Straight Truck Vs. Tractor Trailer

Straight Truck vs. Tractor Trailer (2024 Comparison)

Transporting heavy loads is a challenging process in the transport and freight industry. It requires large trucks capable of handling massive loads and transporting them to various locations.

Understanding the different types of trucks brings a lot of insights, especially when choosing between a straight truck and a tractor-trailer. 

A straight truck is a heavy vehicle used to transport goods in a single frame. This frame can vary in length and runs from the front to the rear end of the truck.

While a tractor-trailer also transports materials, it is built on a detachable container and extra wheels. 

This article focuses on the differences and features of straight trucks and tractor-trailers including the cost, benefits, and maneuverability. 

Components Straight Truck Tractor Trailer 
Licensing Not mandatory to have a CDL, some careers may need CDL-BRequires a class A CDL (CDL-A)
Capacity Up to 33,000 pounds Up to 80,000 pounds 
Costs Lower startup costs, average price $35,000 High maintenance, average price $80,000 
DesignBuilt on a single frame, sliding rear door Detachable container, can pull a semi-trailer, powerful engine, fifth wheel  

What is a Straight Truck?

What is a Straight Truck

A straight truck is a type of truck with a simple design consisting of axles, a cab, and a container connected on a single frame. They are also known as cube vans, box trucks, cube trucks, or rolling coasters. 

A typical straight truck measures a height of 7 feet and a length of 15 feet, while they have a width ranging from 8 feet to 12 feet.

They can carry loads from 12,000 to 33,000 lbs. Straight trucks are essential for local hauling services as they can maneuver in small streets.

These trucks can be used on freight of furniture, local goods, boxes, and appliances. 

There are plenty of trucks on the road that we can consider straight trucks including, concrete mixers, boxed vans, garbage trucks, pickup trucks, and U-hauls.

We classify them as straight trucks because they have rear beds attached to a single frame. 

What is a Tractor Trailer?

What is a Tractor Trailer

As the name suggests, a tractor-trailer is a combination of a tractor and a trailer. They are designed to pull a semi-trailer which they sometimes use interchangeably.

Since the trailer is detachable, freight involves leaving the container in a certain location rather than offloading as in straight trucks. 

A tractor-trailer’s height ranges from 12 feet to 13 feet, whereas its length ranges from 28 feet to 53 feet.

Its width ranges from 10 feet to 12 feet. A tractor-trailer can carry loads from 20,000 to 80,000 lbs. 

Most tractor-trailers are designed to transport loads over long distances, which is why most are made with sleepers.

The sleepers are small sections on the driver’s cab where the driver can take a rest in between long trips from state to state.

Tractor trailers that travel for a shorter distance usually have day cabs which are normal-sized cabs without sleepers. 

Straight Truck Vs. Tractor Trailer: Comparison

Straight Truck Vs. Tractor Trailer Comparison

Operational Costs

Looking at the prices of both vehicles, a straight truck needs less capital to start than a trailer.

This is because it is affordable and has low maintenance requirements, thanks to its simple design.

So, a straight truck’s simple design makes it a great option if you’re looking for a smaller investment. 

But it’s vital to understand that for a tractor-trailer, you’ll get bigger returns as it carries more load per trip it makes.

It is also resilient in longer distances and can traverse thousands of miles carrying heavy loads.

So, it means you’ll be getting a higher return on investment within a short time versus using a straight truck. 

Also, straight trucks are more economical on fuel usage and they may be an excellent option when fuel prices are high. 

Hauling Capacity

You need to consider the types of load you wish to transport when looking for a straight truck vs tractor trailer.

Is your cargo packaged in barrels or boxes? How far do you wish to transport your cargo? Such questions help us see the differences in the hauling capacities of the two heavy trucks. 

A straight truck carries up to 33,000 lbs of load as it is classified as a Class 7 vehicle. A tractor-trailer has a much larger capacity and carries up to 80,000 lbs of weight.

Since the latter is significantly larger, it needs experienced and certified drivers to operate.


A straight truck has a chassis connecting the cab, cargo box, and sleeper all in one single frame.

This makes it easier to drive the truck and move in tight spaces and streets. Tractor trailers have two chassis- one for the trailer and one for the cab.

So, the tractor trailer’s two chassis means one part is removable and requires extra skill to drive on the road. 

Benefits of a Straight Truck

Benefits of a Straight Truck 

Now that we know what straight trucks are and how they compare to tractor trailers, let’s see their benefits. 

Easy to operate and maintain.

They are easy to operate and maintain. Straight trucks function like any other vehicle and since they have one chassis, controlling the whole body is easy and streamlined.  

Doesn’t require class A CDL driving license.

You don’t need a class A CDL driving license to operate a straight truck. Of course, this requirement depends on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which is different from truck to truck.

Straight trucks with a GVWR of fewer than 26,000 pounds may not require a CDL to drive. 

Suitable for city transport.

They work well on city transport since they move with ease on streets that tractor-trailers can’t pass through. 

Due to their height (<26 feet), most straight trucks are easier to park. 

Low cost.

Straight trucks have a low operational and maintenance cost. 


Since there are many types of straight trucks, they are versatile and can do more than a tractor-trailer.

For instance, reefer trucks help transport perishable goods as they have a preinstalled refrigerator.

Fire trucks are essential in disaster management, passenger vans transport personnel on construction sites, and so on. 

Benefits of a Tractor Trailer

Benefits of a Tractor Trailer

Tractor trailers are heavier than straight trucks and have plenty of benefits which we’ll look at. 

No extra equipment required.

No extra equipment is needed during loading and unloading. A tractor-trailer is made in a way that the back trailer is detachable, so drivers simply drop off this part during unloading, making it convenient.

Plus, the trailer can be picked up by a different truck which provides ease for both shippers and carriers. 

Storage capacity.

Incredible storage capacity Tractor trailers carry more of the load than most types of trucks from plastic, clothing, raw materials, fabric, etc.

A tractor-trailer is capable of handling a whopping 80,000 pounds of load. So, you can satisfy a larger customer base within a short time. 

Secured and weatherproof.

The trailers in tractor-trailers are secure and weatherproof. This means you don’t have to worry about the merchandise being transported, no matter how long it stays on the road. 

Cargo is easy to move in case of break down.

The cargo in tractor-trailers is easy to move in case the front truck breaks down. All you need is to find a different cab and attach it to the trailer.

In case you fail to repair a broken straight truck, the goods need to be offloaded onto another tedious truck.

It is easier to hook and unhook a trailer during drop-offs. This keeps the overall operation faster. 

Straight Truck Vs. Tractor Trailer: Which One to Choose?

Straight Truck Vs. Tractor Trailer Which One to Choose

Whether you select a tractor-trailer or a straight truck, your choice is dependent on your personal preference. What is your exact purpose? Why do you need the truck?

As we have mentioned, a straight truck is connected on a single “box” frame which runs from the cab to the rest of the truck’s components. The structure is rigid and all vehicles are in a single line. 

While a tractor-trailer has a cab connected to a trailer, it has two rigid structures connected by an articulation point and a fifth wheel. Also, the tractor-trailer’s main function is to pull the semi-trailer which is where all cargo is kept. 

When looking to choose a truck, several questions should pop into mind. These questions help you find the most preferred type of truck for your needs. 

What are the exact dimensions of the cargo you wish to transport?

Ensure to find out the size and weight of the products you wish to transport. The physical weight matters as it is determined by the load capacity of the vehicle. 

What kind of materials will you be transporting?

Will they be packed in barrels, boxes, or just loose? Sometimes you may find packages that are challenging to transport or not well packaged (like live animals). 

What’s the truck’s size (light, medium, heavy duty)?

Once you have an idea of what to transport, you need to choose the size of the truck. This will help you understand whether to go for a medium or heavy-duty truck. 

Where will you be driving?

The location of operation matters, especially when it comes to laws and terrain. If you’re going to use the truck for long distances, a tractor-trailer may be a good option.

However, if the load is less than 20,000 lbs, it may be a bit uneconomical and a straight truck edges out in such an instance. 

New or used truck?

Budget is as important in choosing a truck and sometimes it brings the question of whether to use a new or used truck. Of course, a brand-new machine is the best option but may turn out a bit costly.

That said, it makes sense to buy a used truck where you have a wide range of prices and options. 


What is the difference between a straight truck and a tractor trailer?

A straight truck and a tractor-trailer, also known as a semi-truck, differ primarily in their configuration and purpose. A straight truck consists of a single chassis with both the cargo area and the engine integrated into one unit. In contrast, a tractor-trailer consists of two separate parts: a tractor (front part with the engine) and a trailer (rear cargo-carrying part) connected by a hitch. Tractor-trailers are typically used for long-haul freight transportation and can carry larger loads compared to straight trucks, which are often used for local or regional deliveries.

What is the difference between a straight truck and a semi truck?

A straight truck and a semi-truck (or semi) differ in the same way as mentioned earlier. A straight truck is a single, integrated unit with the cargo area and engine combined. A semi-truck, on the other hand, consists of a tractor (front part) that tows a separate cargo trailer (rear part). Semis are designed for long-distance hauling and are a common sight on highways, while straight trucks are used for shorter-distance deliveries.

What is another name for a straight truck?

Another name for a straight truck is a “box truck” or “cube van.” These terms are often used interchangeably to describe a type of commercial vehicle with a cab and cargo area integrated into a single unit, typically in a box-like shape.

What is the definition of a straight truck?

A straight truck, also known as a box truck or cube van, is a type of commercial vehicle with a single integrated chassis that combines the driver’s cab and cargo area. Unlike tractor-trailers, straight trucks do not have a separate trailer portion and are commonly used for local and regional deliveries, moving services, and other applications where a self-contained cargo area is sufficient.