Different freight truck types

Freight trucks play a big role in moving things around the United States. They help make sure products get from one place to another smoothly. Let us explore different freight truck types that travel on the American roads.

The top freight truck types are

1. Dry Van Trucks: Jacks of All Trades

Dry van trucks are the most common trucks you see on the roads. They have a big, enclosed space, kind of like a box, to carry all sorts of things. These enclosed trailers protect the cargo from weather and theft. Dry vans are great for moving a variety of goods, like clothes or electronics. They’re easy to load and unload, making them super handy for getting things where they need to go. 

Use Cases: Ideal for transporting general goods such as electronics, clothing, and non-perishable items.

Freight Truck Types - Dry Van

Things dry van driver need to know

You can start driving dry vans with just your Class A – Commercial Driving License (CDL). Almost everything is delivered by a dry van, including clothing, furniture, and non-perishable food. Since dry van vehicles are widely available and require only minimum legalities, new truck drivers frequently operate them.

Salary: According to Glassdoor, a box truck driver approximately makes $50,000 per year.

2. Flatbed Trucks: Hauling Big and Heavy Stuff

Flatbed trucks are a bit different. They don’t have walls; they’re like an open platform. This makes them perfect for carrying really big and heavy things, like machinery or construction materials. Lots of industries rely on flatbed trucks to move their oversized items (anything above 8.5 feet wide).

Use Cases: Commonly used in the construction, manufacturing, and energy industries to transport items like machinery, steel, and construction materials.

Freight Truck Types - Flatbed

Step decks

Step decks, also known as drop decks, are a type of open trailer that have a lower deck than flatbeds to accommodate taller loads. They are similar to flatbeds but have two levels, with the lower level being closer to the ground. Step decks are commonly used to transport heavy equipment, machinery, and other large items.

Use Cases: Perfect for transporting oversized items with height requirements, such as large machinery and equipment.

Freight Truck Types - Step Decks

Difference between flatbed and step deck

The primary distinction between flatbed and step deck trucks is the maximum permitted height. A step deck can transport a little taller cargo than a flatbed due to its lowered deck. Flatbed trailers are better suited for standard-sized loads, while step deck trailers are designed to transport taller cargo.

Freight Truck Types - Flatbed vs. Step deck

Things flatbedder need to know

To be a flatbedder, you must be willing to face problems like dealing with slippery equipment, taking care of loading and unloading, and being watched by the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

Although driving flatbeds has some disadvantages, it has advantages as well. For example, the tractor and trailer are less in height than typical trucks, so you won’t have to worry as much about height clearances (depending on the weight). This lower height also has the advantage of being more aerodynamic and not having to contend with crosswinds while driving on slick roads. 

Reports say that flatbedders typically make $13,000 more than dry van drivers.

Salary: According to Glassdoor, a box truck driver approximately makes $78,000 per year. 

3. Tanker Trucks: Moving Liquids and Gases Safely

Tanker trucks are the types of freight trucks which have big tanks on wheels. They’re designed to carry liquids and gasses, such as chemicals or fuel. These trucks have special features to keep everything safe during the journey, making sure the freight gets where it needs to go without any problems. There are two types:

  • Dry bulk tankers – Transports dry bulk goods
  • Liquid tankers – Transports liquids and gasses

Use Cases: Widely used for transporting chemicals, petroleum, food products, and other liquids or gasses in large quantities.

Freight Truck Types - Tanker truck

Things tanker truck drivers need to know

You may need to obtain special endorsements on your CLD’s if transporting hazardous or special materials. The schedules for tanker truck drivers are fairly consistent, so you can expect consistent home time. The downside of driving tanker trucks is that the material inside the tanker will slosh so it takes some time to get used to driving a tanker truck. Also the tanks must be cleaned after every haul, which is a time consuming process.

Salary: According to Indeed, a tanker truck driver approximately makes $88,785 per year. 

4. Refrigerated Trucks: Keeping Things Cool

Refrigerated trucks, also called reefers, are like big fridges on wheels that help maintain specific temperatures inside the trailer. They’re important for carrying stuff that needs to stay cool, like fruits, medicines, or dairy products. The refrigeration unit is located in the trailer’s front or above the truck’s cab. 

Use Cases: Essential for industries dealing with fresh produce, dairy products, pharmaceuticals, and any other items that must be kept at a specific temperature to prevent spoilage.

Freight Truck Types - Reefer Trucks

Things reefer truck drivers need to know

As a reefer truck driver, you must continuously monitor the temperature to avoid spoilage of goods. You will mostly deliver goods to farmer’s and grocery warehouses which is a downside, because it takes quite a lot of time to unload the goods in the grocery industry. 

Salary: According to Glassdoor, a reefer truck driver approximately makes $73,000 per year.

5. Box Trucks: Versatile for Local Deliveries

Box trucks, also known as cube vans or straight trucks is a freight truck type, having a cargo area integrated into the cab. They are smaller than tractor-trailers, making them ideal for local deliveries and short distance transportation. 

Box trucks are more maneuverable and well-suited for navigating through city streets and residential areas. This makes them essential for last-mile deliveries, ensuring that goods reach their final destinations promptly.

Use Cases: Ideal for local deliveries, retail services, moving, food and catering transport, general logistics, and utility services.

Freight Truck Types - Box truck

Things box truck drivers need to know

No commercial license is required for operating box trucks below a certain size (usually between 22 and 26 feet) in the United States. This means that you can rent and drive a sizable box truck without specific training.

Salary: According to Glassdoor, a box truck driver approximately makes $53,000 per year.

The regular industry standards for different trucks are

Truck TypeMax LengthMax WeightMax Cargo Height
Dry Van53 Feet45,000 pounds8.5 Feet
Flatbed trucks48 Feet48,000 pounds8.5 Feet
Step Decks48 Feet48,000 pounds10 Feet
Tanker trucks53 Feet80,000 pounds13.5 Feet
Reefer trucks53 Feet44,000 pounds8.5 Feet
Box trucks26 Feet33,000 pounds8.5 Feet

Some of the well know truck manufacturers in the US are

  • Daimler – famous for Freightliner
  • Paccar Inc – famous for Peterbilt and Kenworth
  • Navistar – famous for producing International trucks
  • Volvo Groups – famous for Volvo


There are various freight truck types yet commonly used types of freight trucks. 

From dry vans covering long distances to the handy box trucks covering short distances, each freight truck type has its own job to do. So, the next time you see these freight trucks on the road, remember they’re the ones keeping everything moving smoothly in the world of trade and transport.

Do check out our latest blog on freight brokers if you are interested.

Yoga Laxmi
Social Media Marketer at OpenFR8 | More posts

I am copyright writer with OpenFR8. I take a little bit of time to complete my blogs because I undergo research and analysis of each and every article to gather accurate information. For me, writing is not just a job; it feeds my creativity and desire to share insightful information with readers. As a writer, I like to present content that is valuable and easily understood by every individual. I believe in the power of words, and if they are used in a good manner, they can create many positive changes around us.

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