Ultimate Heavy Duty Truck Guide


In my attempt to create the ‘ultimate’ heavy duty truck guide I know there will be points, ideas, and information left out. Unfortunately trying to cover everything about a heavy duty truck can be hard. Not that there is not enough information, but deciding what to include and what to skim over, is the real issue.

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Some might read this and think it is a good overview, others might say what about this or that. As usual I will welcome all suggestions and points in the comments box beneath the article. For others perhaps this will be more a starting point in your quest to learn more about what is considered to be a heavy duty truck.


I will say for this guide of mine that it isn’t a 4×4 GMC with a lift kit and spray on ‘mud’!!! It is geared towards commercial trucks.

If you want to learn more from an official point of view you have several options:

Of course, there are other options. But what I have put together is a guide, and I hope it does help you for finding the information you are seeking.

Commercial Truck Classification

Ok, I guess, before I go into details about what is a heavy duty truck, or the types or their uses and all that other fun stuff, I shall first explain the classifications. I am sure many will be like, “I already know this”! Well, if you do know, then this might be a refresher for you, if you don’t, I hope it adds to your understanding.


In the USA (and most everywhere else) the government sees fit to classify everything. They do this for safety purposes, tax reasons, licensing, and other regulatory reasons. Safety is the most important.

You are all familiar with safety ratings; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has tons of information regarding safety. The DOT works in cooperation with The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) to oversee and regulate American industry (along with several other agencies).


Regarding the safety rating, the FMCSA has Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System, offering users’ access to safety data and other services. This is where any potential customer can review a company’s safety rating and other information using their Company Snapshot. Basically, the customer will get a concise of the company that they are looking into.

So what does this have to do with classifications? Why does this matter?

Well, let me answer your question. In order for you to operate, you need to know your size limits and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and/or the gross trailer weight rating (GTWR). This is the maximum loaded weight for your vehicle.  And once again people, all that is regulated by the agencies above!

And the Classification and weight ranges are:

ClassificationGross Vehicle Weight Rating:Examples
Class 1GVRW 0 – 6,0000 poundsFord Ranger
Class 2GVWR 6,001 – 10,000 pounds
*(divided into 2 classes, Class 2A & 2B)
See class 2A & 2B below
*Class 2AGVWR 6,001 – 8,500 poundsFord F-150, Dodge Ram 1500
*Class 2BGVWR 8,501 – 10,000 poundsDodge Ram 2500, Ford F-250
Class 3GVWR 10,001 – 14,000 poundsDodge Ram 3500, Ford F-350
Class 4GVWR 14,001 – 16,000 poundsDodge Ram 4500, Ford F-450
Class 5GVWR 16,001 – 19,500 poundsDodge Ram 5500, Ford F-550
Class 6GVWR 19,501 – 26,000 poundsFord F-650
Class 7GVWR 26,001 – 33,000 poundsFord F-750
Class 8GVWR over 33,000 poundsTractor Trailer

Class 7 and Class 8 Trucks

So, as you can see in the USA we have 8 classifications (plus sub-classes). A heavy duty truck is classified as those in class 7-8. These are the two most common commercial vehicles, for hauling freight and such.

Smaller items, of course, can and are transported on other vehicle types, but when one thinks of a commercial grade heavy duty truck it’s in this category. What are they?A Class 7 heavy duty truck is one with a GVWR that ranges 26001–33000 pounds (11794–14969 kilos). Typical trucks found in this range are the Ford F-750 and the GMC C7500.


A Class 8 heavy duty truck is one with GVWR that exceeds 33000 pounds (14969 kilos). This type of heavy duty truck is the typical semi-truck and trailer. They usually will have 3 axels, but more likely 5.

Of course, other restrictions and regulations will apply depending on the load and the location. So always check with the individual state you’ll be operating in. Never assume that since it is legal in one state that is ok in the rest.

Heavy Duty Truck Requirements

Ok, at first glance you say, “This has been answered”! – If life was only that simple. Ok, as I said before a ¾ ton pick-up is not a heavy duty truck. At least they aren’t in regards to the commercial trucking and transport industry.

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There are certain requirements to operate a heavy duty truck that isn’t required if you were to drive most of the other vehicles.The very first thing is the licensing, (CDL) requirements. In order to operate a heavy-duty truck, in class 7 or 8 range, you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). You usually will need airbrake endorsements as well as other endorsements.


But first, let’s cover what do you need in order to get a CDL? The FMCSA has set strict guidelines that each state must adhere to; they can tighten the CDL requirements but not relax them! Per the FMCSA these requirements are:

  • You must be 18 years old to drive within your state;
  • In order to drive across state lines you have to be at least 21;
  • You must be over 21 to haul hazardous materials;
  • You cannot have any disqualifying criminal offenses (felonies);
  • You have to pass the Knowledge and Skills test with a score of 80 or better;
  • Pay all associated fees; these will vary and it all depends in which state you’re licensed in;

Additionally, you will need to agree to take and pass relevant drug test. You will also be required to take a DOT physical . This medical card is typically good for two years and must be carried with you whenever you’re operating a heavy duty truck.

So to clarify, a heavy duty truck is a large vehicle (a big truck) that is used to transport freight commercially. It also requires special licensing and the observation of other regulations such as completing and maintaining DOT’s logs  about different things like example: hours-of-service logs. These can be either paper or electronic, but they must be current and up to date.

Heavy Duty Truck Types

Well, this is a bit easier to identify… ok not that easy really, because there are literally dozens of trucks used for a variety of commercial purposes. The heavy duty truck can be a straight truck or semi. It can have multiple axels, both the truck and the trailer.


The heavy-duty trucks are used for different trucking services so therefore they can be found in numerous configurations as well. This of course, will depend on the type of cargo they are designed to haul. But some of the more common heavy duty truck types are:

  • The van or Box trucks (or trailers) this is the most common heavy duty truck (trailer).
  • Car carrier trailers are designed to haul multiple vehicles.
  • Conestoga trailers, flatbed trailers with retractable roof and siding allowing for the cargo to be lifted by an overhead crane, but still protects the cargo from the elements.
  • Curtain siders (not as common in the USA) similar to the box trailers, but the sides are movable waterproof curtains, combining the best features of the box and flatbed trailers.
  • Dry bulk trailers look like tankers however, they’re used for sand, cement, and other such dry powder materials.
  • Dump truck trailers allow one end to be raised, allowing the cargo to be ‘dumped’ out the backend.
  • Flatbeds trucks and flatbed trailers are just that, a load floor usually, with removable side rails and a bulkhead. They are for anything that can be exposed natures elements.
  • Hopper bottoms, these are typically for grain but can haul sand and other materials.
  • Livestock trailers are used for the transportation of livestock (pigs, cows, sheep, etc.).
  • Lowboy trailers are used to haul heavy equipment (bulldozers, backhoes, cranes, and etc.), the load floor is lower to the ground (hence the name).
  • Refrigerator trailers and trucks have a reefer (heating/cooling unit) and are used for hauling frozen foods, plants, produce, and etc.
  • Refrigerator tank trailers are used for transporting bulk liquids, like milk, water, juice and etc.
  • Tanker trailers used for liquids as well, but things like oil, propane, gasoline and etc.
  • Concrete trucks are generally used for the transportation of cement, from the plant to the construction site.

There are of course other types of trucks and trailers that are used for a variety of things such as the lumber industry or even the fracking wells have special trailers. But those listed above should be the most common.So as I said the heavy duty truck is designed to handle more weight. They have special requirements and their own regulatory bodies to enforce these special rules.

Typically the GVWR/GTWR ranges between 26001 to over 33000 pounds (11794 to over 14969 kilos).Sometimes you can find these trucks in medium weight but they might have special requirements depending on the nature of their use. But some of the more common heavy duty truck types are cement (mixer), dump trucks, garbage trucks, and the even popular 18-wheeler.


Usage for Heavy Duty Trucks

The heavy duty truck is the lifeblood of the nation. They are what get your products to market. Sure Santa can deliver around the world, in one night, with one sleigh, but the average trucking company lacks the magic touch and therefore needs dozens of trucks to make it happen!!

With all the ways and means of transportation, the heavy duty truck is still king. After all, we have cargo ships, barges, containers, airplanes, rail, bicycle couriers, and even drones. But they can only get the items so far.


It is the heavy duty truck that meets them at the dock or the railhead and then hauls it to the warehouse or wherever else.The heavy duty is what gets things to where they are needed the most.

From the inner city to the Washington lumber mills to the Canadian oil fields… Oh sure they could use a drone, but can you imagine how long it would take, one box at a time!

Importance of Heavy Duty Trucks for the American Economy

As you can see they are a key element in getting items from point A to point B. But a heavy duty truck and its driver are much more than that. As I said, they are the lifeblood of the US economy.

You might say no it is technology, or it is retail or oil or manufacturing, but you would only be partly right.People take it for granted that they go to work and they have everything they need. And when they get off work they go to the store and everything is there on the shelf. We go to the gas station and fill up our tanks.

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But no one stops to think, how? How does it get there? Oh, sure a few people see the trucks and even some work in industries where they load and unload them, but how many of us really stop to think where does it all come from?

Oh, sure we get upset when something is out of stock.We will usually ask the magic question, “Do you have more in the back”? We ask this like as if Santa’s elves have a workshop back there just tinkering away making it all right there on the spot. But that just isn’t so. You need trucks to fill those shelves and warehouses!


Everything is Transported by Trucks

Everything must arrive somehow and that somehow is by truck. Whether it is the new car you wish to purchase or your fresh loaf of bread, it was all delivered by a heavy duty truck of some sort. The workers in their cubicles type away on the keypad, with no thought that the equipment and furniture has been delivered by trucks.


Everything from the socks on your feet to the hat on your head was delivered by trucks. Even the building materials used to build your house, your office, your school, your vehicle, everything at one point or another was hauled there by a heavy duty truck.

Generate 5% of Annual GDP

You might think that is a lot, but considering that everything relies on trucking and transportation, 5 percent is a huge number! Think of all the things made and/or sold in the USA from food to furniture, so as we spend billions the trucks keep bringing us more!Now if that doesn’t make you think, then try this number.


The transportation and logistics industry amounted to $1.5 trillion in America’s GDP! It has been growing this year, so for the upcoming year, the experts are thinking it will be more. So if this one industry amounts to that, imagine what all the other industries will be like, and all thanks to the heavy duty trucks.

Employees 4 Million Class 8 Truck Drivers

Currently, in the USA we have approximately 4 million professional truck drivers! And they say the need for qualified drivers is growing every year. This number doesn’t include all the other personnel involved in the trucking industry. From truck dispatchers, sales people, brokers, warehouse workers to enforcement agents.

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That also fails to include all the industries that are directly and/or indirectly affected by the industry. These include the heavy duty truck manufacturers, clothing companies, truck stops, heck, even the truck mattress companies.


There are aftermarket shops specializing is truck accessories and even gifts for truckers, LED lighting, route optimizers and other mobile applications, tools and programs, all geared towards the industry.

So there is no doubt about it, just like the mule was once the backbone of the freight industry it is now the heavy duty truck! Never under estimate the importance of being a truck  driver, working in a carrier company, or other related industry, and at the same time consider this the next time you’re in a store and they are out of a particular product.


I’ve mentioned this; one too many times, in almost all of my articles bet let me say it again.Without class 8 trucks U.S.A. would stop functioning in no time! Trucks and truckers are moving America forward! So, class 8 trucks or with other words heavy duty trucks, have a ton of uses and are an asset to any transportation company; as a matter of fact, they are essential to the trucking industry!

So make a good research into what’s available out there in the big market of heavy duty trucks, and make sure that the models that you‘ve chosen truly fit your business.And don’t forget to perform regular fleet maintenance.

That’s right; you didn’t think I would talk about heavy duty trucks and not stress the importance of proper truck maintenance, did you?Observe the manufacturer’s suggestions, change the oil regularly, rotate the tires, and everything else on a routine schedule.This can ensure you that the heavy duty trucks that you are operating run properly.

What uses does your organization have for heavy duty trucks? What suggestions would you offer a first-time buyer, when it comes to heavy duty trucks?  We will like to hear your opinion so please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestion with us.