to lower drag. Most owner-operators prefer the square-hooded conventional, it has something to do with "Take pride in your ride".
    • cab beside engine designs also exist, but are rather rare.
    • Slang terms
      • "Tiltin' Hilton" :Cab-over with a sleeper berth.
      • "Aardvark" : The aerodynamically designed conventional.
      • "Hood" : Any conventional that is NOT an "aardvark"


Trucks can use all sorts of engines. Small trucks such as SUVs or pickups, and even light medium-duty trucks in North America will use gasoline engines. Most heavier trucks use four stroke turbo intercooler diesel engines, although there are alternatives. Huge off-highway trucks use locomotive-type engines such as a V12 Detroit Diesel two stroke engine.

In the United States, highway trucks almost always use an engine built by a third party, such as CAT, Cummins, or Detroit Diesel. The only exceptions to this are Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks, which are available with Volvo and Mack diesel engines, respectively, and Freightliner, which is a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler and are available with Mercedes-Benz and Detroit Diesel engines.


Small trucks use the same type of transmissions as cars. Bigger trucks often use manual transmissions, which must be built stronger to withstand the torque their engines make. Common North American setups include 10, 13 and 18 speeds. Automatic transmissions for heavy trucks are becoming more and more common, due to advances both in transmission and engine power.

The trend in Europe is that more new trucks are being bought with automatic transmissions. This may be due in part to lawsuits from drivers claiming that driving a manual transmission is damaging to their knees.

Quality and sales

Quality among all heavy truck manufacturers in general is improving, however industry insiders will testify that the industry has a long way to go before they achieve the quality levels reached by automobile manufacturers. Part of the reason for this is that 75% of all trucks are custom specified. This works against efforts to streamline and automate the assembly line.

Heavy trucks market worldwide

(major manufacturers ranked by 2003 sales)

  • DaimlerChrysler Commecial Vehicles
  • Volvo Global Trucks
  • Iveco
  • Hino
  • MAN Nutzfahrzeuge
  • Navistar
  • Fuso
  • Scania
  • Nissan Diesel

The worldwide market share leader is DaimlerChrysler, with its Mercedes-Benz' commercial vehicle group with around a 22% global market share. Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle's, with its Freightliner, Mercedes-Benz, Setra, Sterling (the old Ford Trucks), Western Star, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus (43%; Japan), and Hyundai Trucks (50%; South Korea), sold between 200,000 and a quarter of a million units worldwide that past few years.

United States

Smaller fleet operators, specialized carriers, and owner operators tend to prefer Mack or Peterbilt and Kenworth products. Larger fleet operators and public agencies tend to prefer the lower cost Freightliners, Navistar, and Ford  products. There are also regional preferences with truck drivers within the United States.

On the East Coast, where routes where traditionally shorter, and because the trucks were made there, many drivers preferred Mack Trucks. While on the West Coast, the drivers preferred Peterbilt, Kenworth, and Freightliner. White, built a new factory in California in the early 1960s, with long-haul trucking company Consolidated Freightways. The entity, which became White-Freightliner, then just Freightliner, catered directly to western fleets that wanted a lighter-aluminum cab and frame, and traveled longer-straighter distances without stopping. Drivers more concerned with safety than with fuel-economy preferred the heavier Peterbilts and Kenworths. But, Kenworth and Peterbilt, which had started out as heavy-duty trucks for hauling logs, forest products, and steel for shipyards on the West Coast, readily saw the need for these lighter long-distance trucks.


Iveco, MAN AG, Mercedes-Benz Trucks, PACCAR (DAF Trucks, Leyland Trucks), Scania AB, and Volvo Trucks (not to be confused with Volvo Automotive, which is now part of Ford Motor Company), are the leading truck manufacturers in Western Europe. In the Eastern Europe,
koda, Tatra and GAZ are common, since they were some of the "brands" of the Soviet controlled areas.


Heavy truck leading manufacturers (alphabetically]

  • Dong Feng (China)
  • Mitsubishi (Japan)
  • Telco
  • Hino (Japan)(Joint ventures with Scania and Renault)
  • Isuzu
  • Iveco (Italy, but local divisions in Asia)
  • Nissan Diesel

South America

Registrations of heavy trucks in South America (2002; % breakdown by manufacturer):

  • DaimlerChrysler
  • Scania
  • Mack Trucks

Less Than Truckload (LTL)

Semi Trailer

Logistics Definition

The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ( Truck - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).  12/27/05
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