How Much Does a Semi-Truck Weigh? (Complete Guide)

how much does a semi truck weigh

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How much does a semi-truck weigh in tons?

A semi-truck weighs between five tons (10,000 pounds) and 12.5 tons (25,000 pounds) without its trailer. If it comes with a fully loaded trailer, it can weigh up to 40 tons (80,000 pounds).

Perhaps this question crosses your mind whenever you share the road with a truck. How heavy are semi-trucks compared to the average car?

Whether you’re curious or want to learn about semi-trucks, this post is for you.

I’ll discuss how much semi-trucks weigh depending on several factors. I’ll also touch on the following topics:

  • Laden weight and unladen weight

  • Maximum weight limits

  • Importance of weighing trucks

  • Vehicle classifications, including city buses, garbage trucks, and cargo vans

Let’s get started.

How Much Does a Semi Truck Weigh?

how much does a semi truck weigh

There are several factors affecting how much a semi-truck weighs.

Does it have a trailer attached to it? Is the trailer empty or full? Is it a sleeper cab?

Let’s dive into the specifics below.

1 – How Much Does a Semi-Truck Cab Weigh?

The semi-truck weight without trailer depends on its size. It’s typically between five tons (10,000 pounds) and 12.5 tons (25,000 pounds).

2 – How Many Tons Does a Semi-Truck Weigh With a Trailer?

First, I’ll tell you how much a trailer weighs.

The trailer weighs around five tons (10,000 pounds). If you attach it to the cab, the whole vehicle is a tractor-trailer.

How much does a tractor-trailer weigh?

Semi-trucks with an empty trailer weigh around 10 tons (20,000 pounds) to 12.5 tons (25,000 pounds).

3 – What Is the Empty Semi Truck Weight?

If we calculate the weight of a truck as is (no cargo and no trailer), we’re only dealing with its unladen weight.

What’s the average semi-truck weight if it’s empty? Without a trailer, it’s usually anywhere between 4 tons and 5 tons (8,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds).

4 – How Much Does a Fully Loaded Semi Weigh?

A semi-truck hooked to a fully loaded trailer can weigh as much as 40 tons (80,000 pounds).

5 – How Much Is the Tire’s Weight?

The average semi-truck tire contributes around 0.055 tons (110 pounds) each to the vehicle’s total gross weight.

We already know that trucks can weigh up to more than the average car, but by how much? To put that into perspective, a regular passenger car tire is only 20 pounds heavy.

What Is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating?

We’ve covered the unladen weight, but how much does a semi-tractor weigh when full?

The full load depends on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

GVWR refers to the maximum legal weight a vehicle can safely and efficiently carry based on its design. It includes the weight of the vehicle itself, its accessories, fuel, passengers, and cargo.

What Is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating?

This information is usually on a sticker on the driver’s side door. If it’s missing, you should find it in the owner’s manual.

However, the gross weight of a semi-truck is 40 tons (80,000 pounds) across all states.

If the truck’s driver follows the vehicle’s maximum laden weight or payload, they can prevent these overloading-related issues.

  • Trucking accidents

  • Increased fuel consumption

  • Road and bridge damage

  • Maintenance issues (Tires and engine parts can wear out quickly because of the added strain.)

What Is a Semi-Truck’s GVWR Based on Its Axle?

The truck size determines how much cargo they can carry without causing excessive strain on their engine, tires, and other components.

However, did you know that semi-trucks axles also determine their loading capacity?

The axle is the shaft or rod that rotates the wheels and supports the vehicle’s weight. The more axles a truck has, the more power they deliver to the wheels.

The capacity of a single axle is 10 tons (20,000 pounds). A truck with a double axle or tandem axle may carry up to 17 tons (34,000 pounds).

How many tons is a semi-truck based on its axle?

A semi-truck without a trailer has three axles and five axles with a trailer.

With this information, a semi-trucks maximum legal weight limit is around 27.5 tons (55,000 pounds). A five-axle tractor-trailer can go up to 40 tons (80,000 pounds).

What Is a Semi-Truck's GVWR Based on Its Axle

Fully Loaded Semi-Truck Weight: What Is the Maximum Limit?

As explained above, the maximum limit mostly depends on the GVWR and the number of axles.

Simply put, it depends on the specific capacity of the truck. Most vehicles can go as high as 40 tons (80,000 pounds).

You can also determine the weight limits according to their classification, which I’ll discuss next.

What Are the Different Truck Classifications?

What Are the Different Truck Classifications

The GVWR dictates the truck classification, categorizing them into how much they can carry fully loaded safely and efficiently.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also categorizes vehicles as light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty.

Let’s take a further look below.

1 – Light Duty Trucks

Light Duty Trucks

Light trucks fall under Class 1 and Class 2, typically non-commercial vehicles. Think SUVs, minivans, and other similar vehicles.

Class 1 vehicles have a 6,000-pound weight limit, while Class 2 can go up to 10,000 pounds.

2 – Class 3 Trucks

Class 3 trucks are still mostly non-commercial, including full-size pickup trucks, minibuses, and box trucks. Some examples are the Ram 3500 and Ford F-350. These have a GVWR of 14,000 pounds.

Some businesses use a Class 3 truck for commercial operations like the Isuzu NPR.

3 – Class 4 Trucks

These trucks can weigh up to eight tons (16,000 pounds). A trucking company may use a Class 4 truck to transport small shipments.

Some examples of Class 4 medium-duty commercial trucks are city delivery trucks for ground shipping, big box trucks, and super-duty pickups.

4 – Class 5 Trucks

These medium-duty commercial vehicles weigh up to 9.75 tons (19,500 pounds). They often serve as service trucks, like cherry pickers, bucket trucks, large walk-in trucks, and delivery trucks. Food trucks are also Class 5 vehicles.

5 – Class 6 Trucks

These medium-duty trucks weigh between 9.75 tons (19,500 pounds) and 13 tons (26,000 pounds). Single-axle trucks fall under this classification. Some examples are rack trucks, school buses, and beverage trucks.

6 – Class 7 Trucks

These heavy-duty trucks weigh 13 to 16.5 tons (26,000 – 33,000 pounds) and typically have three or more single axles. Companies use them to transport large shipments over long distances.

Most sweeper trucks, city transit buses, furniture trucks, and garbage trucks are Class 7 vehicles. The lightest semi-tractors would also fall under this category.

7 – Class 8 Trucks

These commercial vehicles weigh more than 16.5 tons (33,000 pounds). Think dump trucks, cement trucks, and 18-wheelers.

Most semi-trucks are Class 8 vehicles.

Why Do You Need to Weigh a Truck?

Truckers must follow the maximum laden weight to avoid risks due to overloading, such as road and bridge damage.

A semi-truck accident can occur if it goes over the weight limit. An overloaded truck is more prone to rolling over or losing balance around a curve, especially in bad weather and road conditions.

Why Do You Need to Weigh a Truck?

The weight directly affects the vehicle’s maneuverability and braking distance. The bigger and heavier it is, the more difficult it is to change lanes quickly and slow down.

A loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph in ideal conditions (no rain, snow, or slope) has a stopping distance of around 196 feet. A passenger car only needs 133 feet to make a full stop.

Imagine large heavy-duty trucks traveling at highway speeds during bad weather conditions or on a challenging road surface (debris, ice, snow, slope, etc.). The risk of semi-truck accidents increases if you add overloading to the equation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Is a Semi Truck the Same as an 18-Wheeler?

Is a Semi Truck the Same as an 18-Wheeler?

A semi-truck is the actual cab that contains the engine. It can travel without a trailer.

Meanwhile, an 18-wheeler truck is a semi-truck with a trailer. 18-wheelers also have other names, such as tractor-trailers and big rigs.

How Much Do 18 Wheelers Weigh?

An 18-wheeler’s unladen weight is 10 tons (20,000 pounds) to 12.5 tons (25,000 pounds).

How Much Does a Big Rig Weigh?

Big rigs are simply another term for 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers. It weighs around 10 tons (20,000 pounds) to 12.5 tons (25,000 pounds).

Do Semi-Trucks Have To Stop at Every Weigh Station?

Do Semi-Trucks Have To Stop at Every Weigh Station?

Yes. All heavy truck and commercial vehicle drivers must stop at any weigh station.

A weigh station aims to prevent a truck accident by ensuring trucks follow the maximum laden weight. The rules depend on the state, but the truck driver will likely face some fines.

Why Do People Avoid Weigh Stations?

Some truck drivers may avoid weighing stations when their cargo weight is over the limit. However, it’s a misdemeanor crime.

What Are Runaway Truck Escape Ramps?

These are emergency lanes on highways that slow down trucks. The ramps use sand, gravel, or a combination to stop heavy-duty vehicles in case of brake failures.

Is It Free To Use Runaway Truck Ramps?

Using the ramp is free. However, paying for a rescue can cost you upwards of $4,000, depending on the vehicle size.

The Bottom Line

Trucks, empty or full, require a lot of skill and special accommodations to drive safely. The weight affects their driving, what roads they can use, and where they can go.

If you’re a regular driver, it’s best to give the truck the space it needs to maneuver on the road. If you’re planning to enter the trucking industry, make sure to follow the maximum limits to avoid fines and accidents.

Written by: Omar Deryan

Founder of OJ Digital Solutions

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