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Types Of Trucks: A Concrete Guide To Transit Heavy Freight

by Jordan Harris
Types Of Trucks

Trucks (American English) or Lorry (British English) are motor vehicles that are designed in different variants for mainly commercial purposes, unlike cars and buses, which are for personal and public transport. From the 1920s to 1930s, the world first saw the use of diesel engines in different types of trucks and since then, diesel is the preferred fuel even for most modern-day trucks.

Trucks are the most commonly used means for transporting freight. It is estimated that 80% of inland freight volume is transported by trucks. Inland freight transport not only makes transportation less costly but also creates millions of job opportunities.

Trucks have different load capacities and are used for different purposes. An appropriate truck for the job is selected depending upon the type of good to be transported. If you plan to transport goods that require protection against sunlight, then an enclosed truck is the best fit for you. Similarly, if your load is already enclosed in a shipping container, then you would go for a fly bed container.

You would not want to invest in a bigger and more expensive truck if the most you intend to transport can be carried by a less expensive truck. This detailed article would assist you in choosing the truck that is the best fit for your freight.

Contents of this article entail;

Step Deck Truck

Step-deck trucks are quite similar to flatbed trucks. The only difference between the two is the maximum legal height.

Flatbed trucks are about 60 inches above the ground, whereas step deck trucks are even closer to the ground that provides a little margin for carrying loads taller than 8 feet, as in the flatbed truck.

They are used to transporting loads that cannot be transported via flatbed trucks, mainly because of their height. Step-decks are open trucks having two deck levels, an upper and a lower level.

They have ramps for unloading. They are safer for unloading by a forklift because they are closer to the ground.

Low Boy Trucks

Lowboy trucks are also known as low-bed, low-loader, float, or double-drop trucks. Those types of trucks have a drop deck.

It has two drops in the deck, one right behind the gooseneck and the second one is present just before the wheels.

As a result, these types of trucks sit very close to the ground. The drop allows the shipping of very huge items, like heavy-duty construction equipment that is usually heavier than the maximum weight limit of other types of trucks.

They are used to hauling machinery and equipment like bulldozers, excavators, and other construction equipment. Their maximum legal height in width is greater than the other trucks. The weight limit for a lowboy truck with two axles is 40,000 pounds.

The weight limit can be increased to 80,000 pounds (the number of axles required will vary accordingly). The maximum height of loads that it can carry is 14 feet. However, you would need additional permits from the authorities before carrying such heavy and oversized loads on a lowboy truck.

Special Purpose Trucks

Specialty trucks are types of trucks that are designed for a given specific purpose. These trucks may include;

Medical Trucks

These types of trucks include mobile clinics that allow companies to provide medical services and equipment to the people on-site. Medical trucks are types of trucks equipped with basic medical equipment that can cater to basic medical situations and emergencies.

Medical trucks are also common in health camps. Blood banks are often seen in mobile trucks. These are enclosed containers, accommodating all facilities and services within. Like all specialty trucks, they need special permits and license to operate.

Event Marketing Trucks Or Display Trucks

Event marketing trucks are also called display trucks. These types of trucks allow the companies to display their advertisements on mobile trucks so that the message can be delivered to the masses. Display trucks attract more customers.

With on-site promotions, demonstrations, and sales, more and more customers will get to know about the company and its products. Event marketing using specialty trucks is getting quite common nowadays since it is one of the most efficient marketing techniques.

Food Services Trucks

Food services trucks are enclosed trucks that accommodate entire kitchens within. They provide food services to the people on the go.

These types of trucks can be seen at conferences, food carnivals festivals, catering conferences, etc. They are a new trend where many food chains are opening up branches in enclosed mobile trucks so that they can reach more customers.

Vending Trucks

Many businesses believe that if customers aren’t coming to them, they should go to the customers. This has given rise to a new concept that is, vending trucks.

These enclosed trucks are more like mini-outlets of vendors that are on the go. This enables the businesses to reach more customers and sell their products to people without the need for the customers to come all the way to the major outlets.

Regardless of the purpose, a specialty truck is being used for, a special permit and a license are necessary. The regulations are the strictest for the trucks that are used to transport hazardous materials as compared to the specialty trucks that are being used for commercial purposes.

Car Transporters Or Car Carrier Trailers

This is a single-decker enclosed or double-decker open car carrier that has multiple spaces designed to hold cars in place during a long transit.

They can be open or closed, with in-built ramps for loading and unloading the vehicles. These types of trucks are usually used to ship cars from their manufacturers to dealerships.

They differ from flatbed trucks in that they aren’t equipped with loaders or winches. Instead, they rely on the vehicles to be loaded under their power.

Cement Truck

A cement truck or concrete mixer is a truck that has a concrete mixer hooked up to it. It carries around the mixing equipment to deliver it to the places that need it.

The revolving machinery mixes the cement and water to make concrete and pours it into the designated places. These can be on the pavement, in special molds, etc.

The machinery allows the cement to maintain its liquid state for very long because of constant motion, hence giving the cement a longer-lasting quality and a longer use period than if it were held in place.

The cement is usually discharged from the rear and the drum it’s mixed in is made of steel or fiberglass.

Chiller Truck Or Reefers

Chiller trucks are types of trucks for transporting products in a frozen state. These types of trucks feature a temperature-controlled unit that allows you to control the temperature inside the truck no matter how hot or cold it is outside.

Refrigerated trucks are special in that they transport sensitive items that require careful handling and storage to maintain their integrity. They are, however, more expensive than standard trucks since they use extra fuel to keep the temperature control system running.

Chiller trucks or reefers are refrigerator trucks that are fitted with cooling equipment to keep food and supplies fresh during transport. Commonly used to transport fruit, meat, and fish, Reefer trucks are cooled with ice or mechanical refrigeration powered with displacement diesel engines.

They can also be cooled using dry ice or liquid carbon dioxide at high pressures. These trucks were first produced in the 1920s and were fitted with complete insulation (high-density polymer foam) and better ventilation since then.

Higher pressurization techniques and more efficient cooling techniques have made these trucks more efficient throughout the last century.

Crane Trucks Or Mobile Cranes

Crane trucks or mobile cranes are types of trucks that are fitted with cable-controlled cranes. It’s mounted on crawlers. They are designed for easy mobility and have little or no need for setup or assembly. These trucks are usually fitted with a hook suspended by a wire rope.

The prime movers operate the wire ropes that the designers have put in place. The transmissions can be hydraulic, electric, or achieved through internal combustion.

The invention of these devices came about in 1870 before which the crane was confined to a single spot and had to be hauled to places that it needed to function in.

Crane developments over the years have included the adoption of an internal combustion engine in 1922 and the invention of a telescopic job.

Fire Trucks

A fire truck is built to carry the equipment needed to put out a fire at its source. It is usually fitted with hoses and sirens, and enough cargo space to house a crew of firefighters.

It is fitted with automated lifting ladders and breathing apparatuses such as masks and oxygen containers. This is kept alongside uniforms and protective clothing that the firefighters need to perform their job effectively.

It also has first aid kits and walkie-talkies or two-way radios so that the firefighters can communicate with the proper authorities to take swift action.

The fire truck can also house water and pumps to fight the fire while there are options to connect the hose in place with a fire hydrant at the scene of the fire.

Tow Trucks

A tow truck or breakdown lorries or a recovery vehicle are types of trucks that are used to move vehicles that are impounded, wrongly parked, disabled, or indisposed in any other way.

The trucks may be brought in when a law is being broken, or an accident has occurred, or when infrastructure has been damaged, and a vehicle has to be extracted from the location.


It differs from a car truck carrier because it doesn’t move vehicles for basic transportation; it just moves them from places that put them in danger of making it the problem.

Tow trucks were first invented in 1916 in Tennessee when a car was pulled out of a creek by six men using ropes. Adjustable booms are now used to recover vehicles from ditches and similar situations.

Flat-Bed Trailers

Flatbed trucks are the most commonly used types of trucks. They are highly versatile and that is the reason they are extremely common. Flatbed trucks can be used for the transportation of almost everything from steel coils to lumber.

Flatbed trucks are open from all sides and do not have a box that covers the load being shipped. As a result, it is extremely easy to load and off-load. The load can be picked up by a crane from the top or picked up by forklift from the sides.

The maximum weight that can be loaded on a flatbed truck is 48,000 pounds. The length of a flatbed truck varies. It comes in different sizes, including 24 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 48 feet, and 53 feet, the most common being the 48 feet flatbed truck.

The maximum width that is legally allowed is 8.5 feet, and the maximum allowed height of the load is 8.5 feet. The flatbed is usually at a height of 60 inches from the ground.

Since there is no container to keep the material being transferred adequately covered, the material has to be covered by a tarp. You cannot just drape the tarp over the load.

Covering a flatbed truck with a tarp can be tricky. There are certain things to consider, mainly the material of the tarp and the correct safety precautions.

Covering Flatbed Trailer With Tarps

Before moving on to the correct way of covering the flatbed truck with a tarp, let’s have a look at the tarps used for this purpose:

Steel Truck Tarp

Steel tarps are used when the loads include steel freight such as steel coils. In such circumstances, the tarp has to be high-quality, heavy-duty, and cost-friendly.

They are the best type of tarps to be used. This is especially true when the material being carried is crafted and needs extra protection.

Steel truck tarps are usually 24 feet long and 12 feet wide. Steel truck tarps that are 8 feet wide are also available. These tarps have a 2 to 3 feet drop on either side.

Such steel truck tarps are suitable for loads that include rebar and sheet steel. They cover the topside of the material and protect it from rain and dirt.

Lumber Tarp

Lumber tarps are ideal for loads that include lumber wallboard, trim molding, etc. They protect the load from dust and rain. They hang 7 feet on each side.

There are two types of lumber tarps; lumber tarp with a flat at the front end and lumber tarp with a boxed end. The first type is suitable to protect the material from dust and dirt and prevent parachuting when the wind gets underneath the covering. The latter has a boxed end with the sewn flap sides at the front. This is suitable for trucks that routinely transport the same loads.

Glass-Clear Tarp

Glass-clear tarps are suitable for trucks that carry materials that need to be protected from dirt, dust, rain, and slime. These are made with fishnet knitted or thick weaved material.

Smoke Tarp

Smoke tarps for trucks are rectangular and smaller compared to the rest of the tarps. They protect the load from the front side, from the exhaust produced by the truck. They are suitable for smaller loads that include PVC or steel.


Now that you know the tarps, you would know which tarp is suitable for the load you are transporting on your truck. You can’t risk the tarp blowing away or dislodging during the transportation, can you? Definitely not! Here is how you should tarp your trailer properly.

  • Organize the load properly because if that is not done, the load may tear or damage the tarp that would cause having to bear unnecessary costs.
  • Choose the right tarp type to suit the type of load you are carrying.
  • Tarps are usually heavy (about 80 pounds). Therefore, you might need a forklift to transfer the tarp on top of the load.
  • Use a ladder to climb on the top of the load.
  • Unroll the tarp facing forward till the load is covered end-to-end. Secure the tarp on the bed of the trailer using the D rings on tarps.

This way, you can transport any load on your flatbed truck safely.

Livestock Trucks

Livestock trucks are used to transport animals to and from farms. It is a vehicle that is built specially to hold on to livestock and to hold them in place.

Some are even fitted with special equipment so that they stay in place and are well fed. The trucks are usually open slightly from the back or the top so that the livestock can get daylight and air and not be confined into a small space.

This often makes them restless. While not the strongest trucks, they are some of the sturdiest, since they need to transport heavy animals.

Snow Plow Trucks

Snowplows are light trucks that help in plowing snow that has accumulated on the road to provide clear passage for cars.

The trucks are efficient in removing snow on outdoor surfaces which serve transport purposes. In most cases, snowplows are normal vehicles mounted with devices to plow snow, though in an actual sense they aren’t for that job.

These trucks fall under the category of winter support vehicles. Small snow plows help in removing snow on sidewalks and footpaths. In large urban areas, underbody scrapers are mounted on vehicles to help perform the same task.

Ancient snowplows were invented in the 1840s and we’re horse-driven. It was until 1913 when the first mechanically powered plow was built. It was to plow snow from the streets of New York during winter seasons.


You may have seen huge types of trucks that carry petrol, diesel, oil, and other hazardous and or flammable materials. These trucks that transport massive quantities of liquids are not the usual rectangular ones. Instead, they are cylindrical.

The same trucks are used to deliver chemicals to industries as well. These are specialized trucks that have been designed with the purpose of transporting certain liquids. These trucks need additional permits.

The cost of transport freight is also higher for them. There is no way you can find a way around strict regulations associated with these trucks, as the risk of injury, damage, and spillage is huge.

Tipper Trucks

Tipper trucks or dump trucks are also production types of trucks and help to transport gravel, sand, dirt, stones, and other loose materials that are used in construction.

In addition, tipper trucks can carry waste to landfills. These vehicles have an open box that is hydraulically operated to dump the contents of the open box behind the vehicle. Tipper trucks are often involved in crashes as they attempt to back up.


Tipper trucks were operational since the 19th century in Europe. Ancient tippers were horse-driven to help dump refuse in farms like manure. Modern designs of tipper trucks have become more mechanical and more advanced.

By the 1910s, hydraulic lift gates were added and helped to offer supplies during World War I. They later became popular in mining and construction.

Trailer Trucks

One of the major advantages of a truck trailer is it allows you to load and unload items faster. It has one of the largest loading volumes. This means you have a lot of space to carry goods. The loading capacity of a truck trailer is 16-25t.

Although it offers a large loading volume, you might still end up facing some challenges when carrying long-length cargoes. A truck trailer also protects your cargo from destruction by the elements.

Box Trucks

Box trucks are also known as straight trucks, cube trucks, or cube vans. A straight truck can carry cargo on the same chassis that has the cab and the power unit.

However, it can only be loaded from the back. They are commonly used to transport stuff like furniture and other minor items. Box trucks are highly recommended for moving homes.

They are most people’s favorite when moving out since they are more secure than a semi-trailer truck. It protects your goods from damage by the elements. You can also use it to expedite freight deliveries.

Types Of Trucks – Conclusion

Trucks have been built to carry everything from huge vehicles, food, condiments, oil and gas, water, furniture, and even immense pieces of machinery.

They are literal metal beasts that travel through long patches of the road every day to get essential supplies for industries to use and entire towns to survive.

Trucks are an essential part of the human ecosystem and employ a huge percentage of the world’s workforce. They are a representation of the working class like no other vehicle is and are a symbol of human ingenuity and intelligence to boot.

The nature of the product you want to transport determines the best types of trucks or trailers ideally suited for their transportation.

Whether you want to transport oversized or large volume items, or perhaps you want to transport your goods in a frozen state, there are different trucks to meet your exact requirements.

Before hiring a transportation truck, carefully consider the items to be transported and only secure a truck that fits your needs.

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