How Much Does a Semi-Truck Weigh?

The average car weighs 2,500 to 4,200 pounds, while an SUV can range from 3,500 to more than 6,000 pounds. By comparison, a semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when hauling a fully loaded trailer. This weight disparity is one of many factors that makes truck accidents so serious. 

Here’s an overview of the types of semi-trucks and semi-trailers, how much they weigh, and why it matters. 

How Much Do Semi-Trucks Weigh?

The weight of a semi-truck is its gross vehicle weight (GVW). This includes the weight of the tractor, trailer, and cargo plus any passengers, fuel, and accessories. 

The semi-truck cab itself, with no trailer attached, usually weighs about 10,000 to 25,000 pounds. An empty trailer can weigh 3,000 to 14,000 pounds or more, depending on the trailer. That means a semi-truck with an empty trailer can weigh up to 35,000 pounds. This is called the unladen weight. 

Fully loaded, a tractor-trailer can have a laden weight of up to 80,000 pounds. This is the maximum weight capacity allowed by United States Code 127

To put this into perspective, even a semi-truck cab with no trailer weighs at least twice as much as a car or SUV, and up to four times as much as a small car. When fully loaded, a tractor-trailer can weigh about 20 times as much as the average car!

Semi-Truck and Semi-Trailer Types

Truck terminology can be confusing, and many terms are used incorrectly. You may hear semi-trucks referred to as big rigs, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, or just semis. A tractor-trailer or 18-wheeler refers to a semi-truck with a trailer attached. The truck itself, or just the front portion without a trailer, is a semi-truck. 

Truck Classes

Understanding truck classes and types of trailers helps put semi-truck weights into perspective. 

Trucks are sorted into many classes depending on their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or maximum weight. The lightest classes include light trucks and full-size pickup trucks. Classes four to six include medium-duty trucks with a GVWR of 14,000 to 26,000 pounds. 

Semi-trucks fall under the heavy-duty truck classification (classes seven and eight). Class seven trucks include garbage trucks and city transit buses. Class eight trucks are the heaviest and include tractor-trailers and dump trucks. Anything with a GVWR of 33,000 pounds or more is a class eight truck. 

Types of Semi-Trailers

Semi-trucks can pull a wide variety of semi-trailers which haul the actual load. These trailers are detachable from the semi-truck. Common examples of semi-trailers include: 

  • Flatbed trailers. These trailers are flat and open to haul secured cargo loads. 
  • Refrigerated or reefer trailers. These trailers haul cargo that needs to be refrigerated, like fresh and frozen food. 
  • Conestoga trailers. These trailers are open with a full-length tarp. 
  • Dry vans. These are standard rectangular shipping containers. 
  • Intermodal trailers. This is one of the most common types of semi-trailers used for long-distance transportation. They can hold different container types like tanks and dry storage containers. 
  • Stretch double-drop trailers. These trailers can be extended for long and oversized loads. 
  • Tanker trailers. These trailers have tanks to haul a large volume of gas or liquid. 

A large flatbed trailer has an average empty weight of 3,000 pounds and an average towing capacity of 7,400 pounds, but may be rated for up to 26,000 pounds. Standard dry vans or box trailers, which you will see most often on the highway, weigh around 14,000 pounds empty. They have a maximum capacity of 65,000 pounds.

Why Weight Matters in a Collision

The heavy weight of semi-trucks is one of the reasons they have such a long stopping distance. As the weight load increases, trucks also accelerate faster downhill. This makes it harder for trucks to avoid an accident, especially when other motorists underestimate how much space they need to stop. 

Larger vehicles are safer in a crash than smaller vehicles. In a crash, the heavier vehicle pushes the lighter vehicle backward. Less force is put on the occupants in a truck and more force is exerted on people in the lighter passenger vehicle. About 71% of people hurt and 72% of people killed in truck accidents are the occupants in the passenger vehicle, not the truck. If you have been seriously hurt in an accident with a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and other losses, including your pain and suffering. Truck accident cases are often complex, given the serious injuries they cause and the complexity of commercial insurance policies and trucking regulations. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you hold the negligent driver accountable and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Contact the Arizona Truck Accident Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Phoenix, AZ, and need legal help, contact our Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers

1221 E Osborn Rd. Suite 201
Phoenix, AZ 85014
(602) 595-5559