How Much Does a Tractor Trailer Weigh? (w/Examples)
Tractor trailers, also known as semi trucks, are known for the giant trailers that tow behind them. The size and weight of the trailers are essential factors to consider when buying a semi-truck. Trailer weight is so important because of its effect on the truck’s efficiency and driver’s safety. You want to get a tractor-trailer with the perfect weight for what you intend to do. That said, how much does a tractor-trailer weigh?
The average empty tractors l trailer weighs about 30,000 pounds when combined with a semi-truck. However, the trailer alone weighs between 10,000 to 15,000 pounds. This weight category shows that even an empty tractor-trailer would weigh significantly more than a passenger vehicle. Note that the figures can slightly go higher or lower depending on type, brand, and model.
As with almost everything, tractor-trailers come in different shapes, weights, sizes, and carrying capacities. Each tractor-trailer type has unique features that either add to or reduce the average weights mentioned above.
The rest of this article will focus on explaining the most important information about tractor-trailer weight. We’ll also review some examples of tractor-trailers and their weights.
Is it Important to Know Your Tractor Trailer Weight?
The straightforward answer to the above question is yes! As you drive down the interstate, you’ll see workstations almost everywhere along your path. This shows how vital weight is for tractor-trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles.
One of the most significant reasons to know your tractor trailer weight is the impact of weight on roads and bridges. Another significant reason is the discrepancies in the tax imposed by the government in many regions.
There are also other self-oriented reasons why weighing trucks is important. We’ll unpack some of them below.
You want to know the weight of your tractor-trailer and its maximum weight capacity before loading. Why? Because underweight tractor-trailers could mean money left at the dock. Maximizing your load capacity ensures efficient hauling while increasing the number of full loads you’re able to make on each trip.
Every driver knows how difficult it can be to control an overloaded vehicle. Heavier vehicles make for more difficult stoppages, and brakes may even fail in some situations.
Unfortunately, victims hardly want to understand with drivers or trucking companies when accidents happen, especially if it’s due to an avoidable cause. Thus, they’ll typically resort to legal actions.
Detailed knowledge of your tractor trailer weight and maximum capacity can help you avoid many accidents.
Maintenance is so important that vehicle owners are typically required to know a thing or two about it, especially when dealing with heavy-duty vehicles. Trucks that routinely carry more weight often require more repairs and maintenance.
Most breakdowns would not take less than two to three hours to maintain. Take that out of the average time you have to work daily, and you’ll see that the day is almost gone. Besides, time wastage can add to your service cost and eat into the fleet’s bottom line.
Add that to the average of $400 to $600 a repair will cost, and you can see how bad it looks already. However, your knowledge of the weight capacity of your tractor-trailer can help you avoid all these. After all, it helps you know what to avoid and what to include in terms of weight.
4. Tickets & Penalties
One very obvious impact of weight is the possibility of penalties. Different states and regions set maximum load capacities for their roads and bridges. Exceeding these load capacities can attract penalties and more ticketing prices.
Some laws even permit the confiscation of your truck for similar offenses. You don’t want the loss that such time wastes will bring. Hence, the need to know your weight and stick to it.
Laden vs. Unladen Weight
There are two ways to measure the weight of a tractor-trailer.
The first and most popular measurements include the weight of the tractor and trailer combined. The figure you’ll get when you measure just these two are often called the semi’s unladen weight.
However, there’s a second way to measure (laden weight). Here, you’ll measure what the truck will weigh when fully loaded.
Note that the laden weight typically varies, depending on the type of load the truck will carry. For example, a truck loaded with empty water bottles weighs much less than a truck loaded with full water bottles. Semi-trucks typically have their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which signifies their maximum weight.
The GVWR covers the weight of trucks, passengers, fuel, cargo, and anything attached to the vehicle. The US federal law pegs the maximum laden weight for tractor-trailers at 80,000 pounds. Some heavier-duty trucks may have higher carrying capacity, but it remains illegal to go beyond 80,000 pounds.
What’s The Average Size of a Tractor Trailer?
By now, you probably already know that tractor-trailers come in different sizes, shapes, and models. Although these factors can significantly influence the weight of a tractor-trailer, there’s still an average weight to expect when you’re looking for tractor-trailers.
The average empty tractor-trailer weighs about 30,000 pounds in combination with the semi-truck that pulls it. The trailer weighs between 10,000 to 15,000 pounds. Thus, it’s safe to say that an empty tractor-trailer will typically weigh more than a passenger truck or vehicle.
In fact, experts often blame the size and weight of tractor-trailers as the lead cause of truck accidents.
Full truck loads weigh an average of 50,000 pounds, but we often see drivers load above this weight. Reports even claim that some drivers go as high as 80,000 pounds.
Another factor that significantly influences the weight of a tractor-trailer is its tires. On average, a semi-truck tire weighs around 110 pounds.
Compared to the average tire of a passenger car, a semi-truck tire is massive (about 90 pounds heavier). This further proves trucks’ ability to carry heavy cargo successfully and withstand bad road conditions.
Types of Tractor Trailers and Their Weights
Semi-trucks have a variety of trailer types and models. So you can be sure to have the right fit, irrespective of the type of cargo you’re transporting and the size of your payload.
However, you also need to know the weight of each type when determining the size and style of trailers to use for each job. That said, here are some of the most popular types of tractor-trailers out there, their uses, and their weight to help you make the right choice.
1. Flatbed Trailers
The popularity of this type of trailer is largely due to the versatility it brings to the mix. The name largely describes its shape and design. The flatbed trailer comes with a flat deck with openings on all sides. It also does not come with a roof or box, so luggage is typically exposed at the top.
The open layout makes for easier loading and unloading. However, it also exposes the cargo to weather elements. Flatbed trailers work well for bulky items because it allows for easier lifting of such items with a crane or a forklift.
Maximum freight weight: 48,000 pounds
2. Step Deck Trailers
Like flatbed trailers, this type of trailer (also known as drop deck trailers) comes with an open roof.
However, there are still a few differences worth noting. For example, step deck trailers have two deck levels that are popularly called the lower deck and upper deck. On the other hand, flatbed trailers have only one deck.
The upper deck of the step deck trailer measures between 10 to 13 feet long and is located above the tractor unit. The lower deck (usually 38 to 40 feet long) sits just 3 feet above the ground. Like flatbed trailers, this one is also versatile and can haul a wide variety of loads.
Maximum freight weight: 48,000 pounds
3. Lowboy Trailers
Lowboy trailers are popular for their carrying capacity. The trailer (also called double drop trailer) features two drops in deck height, allowing for an extremely low deck. There’s one drop right after the gooseneck and another before the wheels.
The additional drop-down feature makes lowboy trailers excellent options for moving taller equipment. Their design also means that you won’t necessarily need height permits to move tall equipment.
You can also add extra axles to lowboy trailers, thus creating more room for you to increase weight capacity. If you want to haul large construction equipment like bulldozers or other heavy machinery, you better get a lowboy trailer.
Maximum freight weight: 40,000 pounds (normal)
Up to 80,000 pounds (with extra axles)
4. Reefer Trailers
An obvious choice for moments when you’d want to transport specialized cargo.
Reefer trailers are also called refrigerated trailers, signifying the technology they are built with. They feature insulation and temperature control to keep items cold or hot, depending on what you want throughout your trip.
The trailers allow for transporting perishable goods, chilled or frozen products, and other goods that need to be protected from the harsh weather conditions outside. They are typically covered all around and feature a door on any side for loading and unloading.
Some of the types of goods typically transported with this kind of trailer include:
- Meat, fish, dairy, poultry
- Plants and florals
Maximum freight weight: 42,000 – 45,000 pounds
5. Dump Trailers
As the name signifies, dump trailers make for easy unloading of heavy hauls. The trailer bed can be controlled independently by the use of hydraulics, thus allowing the operator to lift the trailer bed up and tilt it to unload all kinds of goods.
It’s important to note that dump trailers are different from dump trucks. With dump trailers, you can customize the trailer size to correspond with your load.
Dump trailers are also typically cheaper than dump trucks, although they still offer the same versatility that allows you to safely and efficiently haul heavy payloads.
Dump trailers can either be frameless or framed. Each of them suits different kinds of goods.
Another thing to consider when choosing this kind of trailer is the dumping style. Some trailers feature side dumps, while others feature end dumps. It makes sense to compare the pros and cons of each before choosing one that suits your job.
Maximum freight weight: Often depends on local regulations
Why Are There Weight Limits on Semi Trucks?
It’s common to see signposts indicating weight limits on major roads. Federal and state traffic agencies determine these limits for safety purposes.
The larger or heavier a truck, the harder it is to maneuver and the longer it takes to stop when you apply brakes, which makes it dangerous for operators and other road users.
Semi-truck weights on all federal interstate highways cannot exceed 80,000 pounds. In some cases, it’s even far less. This weight maximum covers the weight of the vehicle and the cargo.
Some states may have higher weight limits for non-interstate roads, but we generally recommend staying within 80,000 pounds for safety.
Conclusion: Tractor Trailer Weight, with Real-World Examples
That’s it on tractor-trailer weight. Tractors trailers, also known as semi trucks, are heavy-duty vehicles designed to transport goods across long distances. However, despite their heavy-duty design, weight still matters.
So far in this article, we’ve seen the average weight of tractor-trailers and what you should target when loading them. We’ve also provided a detailed guide on the different types of tractor-trailers and their usage.
Always remember that the heavier you travel, the more dangerous it becomes for you and other road users.