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Explore the wide and varied world of trucks.

Trucks are grouped into eight classes based on their weight. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Trucks are grouped into eight classes based on their weight.

Trucks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from light-duty pickups to heavy-duty tractor-trailers. Even excluding semi trucks, garbage trucks and other large commercial trucks, there are still a large number of trucks designed for everyday tasks, such as towing a boat or hauling building materials to a construction site.

Pickup Trucks by Size

Pickup trucks can generally be divided into two main groups: compact trucks and full-size trucks. Compact trucks, like the Ford Ranger, Mazda B-series and Chevrolet Colorado feature short beds and small cabs. Often sporting 4-cylinder engines, they may not have the strength to haul full-size recreational vehicles (RVs), but they are perfect for carrying lighter loads, like large plants and furniture. This versatility, as well as their fuel efficiency and maneuverability, makes compact trucks popular with average consumers who simply need a pickup to carry the occasional large item.

Full-size trucks, on the other hand, are built to handle heavy payloads. With large engines V6s and V8s are common, but even V10s are available and are great for towing trailers, pulling equipment and transporting large objects around town. The tradeoff for this greater towing power is fuel efficiency. The larger the engine, the less fuel-efficient the truck will be. Iconic models like the Ford F-150, the Toyota Tundra and the Dodge Ram fall under this category, as do large SUVs.

Full-size trucks are also divided into groups by payload, or how much weight they can carry. Half-ton trucks, such as the Chevrolet Silverado, are considered standard for the full-size classification. Three-quarter ton and one-ton trucks are much larger and generally used by farmers, construction workers and other people who frequently need to haul big vehicles or objects. These large trucks require more powerful engines and brakes due to their added weight.

Classification of Trucks by Weight

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, trucks can be group into eight different classes according to their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR):

  • Class 1: 0 to 6,000 pounds
  • Class 2: 6,001 to 10,000 pounds
  • Class 3: 10,001 to 14,000 pounds
  • Class 4: 14,001 to 16,000 pounds
  • Class 5: 16,001 to 19,500 pounds
  • Class 6: 19,501 to 26,000 pounds
  • Class 7: 26,001 to 33,000 pounds
  • Class 8: 33,000 pounds and up

Truck manufacturers also group these classifications into three broader duties. Light-duty, which contains most pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), includes the first three weight classes. Medium-duty, which still contains some consumer vehicles, spans Classes 4 through 7, while heavy-duty includes only Class 8. Almost all trucks available to the average consumer are classified as either light- or medium-duty.

Light-Duty Trucks

Of all non-commercial trucks, light-duty trucks are probably the most common. They include classic full-size pickups like the Ford F-150, the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra, as well as most SUVs. In fact, according to Changin' Gears, the majority of pickup trucks fall into this category: even large models like the Ford F-350 and the Dodge Ram 3500 do not have GVWRs high enough to be considered medium-duty.

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