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This article is about cargo transport vehicles. For other uses, see Truck (disambiguation).
"Lorry" redirects here. For other uses, see Lorry (disambiguation).
Truck carrying a large load in India

A truck (US, CA, AU, NZ) or lorry (UK and Ireland) is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile. Commercial trucks can be very large and powerful, and may be configured to mount specialized equipment, such as in the case of fire trucks and concrete mixers and suction excavators. Modern trucks are largely powered by diesel engines exclusively, although small to medium size trucks with gasoline engines exist in America. In the European Union vehicles with a gross combination mass of up to 3,500 kilograms (7,716 lb) are known as light commercial vehicles, and those over as large goods vehicles.



The word "truck" might come from a back-formation of "truckle" with the meaning "small wheel", "pulley", from Middle English trokell, in turn from Latin trochlea. Another explanation is that it comes from Latin trochus with the meaning of "iron hoop". In turn, both go back to Greek trokhos (τροχός) meaning "wheel" from trekhein (τρέχειν, "to run"). The first known usage of "truck" was in 1611 when it referred to the small strong wheels on ships' cannon carriages. In its extended usage it came to refer to carts for carrying heavy loads, a meaning known since 1771. With the meaning of "motor-powered load carrier", it has been in usage since 1930, shortened from "motor truck", which dates back to 1916.[1][2]

"Lorry" has a more uncertain origin, but probably has its roots in the railway industry, where the word is known to have been used in 1838 to refer to a type of truck (a freight car as in British usage, not a bogie as in the American), specifically a large flat wagon. It probably derives from the verb lurry (to pull, tug) of uncertain origin. With the meaning of "self-propelled vehicle for carrying goods" it has been in usage since 1911.[3][4]

Before that, the word "lorry" was used for a sort of big horse-drawn goods wagon.

International variance[edit]

ALMA antenna transporters are huge vehicles that drive on 28 tires, are 10 meters wide, 20 meters long and 6 meters high, weigh 130 tonnes, and have as much horsepower as two Formula 1 engines, although with many times as much torque.[5]
For more details on this topic, see List of truck types.

In the United States, Canada, and the Philippines "truck" is usually reserved for commercial vehicles larger than normal cars, and includes pickups and other vehicles having an open load bed. In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the word "truck" is mostly reserved for larger vehicles; in Australia and New Zealand, a pickup truck is usually called a ute (short for "utility"), while in South Africa it is called a bakkie (Afrikaans: "small open container"). In the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Ireland and Hong Kong lorry is used instead of truck, but only for the medium and heavy types.

In American English, the word "truck" is often preceded by a word describing the type of vehicle, such as a "tanker truck". In British English these would be referred to as a "tanker" or "petrol tanker".

In Australia and New Zealand, the term ute (short for coupé utility) is used to describe a pickup truck with an open cargo carrying space but a front similar to a passenger car, and which requires only a passenger car licence to drive. The concept was developed in 1933 by Lewis Bandt of the Ford Motor Company in Geelong following a request from a Gippsland farmer's wife for a vehicle that they could go to church in on Sunday without getting wet and also use to take the pigs to market on Monday.[6]


Inside a Mack truck

In the United States, a commercial driver's license is required to drive any type of commercial vehicle weighing 26,001 lb (11,794 kg) or more.[7]

The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe now have common, yet complex rules (see European driving licence). As an overview, to drive a vehicle weighing more than 7,500 kilograms (16,535 lb) for commercial purposes requires a specialist licence (the type varies depending on the use of the vehicle and number of seats). For licences first acquired after 1997, that weight was reduced to 3,500 kilograms (7,716 lb), not including trailers.

In Australia, a truck driver's license is required for any motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) exceeding 4,500 kilograms (9,921 lb). The motor vehicles classes are further expanded as:

  • LR: Light rigid: a rigid vehicle with a GVM of more than 4,500 kilograms (9,921 lb) but not more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb). Any towed trailer must not weigh more than 9,000 kilograms (19,842 lb) GVM.
  • MR: Medium rigid: a rigid vehicle with 2 axles and a GVM of more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb). Any towed trailer must not weigh more than 9,000 kilograms (19,842 lb) GVM. Also includes vehicles in class LR.
  • HR: Heavy Rigid: a rigid vehicle with three or more axles and a GVM of more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb)). Any towed trailer must not weigh more than 9,000 kilograms (19,842 lb)) GVM. Also includes articulated buses and vehicles in class MR.
  • HC: Heavy Combination, a typical prime mover plus semi-trailer combination.
  • MC: Multi Combination e.g., B Doubles/road trains.

There is also a heavy vehicle transmission condition for a license class HR, HC, or MC test passed in a vehicle fitted with an automatic or synchromesh transmission, a driver’s license will be restricted to vehicles of that class fitted with a synchromesh or automatic transmission. To have the condition removed, a person needs to pass a practical driving test in a vehicle with non-synchromesh transmission (constant mesh or crash box).[8][9]

In 2006 the US trucking industry employed 1.8 million drivers of heavy trucks.[10] There are around 5 million truck drivers in India.[11]

Anatomy of a truck[edit]

Scania R470 flat nose truck

Almost all trucks share a common construction: they are made of a chassis, a cab, an area for placing cargo or equipment, axles, suspension and roadwheels, an engine and a drivetrain. Pneumatic, hydraulic, water, and electrical systems may also be present. Many also tow one or more trailers or semi-trailers.


The cab is an enclosed space where the driver is seated. A "sleeper" is a compartment attached to the cab where the driver can rest while not driving, sometimes seen in semi-trailer trucks.

There are several possible cab configurations:

  • "Cab over engine" (COE) or "flat nose"; where the driver is seated above the front axle and the engine. This design is almost ubiquitous in Europe, where overall truck lengths are strictly regulated, but also widely used in the rest of the world as well. They were common in North America, but lost prominence when permitted length was extended in the early 1980s. To reach the engine, the whole cab tilts forward, earning this design the name of "tilt-cab". This type of cab is especially suited to the delivery conditions in Europe where many roads follow the layout of much more ancient paths and trackways which require the additional turning capability given by the short wheelbase of the cab over engine type. The COE design was invented by Viktor Schreckengost.[12]
  • Conventional cabs are the most common in North America and Australia, and are known in the UK as "American cabs" and in the Netherlands as "torpedo cabs". The driver is seated behind the engine, as in most passenger cars or pickup trucks. Conventionals are further divided into large car and aerodynamic designs. A "large car" or "long nose" is a conventional truck with a long (6-to-8-foot or 1.8-to-2.4-metre or more) hood. "Aerodynamic" cabs are very streamlined, with a sloped hood and other features to lower drag.
  • Cab beside engine designs also exist, but are rather rare and are mainly used inside shipping yards, or other specialist uses that require the vehicle to carry long loads such as pipes, metal rods, flat iron and other construction materials. This type is often custom made from a regular cabover truck that gets the upper half of its cab removed on the passenger side and replaced by an extended section of the bed.

A further step from this is the side loading forklift that can be described as a specially fabricated vehicle with the same properties as a truck of this type, in addition to the ability to pick up its own load.


Cummins ISB 6.7L medium duty truck diesel engine

The oldest truck was built in 1896 by Gottlieb Daimler.[13] Most small trucks such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs) or pickups, and even light medium-duty trucks in North America and Russia will use gasoline engines (petrol engines), but many diesel engined models are now being produced. Most of the heavier trucks use four stroke diesel engine with a turbocharger and aftercooler. Huge off-highway trucks use locomotive-type engines such as a V12 Detroit Diesel two stroke engine. Diesel engines are becoming the engine of choice for trucks ranging from class 3 to 8 GVWs.

North American manufactured highway trucks often use an engine built by a third party, such as CAT, Cummins, or Detroit Diesel, but both Mack and Navistar offer their own engines.[14][15][citation needed]

In the European Union, all new lorry engines must comply with Euro 5 emission regulations.


A truck rear suspension and drive axles overview
Eaton Roadranger 18 speed "crash box" with automated gearshift

Small trucks use the same type of transmissions as almost all cars, having either an automatic transmission or a manual transmission with synchromesh (synchronizers). Bigger trucks often use manual transmissions without synchronizers, saving bulk and weight, although synchromesh transmissions are used in larger trucks as well. Transmissions without synchronizers, known as "crash boxes", require double-clutching for each shift, (which can lead to repetitive motion injuries), or a technique known colloquially as "floating", a method of changing gears which doesn't use the clutch, except for starts and stops, due to the physical effort of double clutching, especially with non power assisted clutches, faster shifts, and less clutch wear.

Double-clutching allows the driver to control the engine and transmission revolutions to synchronize, so that a smooth shift can be made; for example, when upshifting, the accelerator pedal is released and the clutch pedal is depressed while the gear lever is moved into neutral, the clutch pedal is then released and quickly pushed down again while the gear lever is moved to the next higher gear. Finally, the clutch pedal is released and the accelerator pedal pushed down to obtain required engine speed. Although this is a relatively fast movement, perhaps a second or so while transmission is in neutral, it allows the engine speed to drop and synchronize engine and transmission revolutions relative to the road speed. Downshifting is performed in a similar fashion, except the engine speed is now required to increase (while transmission is in neutral) just the right amount in order to achieve the synchronization for a smooth, non-collision gear change. "Skip changing" is also widely used; in principle operation is the same as double-clutching, but it requires neutral be held slightly longer than a single-gear change.

Common North American setups include 9, 10, 13, 15, and 18 speeds. Automatic and semi-automatic transmissions for heavy trucks are becoming more and more common, due to advances both in transmission and engine power. In Europe, 8, 10, 12 and 16 gears are common on larger trucks with manual transmission, while automatic or semi-automatic transmissions would have anything from 5 to 12 gears. Almost all heavy truck transmissions are of the "range and split" (double H shift pattern) type, where range change and so‑called half gears or splits are air operated and always preselected before the main gear selection.


A truck rear frame (chassis) section view

A truck frame consists of two parallel boxed (tubular) or C‑shaped rails, or beams, held together by crossmembers. These frames are referred to as ladder frames due to their resemblance to a ladder if tipped on end. The rails consist of a tall vertical section (two if boxed) and two shorter horizontal flanges. The height of the vertical section provides opposition to vertical flex when weight is applied to the top of the frame (beam resistance). Though typically flat the whole length on heavy duty trucks, the rails may sometimes be tapered or arched for clearance around the engine or over the axles. The holes in rails are used either for mounting vehicle components and running wires and hoses, or measuring and adjusting the orientation of the rails at the factory or repair shop.

The frame is almost always made of steel, but can be made (whole or in part) of aluminum for a lighter weight. A tow bar may be found attached at one or both ends, but heavy trucks almost always make use of a fifth wheel hitch.[citation needed]

Environmental effects[edit]

See also: Diesel exhaust
DAF tractor with an auto-transport semi-trailer carrying Škoda Octavia cars in Cardiff, Wales

Trucks contribute to air, noise, and water pollution similarly to automobiles. Trucks may emit lower air pollution emissions than cars per equivalent vehicle mass, although the absolute level per vehicle distance traveled is higher, and diesel particulate matter is especially problematic for health.[16] With respect to noise pollution, trucks emit considerably higher sound levels at all speeds compared to typical car; this contrast is particularly strong with heavy-duty trucks.[17] There are several aspects of truck operations that contribute to the overall sound that is emitted. Continuous sounds are those from tires rolling on the roadway, and the constant hum of their diesel engines at highway speeds. Less frequent noises, but perhaps more noticeable, are things like the repeated sharp-pitched whistle of a turbocharger on acceleration, or the abrupt blare of an exhaust brake retarder when traversing a downgrade. There has been noise regulation put in place to help control where and when the use of engine braking retarders are allowed.

Concerns have been raised about the effect of trucking on the environment, particularly as part of the debate on global warming. In the period from 1990 to 2003, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation sources increased by 20%, despite improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency.[18]

Volvo's subsidiary Renault Magnum truck.

In 2005, transportation accounted for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emission, increasing faster than any other sector.[19]

Between 1985 and 2004, in the U.S., energy consumption in freight transportation grew nearly 53%, while the number of ton-miles carried increased only 43%.[20]

According to a 1995 U.S. government estimate, the energy cost of carrying one ton of freight a distance of one kilometer averages 337 kJ for water, 221 kJ for rail, 2,000 kJ for trucks, and nearly 13,000 kJ for air transport.[21] Many environmental organizations favor laws and incentives to encourage the switch from road to rail, especially in Europe.[22]

The European Parliament is moving to ensure that charges on heavy-goods vehicles should be based in part on the air and noise pollution they produce and the congestion they cause, according to legislation approved by the Transport Committee.[23] The Eurovignette scheme has been proposed, whereby new charges would be potentially levied against things such as noise and air pollution and also weight related damages from the lorries themselves.[24]

Sales and sales issues[edit]

Truck market worldwide[edit]

Largest truck manufacturers in the world as of 2010, over 16 tons GVW in 2010.[25]
Pos. Make Units
1 Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner Trucks, Sterling Trucks, Unimog, Western Star, Fuso, BharatBenz) 478,535[citation needed]
2 Volvo Group (Volvo, Mack, Renault, UD Nissan Diesel) 438,954[citation needed]
3 Dongfeng Motor 341,875
4 Volkswagen Group (Scania, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, MAN) 203,102
5 Tata Group (Tata Motors, Daewoo Commercial Vehicle) 159,237
6 Hyundai Kia Automotive Group (Hyundai) 157,781[citation needed]
7 Toyota Group (Hino Motors, Isuzu) 129,107
8 Fiat Group (Iveco, Magirus, Astra, Seddon Atkinson, Yuejin) 127,542
9 PACCAR (DAF Trucks, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Leyland Trucks) 126,960

Largest truck manufacturers in the world as of 2011[26]

Pos makes units
1 Isuzu 447,359
2 Volvo Group (Volvo, Mack, Renault, UD Nissan Diesel) 300,494
3 Toyota Group (Hino Motors, Toyota) 214,375
4 Tata Group (Tata Motors, Daewoo Commercial Vehicle) 176,584
5 PACCAR (DAF Trucks, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Leyland Trucks) 121,235
6 Navistar International (Mahindra Navistar) 79,362
7 Fiat Industrial (Iveco, Irisbus, Astra) 67,170
8 Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner Trucks, Unimog, Western Star, Fuso, BharatBenz) 70,726
9 Ford 66,790
10 Ashok Leyland 65,280
11 Nissan 51,811
12 GAZ 29,779

Largest truck manufacturers in the world as of 2012, by Annual reports

Pos makes units
1 Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner Trucks, Unimog, Western Star, Fuso, BharatBenz) 461,954[27]
2 Volvo Group (Volvo, Mack, Renault, UD Nissan Diesel) 224,000[28]
3 Volkswagen Group (Scania, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, MAN) 203,102[29]

Comparison by country[edit]

Showing semi-tractor, large rigid, and medium rigid by the same manufacturer when possible.


Operations issues[edit]

Commercial insurance[edit]

Primary liability insurance coverage protects the truck from damage or injuries to other people as a result of a truck accident. This truck insurance coverage is mandated by U.S. state and federal agencies, and proof of coverage is required to be sent to them. Interstate trucks in the U.S. are required to have a minimum of $75,000 in liability insurance. This includes motor carriers operating vehicles with a gross weight rating in excess of 10,000 lbs (which transport non-hazardous materials). All motor carriers operating vehicles transporting materials classified as hazardous, and which have a gross weight rating in excess of 10,000 lbs must have a minimum of $1,000,000 in liability insurance. All motor carriers operating vehicles such as tanks or hopper-type cargo vehicles with a capacity in excess of 3,500 water gallons must have a minimum of $5,000,000 in liability insurance. Pricing is dependent on region, driving records, and history of the trucking operation.

Motor truck cargo insurance protects the transporter for his responsibility in the event of damaged or lost freight. The policy is purchased with a maximum load limit per vehicle. Cargo insurance coverage limits can range from $10,000 to $100,000 or more. Pricing for this insurance is mainly dependent on the type of cargo being hauled.

Trucking accidents[edit]

Trucking accident at Elst (Netherlands) 2012-03-23

In 2002 and 2004, there were over 5,000 fatalities related to trucking accidents in the United States. The trucking industry has since made significant efforts in increasing safety regulations. In 2008 the industry had successfully lowered the fatality rate to just over 4,000 deaths. But trucking accidents are still an issue that causes thousands of deaths and injuries each year. Approximately 6,000 trucking accident fatalities occur annually in the United States. Fatalities are not the only issue caused by trucking accidents. Here are some of the environmental issues that arise with trucking accidents:

  • 14.4% of trucking accidents cause cargo to spill
  • 6.5% cause open flames

The USDOT 2009 Large Trucks in Fatal Crashes with Passenger Vehicles with Driver-Related Factors figures show that in 22% of crashes the large truck driver was a factor, while 80.5% of passenger vehicle drivers were. alcohol or other drugs among heavy truck drivers were a factor in .31% of crashes, among passenger vehicle drivers they were a factor in 11.75% of crashes. [30]

Truck shows[edit]

In the UK, three truck shows are popular - Shropshire Truck Show in Oswestry Showground during May, The UK Truck Show held in June at Santa Pod Raceway, and FIA European Drag Racing Championships from the home of European Drag-Racing. The UK Truck Show features drag-racing with 6-tonne trucks from the British Truck Racing Association, plus other diesel-powered entertainment.

In Mexico, the ANPACT Autotransporte - Truck Show is well known as one of the biggest of the region; 2013 edition features trucker celebrity Lisa Kelly.

Truck shows provide operators with an opportunity to win awards for their trucks.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Truck" Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  2. ^ "Truck" Online Etymology Dictionary 2010-09-16
  3. ^ "Lorry" Online Etymology Dictionary 2010-09-16
  4. ^ "Lorry" Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  5. ^ "An ALMA Antenna on the Move". ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "The First Ute". ABC – Radio Australia. Retrieved 2012-06-15. 
  7. ^ "Commercial Drivers License". National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  8. ^ Australian driving license classifications
  9. ^ License class information
  10. ^ "Truck Drivers and Drivers/Sales Workers". Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  11. ^ "Indian Truckers Strike to Protest Against Fuel Price Hike". Deutsche Welle. July 2, 2008.
  12. ^ Bernstein, Adam (2008-01-29). "Viktor Schreckengost; Designed Bicycles, Dinnerware and More". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  13. ^ "Truck History". About.com. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  14. ^ Operators Handbook-DM, DMM, U Series. Mack Trucks. 1988. pp. 62–64. 
  15. ^ "Brochures Page". Trucks. Navistar. 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  16. ^ "Heavy-Duty Truck and Bus Engines". dieselnet.com. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  17. ^ C. Michael Hogan (1973). "Analysis of highway noise". Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 387–392. doi:10.1007/BF00159677. 
  18. ^ "U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Energy Use by Sector". United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  19. ^ "Trends in Greenhouse Gas Emissions" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. Archived from the original on 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  20. ^ "Energy Intensity Indicators". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  21. ^ "U.S. Domestic Freight Transportation". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  22. ^ "How Government policy can realize rail freight’s role in reducing carbon emissions". FreightOnRail.org.uk. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  23. ^ MEPs push for green tolls Last retrieved 11-02-09
  24. ^ European Parliament discuss Eurovignette scheme Last retrieved 10-02-09
  25. ^ World ranking 2010
  26. ^ World ranking 2011
  27. ^ http://www.daimler.com/Projects/c2c/channel/documents/2287152_Daimler_Annual_Report_2012.pdf
  28. ^ http://www3.volvo.com/investors/finrep/ar12/ar_2012_eng.pdf
  29. ^ http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/info_center/en/publications/2013/03/Y_2012_e.bin.html/binarystorageitem/file/GB+2012_e.pdf
  30. ^ "Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2009". Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 2011. pp. Table 1, 65, 68, 69. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 

External links[edit]

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