Types of Semi Trucks & How to Buy the Right One for Your Business

The Transwest Team
The Transwest Team
Feb 01, 2021
Semi trucks lined up

At Transwest, we know how difficult it can be to determine which trucks are best for your fleet. With a quality inventory of semi-trucks and trailers, we are here to ensure that your purchasing process is efficient and that you find the right truck for your needs. 

Before you begin researching and prior to making a final choice, it's important to understand what options are available. From the cab type to the trailer being towed, there's a lot to know.

The following guide will help you learn more about the types of semi-trucks available on the market, as well as information on how to buy the right one for your business. By the end, you should feel confident in your ability to choose the right vehicles for your business’ fleet. 

Common Semi-Trucks

Before exploring the types of semi-trucks available, it is important to establish an understanding of what the term “semi-truck” encompasses. A semi-truck is a combination of two components.

First, there's the tractor unit that provides the power. The tractor is also where the truck’s cab is located.

The second component of a semi-truck is one or more trailers attached to the tractor. These trailers can be used to haul everything from heavy equipment to refrigerated goods, depending on the style of the unit. 

To begin, the following will walk you through common types of semi-trucks: 

Day Cabs

A day cab is a basic semi-truck that contains an area for a driver and a passenger to sit and is often equipped with rear windows. These rear windows make backing up and navigating the day cab easier than cabs with sleeping quarters.

Day cabs are often used for shorter trips that do not require the driver to be gone overnight. With their shorter body, they are easier to drive in tight areas and are ideal for simple navigation. Almost any trailer style can be attached to a day cab, making this a versatile tractor type.

Sleeper Trucks

For those who do over the road hauling, a sleeper truck is a great choice. These semi-trucks are designed with built-in sleeping quarters and additional amenities. Similar to a day cab, the front of the tractor contains the driver and passenger seats. However, in a sleeper truck, the rest of the cabin is dedicated to living quarters.

Sleeper tractors are available in a wide array of sizes and styles. You can opt for a simple version with a basic sleeping area or a much more elaborate style with a full RV set up. Sleeper trucks can be hooked up to a variety of trailer styles, most often utilized in conjunction with long hauling. 

Custom Haulers

For those who need a specialized tractor, a custom hauler is a great choice. Custom haulers are versatile trucks that are customized to meet the needs of your business. You can purchase a hauler with varying towing capabilities, as well as with any extras you desire. If you want to add sleeping quarters to a custom hauler, you can. 

The benefit of a custom hauler is that it is equipped with some of the most powerful engines on the market. These haulers can reliably transport goods across long distances and are often chosen for oversize loads. 

Semi-Trailer Types and Their Uses

Attached to the semi-tractor is one or more trailers. These trailers come in numerous sizes and styles, with a variety of specialized trailers available for hauling distinct goods. The following is a list of common semi-trailer types and their uses:

  • Belt: A belt trailer is a specialized style of a self-unloading trailer. Utilizing a rubber conveyor belt that runs down the length of the trailer, a belt trailer grabs onto and unloads cargo. This makes it possible for a driver to unload the entire trailer from the cab of the truck. 
  • Drop Deck: Also referred to as a step-deck trailer, a drop deck trailer contains a platform that is lower than the normal trailer height. This makes it ideal for hauling cargo that would exceed the legal height limit when loaded onto a standard trailer. 
  • Dump: Utilizing a hydraulic system, a dump trailer can lift the trailer bed up and down, allowing materials to be loaded and unloaded with ease. Dump trailers can be equipped with side dumps, end dumps, and even bottom dumps.  
  • Flatbed: One of the most common trailer types, a flatbed trailer can be used to haul almost any type of cargo. Available in a variety of lengths, flatbeds make it easy to haul items long distances.  
  • Grain Hopper: One specialized trailer type is the grain hopper. This trailer is designed to haul grain, with built-in equipment that makes it easy to load and unload grain. Additionally, grain hoppers are often equipped with specialized covers to ensure compliance with EPA regulations regarding the coverage of the load during transportation. 
  • Lowboy: Featuring a uniquely low profile, a lowboy trailer is a great fit for transporting vehicles, heavy machinery, and other oversize loads. 
  • Sliding Axle, Hydraulic Tail: Sliding axle and hydraulic tail trailers are designed to make loading and unloading equipment easier. With a lower load angle, these trailers are often equipped with a ramp to make the process even simpler.
  • Tank: From hauling fertilizers to transporting milk, tank trailers come in a variety of sizes and styles, each equipped with the necessary equipment to transport liquids safely.

These are only a few of the numerous semi-trailer options available on the market today. Pairing the right trailer with the right tractor makes hauling almost any cargo possible. 

Popular Semi-Truck Brands

Additionally, when shopping for a semi-truck, you will need to choose between a few standard manufacturers. The following are all popular semi-truck brands:

Freightliner

With the slogan “Trucks that mean business”, Freightliner is a trucking industry staple. Freightliner is highly esteemed for its quality trucks offering extreme durability, efficiency, and excellent fuel economy.

Western Star

Western Star is another clear industry leader. Starting in 1967, Western Star has been esteemed for its heavy-duty trucks capable of holding up in the roughest environments. From the logging industry to the coal mines, Western Star has earned a premium reputation in the trucking industry.

Autocar

Autocar designs a line of specialized semi-trucks, with a focus on leading innovation and technology. Autocar has been in business since 1897 and has become a trusted staple of the trucking industry. 

Choosing the Right Truck for Your Business

When choosing the right truck for your business, it comes down to a few key questions. What type of cab do you need? What do you need to haul? And, do you have a preferred manufacturer? 

At Transwest, we can assist you in answering all these questions and more. We will work with you to locate the ideal semi-truck from our quality inventory. Whether you need to purchase a single day cab or a fleet of semi-truck and trailer combinations, we're here to help.

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