A semi-truck is comprised of two components: the cab and the trailer. The cab houses the engine and the driver, while the trailer attaches to the cab at a hitch. Setups and cab styles vary based on the classification, size, and type of truck. Semi-trucks are used for hauling across multiple industries for various hauling needs.
Types of Semis
Semi-trucks are divided into day cabs and sleepers, with the one that works best for you depending on what you need out of the truck.
- Day cab: Designed for quick hauls, day cab semis are smaller and perfect for short and single-day routes. They do not offer the same comfort, insulation, or soundproofing as sleeper trucks, but generally come at a much lower price.
- Sleeper: These trucks are designed for long drives, featuring plush cabs and amenities such as sleeping areas, bathrooms, and even kitchens. Sleeper trucks are ideal for long journeys, allowing you to forgo some of the expenses that traditionally come with being on the road. However, they also tend to be more expensive and do not usually hold as much cargo as a day cab truck.
Semi-trucks can also be broken down into additional subcategories for the front end and roof:
- Cab-over trucks: These models are more rounded and shorter, which allows for a longer trailer without exceeding length restrictions. The cab sits above or forward of the front axle, typically resulting in a rougher ride.
- Conventional nose trucks: This is the classic design, with a traditional hood length that makes it easier to access the engine.
- Mid-roof: Semi-trucks with a mid-roof configuration have a lowered roof that improves aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
- Raised roof: These trucks feature an additional 12 to 18 inches in height, usually to allow for more storage or an extra bed.
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Size and Classification
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is used to classify commercial motor vehicles that drive on U.S. highways. The vehicles are divided into classes one through eight, though many also use the category terms light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. It should be noted that these category terms are not as well defined as class terms, as a truck may be considered heavy-duty by one and medium-duty by another. Semi-trucks fit into three classes:
- Class 6: This covers what are commonly referred to as medium-duty commercial trucks. Class 6 trucks include beverage, rack, and single-axle trucks, as well as school buses. GVWRs for this class of truck ranges between 19,501 and 26,000 pounds.
- Class 7: Including vehicles such as city buses, furniture trucks, garbage trucks, and street sweepers, GVWRs for class 7 trucks range between 26,001 and 33,000 pounds.
- Class 8: This is where trucks move from heavy-duty, to severe-duty. With GVWRs over 33,001 pounds, class 8 vehicles include cement trucks, dump trucks, and big rigs.
While it may seem as if the weight limit for Class 8 vehicles is open, that is not true. Maximum weights for Class 8 trucks are set using the Federal Bridge Gross Weight Formula. The equation is used to allow heavier, longer loads to safely travel interstate highways. The gross vehicle weight limit for Class 8 appears open-ended, but it’s not. The maximum is set on a case-by-case basis using the Federal Bridge Gross Weight Formula. Using this equation, it’s possible for longer, heavier loads to safely travel interstate highways. A longer 18-wheeler, for example, can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.
How Much Does a New Semi-Truck Cost?
The cost of a new semi-truck depends on the class of truck, size, type, any customizations, and the dealer you purchase through. What follows is a general pricing guide to provide an idea of what you can expect to pay for your new semi-truck.
- The cost of a new 2018 Cascadia truck with a DD15 engine, dual 150-gallon tanks, and a premium interior averages between $138,000 and $145,000.
- The cost of a new 2019 Western Star truck with 485 horsepower and an 80,000 pound gross vehicle weight has an average cost between $185,000 and $190,000.
What to Look for When Buying a Semi-Truck
Price is certainly an important factor to consider when it comes to buying a semi-truck, but it should never be the only factor. When buying a new semi, think about the following:
- Axle rating: The average axle rating is 12,00 pounds for the front and 40,000 pounds for the back. While ratings can be as high as 20,000 pounds for front axles and 80,000 pounds for rear axles, you should not upgrade to this unless you need to haul super heavy loads.
- Power: This refers to more than just the horsepower, although that is important as well. Heavy-duty trucks typically offer between 320 and 550 horsepower, but don’t forget to look at peak torque, as well. It is a good idea to work with your dealer to find the right horsepower, gear ratio, and torque for the types of loads you’ll be hauling.
- Transmission: Many veterans of the industry see no need to go with an automatic transmission, but they are becoming more and more popular. Automatic transmissions save on fuel costs, ensure you’re always in the right gear, and improve the lifespan of the drivetrain.
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