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What Does a Truck Driver Drive? Tractors, Semis, and Rigs

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

What does a Truck Driver Drive?

In a previous post, I discussed the different ways that drivers can be paid, along with different classifications of drivers.

You can find it here Truck Driver's Salary.

This week, we will discuss:

  1. Commercial Driver Classifications of a CDL Drivers License.

  2. Review the different types of drivers.

  3. Discover the many different kinds of trucks, semis, tractors, and rigs.


Commercial Drivers License:

For this post we will consider Truck Drivers as Truck Drivers who have a CDL or Commercial Drivers License and can legally operate a Class A or Class B vehicle.

According to Georgia’s Department of Driver Services, a Class A CDL allows a licensed driver to operate a tractor trailer combination vehicle that exceeds 26,001 pounds and the unit being towed exceeds 10,000 pounds. A Class A driver may also drive a Class B and Class C vehicle with the proper endorsements.

A Class B licensed driver is allowed to operate a single vehicle weight 26,001 pounds and the unit being towed is less than 10,000 pounds.

For most states across America, a Commercial Driver's License should have the same requirements, but be sure to double check your state.


Truck Driver: General Classifications

A truck driver can be classified as a Yard Jockey or Yard Dog, a Local Driver, an LTL Driver, a Regional Driver, or Over the Road Driver.

A Yard Jockey or Yard Dog moves trailers all day, from dock doors to staging areas.

A local Driver delivers loads within 100 air miles of their home terminal.

An LTL Driver delivers less than a truck load shipment, delivering to as many as 30 different

customers from one trailer. They may be local, regional, or over the road.

A Regional Truck Driver delivers loads within a certain region, such as the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, and other designated areas. They are generally home within 2-3 days or every weekend.

An Over the Road Truck Driver delivers loads all across the country, many times not coming home for weeks at a time. Some Over the Road Drivers consider their truck home.


Different Kinds of Trucks, Semis, Tractors, and Rigs

Within the category of commercial vehicles, are several sub categories.


Medium Duty Trucks

Medium duty trucks can fall in the general category of Class B qualified vehicles, but a Class A driver is qualified to drive a medium duty truck also.

A medium duty truck is defined in the U.S. by weighing between 14,001 and 26,000 lbs.

Medium Duty Truck, Class A, Class B, moving van
Day Cab Box Truck

Medium duty trucks can be a box truck, similar to a Uhaul, but bigger and requiring a CDL.

Flatbed truck, tow truck,
Class B Flatbed Truck

A flatbed truck, think of a tow truck with a bed on the back.

Class B Dump Truck, Rocks, Truck Day Cab,
Class B Day Cab Dump Truck

Some dump trucks are considered a Class B truck while others are consider a Class A.

Even some Fire Trucks fall in the medium duty trucks category, while others are large enough to need a Class A CDL.

Weight is a determining factor.


Heavy Duty Trucks

Heavy duty trucks require a Class A CDL to operate. They weigh between 26,001 lbs to over 33,000 lbs.


Yard Jockey or Yard Dog Truck

Among the many types of heavy duty trucks is the yard jockey or yard dog truck. This truck has a steer axle and a single drive axle, with a door behind the two seats. The door provides easy access for the driver to attach airlines to a trailer. A yard dog truck usually has a hydraulic lift, that raises the trailer up high enough that the driver does not need to raise or lower the landing gear, saving a great deal of time.

Click here to see a yard jockey or yard dog truck on Pinterest.


Day Cab

A day cab is a truck that does not have a sleeper or a bed behind the driver's seat. Day cabs make a driver’s job easier when delivering around town, backing into tight spots, and navigating the congested city traffic.

If a driver needs to take a 10 hour break and is driving a day cab, they will need to get a motel to sleep in.

Notice that there is no bed in a day cab.

A day cab can have a single drive axle, sometimes called a single screw or it can have a double drive axle or double screw. If the truck has only one axle it is not allowed to haul as much weight.

The typical weight distribution is 12,000 lbs on the steer tires, 17,000 lbs on each of the drive axles, and 17,000 lbs on each of the trailer axles, up to two axles.

So for a day cab with a single drive tire, the weight distribution would be 12,000 lbs on the steer tires, 17,000 on the drive axle, and depending on what type of trailer, 17,000 lbs on each axle of the trailer, for a total gross weight of 63,000 lbs.

If the truck has a double axle, it can carried 12,000 on the steer tires, 34,000 on the drives, and 34,000 on the trailer for a total gross weight of 80,000 lbs.

Weights on each axle are set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Sleeper Truck

A sleeper truck is similar to a day cab, but has an added compartment behind the driver's seat, that contains a bed.

A sleeper can have a bed, refrigerator, television, and storage compartments; or it can just have enough room for a twin size mattress.

When sleeper trucks first appeared, they had very little room for a bed. The sleeper was just a place for a driver to lay their head and catch a nap. Over time, sleeper trucks have expanded, providing more room, both front to back, and bottom to top.

These days many sleeper trucks have a double bunk.

But the top bunk is not for sleeping while the truck is moving.

A sleeper truck can be further classified into a cab over or conventional cab.

It is rare to see a cabover these days, but it was the first truck I ever drove. I had to climb up steps made into the side of the truck just to get in. I sat over the motor, with the gear shift in the middle of the seats. I had to crawl into the sleeper. There was no room to stand up anywhere in that truck. To check the oil and work on the motor the entire cab of the truck had to be raised, including the driver’s seat and the bed. As I drove down the road, I had a nice view of the road, there was no motor sitting out in front of me, this made backing easier.

Click on the picture to see more on Pinterest.

Conventional trucks were around back then, every driver wanted to drive one! A conventional truck is the most common kind of truck on the road today. It is much easier to reach the motor and check the oil, you just unlatch the hood, and raise it up. The driver’s seat and the bunk stay where they were.

Because the weight distribution a conventional tractor rides much better than a cab over.

Driving conventional truck with the motor in front of the driver, can obstruct the driver's view. With an extended hood, drivers need to take into consideration the added length. With an extended hood, backing can be more difficult, but like with anything the more you practice the easier it gets.


Custom Trucks

Then there are those tractors that are custom designed. Similar to a small camper, these trucks can have a small shower and even a toilet. With all the extra length behind the driver the truck does not turn easily or back up without a lot of pulling up. Most of the time the driver is the owner and hauls specialty freight. Most drivers dream of having one of these trucks.

Click here to see Custom Trucks on Pinterest.

If you know of others I didn't mention, please leave a comment below.

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