What are the different types of commercial trucks and vehicles? This article will cover the most popular and common commercial vehicles on the road today in the USA.

Semi-Trailer Truck

A semi-trailer truck more commonly known as a semi-truck or simply “semi” is the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers to carry freight. A semi-trailer attaches to the tractor with a fifth-wheel coupling (hitch), with much of its weight borne by the tractor. The result is that both the tractor and semi-trailer will have a design distinctly different from that of a rigid truck and trailer.


In North America, the combination vehicles made up of a powered truck and one or more semitrailers are known as “semis”, “semitrailers”, “tractor-trailers”, “big rigs”, “semi-trucks “eighteen-wheelers”, or “semi-tractor trailers”.


The “tractor unit” typically has two or three axles; those built for hauling heavy-duty commercial-construction machinery may have as many as five, some often being lift axles.


The most common tractor-cab layout has a forward engine, one steering axle, and two drive axles. The fifth-wheel trailer coupling on most tractor trucks is movable fore and aft, to allow adjustment in the weight distribution over its rear axle(s).

4 Styles of Semi Trucks

1. Flat Roof Sleeper

A sleeper cab or truck sleeper is a semi-truck that has a compartment attached to the cabin for the truck driver(s) to rest and sleep. Typically has a bunk and side storage compartments. The flat roof sleeper has a flat roof and less headspace.

2. Mid-Roof Sleeper

A 76-inch mid-roof sleeper is a semi-truck that has a compartment attached to the cabin for the truck driver(s) to rest and sleep. Typically has a bed, tv, and storage compartments. The mid-roof sleeper has a slightly higher and rounded roof for more headroom and space. 

3. Raised Roof Sleeper

A raiser-roof sleeper is a semi-tractor with a compartment attached to the cabin for the truck driver(s) to rest and sleep. Some sleeper offers a premium sound system, flat-screen tv, and side storage tower. The raised-roof sleeper has the highest roof for more space and better driver comfort. 

4. Day Cab

The day cab semi-trucks a tractor that is designed for day trips. It does not include the on-the-road overnight sleeping compartment. The purpose of the day cab is to hook up and haul large loads on short trips within the same day.


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Box Truck

A box truck — also known as a cube truck, cube van, rolling toaster or box van — is a chassis cab truck with an enclosed cubed-shaped cargo area. On most box trucks, the cabin is separate from the cargo area. however, some box trucks have a rear door between the cabin and the cargo area.


The difference between a box van and a box truck is the cargo van is a one-piece or unibody. While a box truck is designed by adding a cargo box to the chassis.


Box trucks are typically 10 to 26 feet in length and can range from Class 3 to Class 7 (12,500 lb. to 33,000 lb. gross vehicle weight rating). They often have a garage door-like rear door that rolls up. Box trucks often used by companies transporting home appliances, furniture, or used as moving trucks.

Dump Truck

A dump truck, also known as a dumper truck or tipper truck, is used for taking dumps such as sand, gravel, or demolition waste from construction sites. Typically a dump truck is equipped with an open-box bed, which is hinged at the rear and equipped with hydraulic rams to lift the front, allowing the material in the bed to be dumped on the ground behind the truck at the job site or delivery location.


In the United States, most standard dump trucks have one front steering axle and one 4×2 4-wheeler or two 6×4 6-wheeler rear axles which typically have dual wheels on each side. Tandem rear axles are almost always powered, front steering axles are also sometimes powered 4×4, or 6×6. 


Unpowered axles are sometimes used to support the extra weight. Most unpowered rear axles can be raised off the ground to minimize wear when the truck is empty or lightly loaded, and are commonly called “lift axles.

Garbage Truck

Garbage truck or trash truck refers to a truck specially designed to collect municipal solid waste and haul the collected waste to a solid waste treatment facility such as a landfill. Other common names for this type of truck include trash trucks in the United States. Rubbish truck, junk truck, dumpster, bin wagon, dustbin lorry, bin lorry or bin van elsewhere. Technical names include waste collection vehicles and refuse collection vehicles. These trucks are a common sight in most urban areas.

7 Styles of Garbage Trucks

1. Front Loaders

Front-loaders generally service commercial and industrial businesses using large waste containers with lids known as Dumpsters. The truck is equipped with powered forks on the front which the driver carefully aligns with sleeves on the waste container using a joystick or a set of levers. The waste container is then lifted over the truck. Once it gets to the top the container is then flipped upside down and the waste or recyclable material is emptied into the vehicle’s hopper. Once the waste is dumped, it is compacted by a hydraulically powered moving wall that oscillates backward and forwards to push the waste to the rear of the vehicle.

2. Rear Loaders

Rear loaders have an opening into a trough or hopper at the rear that a waste collector can throw waste bags or empty the contents of bins into. Often in many areas, they have a lifting mechanism to automatically empty large carts without the operator having to lift the waste by hand.

3. Side Loaders

Side loaders are loaded from the side, either manually, or with the assistance of a joystick-controlled robotic arm with a claw, used to automatically lift and tip wheeled bins into the truck’s hopper.

4. Manual Side Loaders

Manual side loaders (MSLs) feature a hopper in front of the body, similar to front loaders. Unlike front loaders, the actual hopper is very short and sometimes is lower than the body, in order for the operator to dump the waste into the hopper.

5. Automated Side loaders

Lift-equipped trucks are referred to as automated side loaders (ASLs). Similar to a front-end loader, the waste is compacted by an oscillating packer plate at the front of the loading hopper which forces the waste through an aperture into the main body and is therefore compacted towards the rear of the truck.

6. Manual/Automatic Side Loaders

Manual/Automated side loaders (M/ASLs), are traditional MSLs equipped with an arm for automated collection, as well as continuously running packers. This allows for functionally identical to that of an ASL, while allowing for manual dumping of waste into a hopper in instances where the automated collection is not feasible, such as the collection of oversized items. 

7. Semi-Automatic Side Loaders

Semi-automated side loaders are MSLs that are equipped with an automated mechanism to lift and dump manually aligned waste containers into the hopper. The primary difference between semi-automated side loaders and ASLs is that while they still only need one person to operate, he or she must exit the cab to manually bring and align containers to the loading hopper on the side of the truck and dump them.

Flatbed Truck

A flatbed truck is a type of truck which can be either articulated or rigid. As the name suggests, its bodywork is just an entirely flat, level ‘bed’ with no sides or roof. This allows for quick and easy loading of goods, and consequently, they are used to transport heavy loads that are not delicate or vulnerable to rain, and also for abnormal loads that require more space than is available on a closed body.


A flatbed has a solid bed, usually of wooden planks. There is no roof and no fixed sides. To retain the load there are often low sides which may be hinged down for loading, as a ‘drop-side’ truck. A ‘stake truck’ has no sides but has steel upright pillars, which may be removable, again used to retain the load.

Bucket Truck

A bucket truck or also known as a boom truck is equipped with an extendable, hydraulic boom carrying a large bucket for raising workers to elevated, inaccessible areas.


Bucket trucks are used by utility companies, tree trimmers, construction workers and other workers that need to reach high hard to get to areas.

Grapple Truck

A grapple truck is a truck that has a grapple loader mounted to its frame which is used for loading and sometimes hauling bulky waste. 


Grapple trucks are commonly used by municipal sanitation or public works departments, and by waste collection companies. Grapple trucks can also sometimes be used in road construction and repair. 


There are six types of the bulky waste collection systems in which grapple trucks are used: loader and body systems, rear steer system, roll-off systems, rear-mounted loader, and haul truck systems, rear-mounted loader and trailer systems, and transfer systems.

Refrigerator Truck

A refrigerator truck is a van or truck designed to carry perishable freight at specific temperatures. Like refrigerator cars, refrigerated trucks differ from simple insulated and ventilated vans (commonly used for transporting fruit), neither of which are fitted with cooling apparatus. 


Refrigerator trucks can be ice-cooled, equipped with any one of a variety of mechanical refrigeration systems powered by small displacement diesel engines, or utilize carbon dioxide (either as dry ice or in liquid form) as a cooling agent.

Heavy Hauler

A heavy hauler is a very large transporter for moving oversize loads too large for road travel without an escort and special permit.


A heavy hauler typically consists of a heavy tractor unit and a multi-axle lowboy flatbed trailer. Some trailers may have independently steerable wheels, and several might be towed by one or more tractor units on a train.


Self-propelled modular transporters, some featuring a dozen and more self-steering axles with scores of rubber tires to spread out a load, are increasingly being manufactured. The ability of combination and self-propelled heavy haulers to carry loads of 100 tons is not unusual.

Tow Truck

A tow truck also called a wrecker, a breakdown truck, recovery vehicle is a truck used to move disabled, improperly parked, impounded, or otherwise indisposed motor vehicles. This may involve recovering a vehicle damaged in an accident, returning one to a drivable surface in a mishap or inclement weather, or towing or transporting one via flatbed to a repair shop or other location.


A tow truck is distinct from a motor carrier that moves multiple new or used vehicles simultaneously in routine transport operations.

5 Styles of Tow Trucks

1. Boom

Boom tow trucks use an adjustable boom with a winch to recover vehicles from a ditch, over an embankment, or any place the vehicle cannot be safely reached backing-up. Some booms are fixed, some heavy pivoting A-frames, other hydraulic-powered telescoping tubes. The heaviest types of boom can rotate, effectively turning the tow truck into a sort of mobile crane, called a “rotator”, and are usually reserved for heavy vehicle accidents

2. Wheel-Lift

The wheel-lift tow truck is also called a “spectacle lift”. They evolved from the hook & chain technology to produce a large metal yoke that can be fitted under the front or rear wheels to cradle them, drawing the front or rear end of the vehicle clear of the ground by a pneumatic or hydraulic hoist so it can be towed.

3. Integrated

Integrated tow trucks are also called a “Self Loader”, “Snatcher”, “Quick Pick” or “Repo Truck”. The boom and wheel-lift integrated into one unit. Used in light-duty trucks to repossess vehicles or move illegally parked vehicles. Most have controls for the apparatus inside the cab of the tow truck to make quick pickup possible without the inconvenience of exiting the truck to hook up the vehicle. Heavy-duty trucks are also manufactured with integrated lift.

4. Flatbed

Flatbed tow trucks are also known as “rollback” or a “slide”. The entire back of the truck is fitted with a bed that can be hydraulically inclined and slid back to ground level, allowing the vehicle to be placed on it under its own power or pulled on by a winch. Because they carry rather than tow the vehicle, it can be completely immobilized; in the US they are used to carry badly damaged cars from crashes.

5. Lift Flatbed

Lift flatbed tow truck boom uses a wheel-lift frame to lift the vehicle vertically and load it on the bed. Used in Europe, this truck can remove vehicles that are parallel-parked.


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