All About Semi-Trucks

all about semi trucks, what is a semi truck

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Do you have any childhood memories of going on road trips with your family? If so, you probably remember many sights and sounds when hitting the road. These include talking to your parents, listening to music, and seeing beautiful places and historical landmarks forever that are ingrained in your memory. During the commutes, there was a good chance that you also saw a 70-foot-long technological marvel with 18 wheels on the highway, and you mimicked pulling the truck horn so the driver would give you a friendly honk. This, of course, is a semi-truck, and it is pretty impressive to kids of all ages. And why wouldn’t it be? A semi-truck is the most prominent vehicle on the road and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

You know about semi-trucks if you run a trucking business or are an owner-operator. That said, there might be information that you aren’t familiar with. Balboa Capital is a top-rated small business lender that offers semi-truck financing. Therefore, we thought it would benefit our readers to feature a blog post with interesting facts, information, and trends relating to semi-trucks.

What is a semi-truck?

A semi-truck is an oversized freight truck that is comprised of a tractor and a trailer. For this reason, it is also called a tractor-trailer by many people in the trucking industry. Other names used interchangeably for semi-trucks are big rigs, 18-wheelers, truck trailers, and semi-tractor-trailers. The tractor can operate without the trailer, but the trailer can’t run on its own because it lacks an engine.

For the trailer to move, it needs to be attached to the tractor’s fifth wheel and locked into place by a heavy kingpin that is adequately greased. Next, electrical components and airlines are connected from the tractor to the trailer. These enable the lights and brakes to work correctly.

When was the semi invented?

The history of the semi-truck dates back to 1898 when a motor carriage vehicle maker named Alexander Winton invented a large truck to transport cars to his customers. That way, people who purchased carriage cars could get them delivered to their front door in a pristine state without any miles being put on them. Mr. Winton’s company was called Winton Motor Carriage Company, located in Cleveland, Ohio. Other automobile manufacturers took notice of this forward-thinking and customer-first method of transporting vehicles, and many bought transport trucks from Mr. Winton.

In the years that followed, similar transport truck designs were introduced. In 1914, August Fruehauf, a blacksmith from Detroit, Michigan, created a trailer for his small boat. Several historical books and websites credit Mr. Fruehauf with coining the phrase “semi-trailer” because that is what he called the trailer. In 1918, John Endebrock designed and built the “trailmobile,” a small trailer that could be attached to a Ford Model T. Additional innovations include the tandem axle, six-wheel truck in 1934, the all-aluminum cab in 1942, and the overhead sleeper cab in 1953.

Paving the road to success.

The demand for large freight trucks surged as the number of paved roads in the United States increased. Then, in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which outlined detailed plans for our nation’s interstate highway system. The primary purpose was to provide Americans with interconnected highways to drive from one destination to another without stop signs or stop lights.

This was a monumental moment for the general public and the trucking industry. As a result, truck drivers could cover long stretches of highways without interruption and deliver goods faster than ever. According to the Federal Highway Administration, our nation’s semi-truck drivers drive over 240 billion miles yearly. That translates to a single truck traveling between 45,000 and 100,000 miles annually. How impressive is that! Plus, truck load boards are being used to connect owner-operators and trucking companies with freight brokers and shippers, resulting in even greater efficiency for all parties.

Types of Semi-Trucks.

Many different types of semi-trucks are used in various industries and regions. These trucks vary in size, weight, power, fuel type, and more. They are essential because they provide an efficient way to transport all kinds of goods over long distances. They are also the backbone of our nation’s transportation industry. Today, 73% of all goods in the United States are transported via freight trucks, and over 11 billion tons of goods were transported on trucks last year alone.

Dry van trailers

These are fully enclosed, which helps protect the cargo from sunlight, rain, wind, and other weather-related elements that may be present during transport.

Flatbed trailers

As the name indicates, this type of trailer is flat and has no sidewalls or roof. It is used to haul cargo that is too big for a traditional semi or that does not need protection from outside elements.

Refrigerated trailers

These have long been the trailer of choice for milk, beef, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and other goods that need to be temperature-controlled during transit.

Semi-truck configurations.

Next, truck drivers have options regarding how a semi-truck is configured based on the length of the hauls. The two main types are day cabs and sleepers. A day cab is typically used for smaller hauls that don’t require the drivers to sleep at the end of their shifts. Instead, drivers get to return home on the same day that they arrive at their intended destinations, be it a warehouse, distribution center, or airport.

On the other hand, a sleeper cab is for over-the-road hauls that last days or even weeks. The tractor is outfitted with a built-in sleeping area for the driver to get some much-needed shuteye after a full day on the road. Sleeper cabs can be customized to the driver’s needs and preferences to allow for maximum comfort and make them feel right at home, even though they are far from it. Internet ports, DVD players, microwaves, refrigerators, and coffee machines are some amenities that make sleeper cabs a home on the road.

How much does a semi-truck cost?

Semi-trucks don’t come cheap. Used trucks range between $40,000 and $125,000, and new trucks cost upwards of $150,000. High-end models can easily run $225,000 or more. The cost will increase with any amenities or add-ons. It’s not surprising that these vehicles are so expensive, considering the amount of power they pack and the fact that they can transport heavy loads over long distances. Private parties and commercial truck dealers sell semi-trucks, and they are also listed on many auction sites that take place throughout the year. Due to their high prices, many trucking businesses and owner-operators opt to finance a semi-truck instead of buying it outright.

Fun facts about semi-trucks.

Here are some facts that you might be familiar with and that make good talking points next time you are chit-chatting with other truck drivers.

  • They last between 10 and 15 years.
  • The average semi-truck engine weighs 3,000 pounds, which is how much a small car weighs.
  • A sizeable number of trucks will surpass the 1 million mile mark.
  • They take about 400 feet to come to a complete stop when driving at 65 MPH.
  • The average semi uses 22,000 gallons of fuel each year.
  • They can travel 2,000 miles on a full diesel tank (based on a 300-gallon tank).
  • They are available in either manual or manual transmissions.
  • They can have between 10 and 18 gears.
  • They need between 50-55 feet to complete a safe U-turn.
  • One-third of all semi-trucks are registered in just three states: California, Florida, and Texas.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.