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How Much Does a Semi Truck Weigh?

Details of dark semi truck on the road on blured truck and trailer background

Anyone can see that a semi truck is a large vehicle. What you may not know is how much these vehicles weigh. Compared to the average passenger vehicle, a semi truck weighs considerably more, which makes them particularly hazardous when they are involved in crashes and truck accidents.

On average, a commercial truck can weigh:

  • 10,000 pounds to 25,000 pounds for a semi tractor (where the truck driver sits).
  • About 10,000 pounds for an empty 53-foot trailer.
  • 20,000 pounds to 35,000 pounds for an “unladen” semi truck.
  • Up to 80,000 pounds/40 tons for a fully loaded semi truck (40 tons is the federal weight maximum).

Laden vs. Unladen

Before we dive into the facts about semi truck weight, it is important to define two key terms: laden and unladen.

Truck weight is measured in two ways:

  • Laden Weight: Refers to the weight of the semi truck and trailer when it is fully loaded. The federal maximum laden weight limit for a semi truck-trailer combination (including the weight of the truck, cargo, fuel, passengers, and anything else on board or attached) is 80,000 pounds or 40 tons.
  • Unladen Weight: Refers to the combined weight of the semi truck and trailer when it is not loaded.

How Much Does a Semi Truck Cab Weigh?

The cab or cabin of a semi truck, also known as a tractor, is the compartment where the truck driver sits. Think of this as the “command center” for the vehicle. Semi truck cabs vary greatly by design and size, so their weights vary, too. Some have high-end air suspension seating to provide better support for truckers, professional sound systems, and attachment “sleeper cab” sections for resting or sleeping.

In lieu of government standards for truck weight, trucking companies and drivers may give special consideration to any cab alterations that affect total vehicle weight. Any additions to the cab affect how much a truck driver can haul because every single component will add some weight to the truck’s total weight, including a little fan to cool the cab on long drives!

According to JD Power & Associates, the average weight of an unladen semi truck cab is between 10,000 pounds and 25,000 pounds. Variables such as the size of the engine and cab enhancements may affect total weight, too.

How Much Does a Semi Trailer Weigh?

The semi trailer is the freight section of the semi truck-trailer combination (without the cab). According to JD Power & Associates, the average weight for an unladen 53-foot trailer is approximately 10,000 pounds. The total weight for laden trailers varies by axle. A single-axle trailer can haul up to 20,000 pounds. A double-axle trailer (or a tandem axle) can haul up to 34,000 pounds. These limits include the freight and trailer weight combined.

How Much Does a Semi Truck & Trailer Weigh?

A combination semi truck and an unladen trailer can weigh anywhere between 20,000 pounds and 35,000 pounds. A semi truck and a laden trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, per federal regulations. According to multiple sources, the industry average is around 50,000 pounds for a semi truck and trailer combination carrying a load of products, freight, etc.

What is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)?

Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is another way that the total weight of a semi truck can be evaluated and calculated. This type of weight rating applies to vehicles of different types.

No matter the type of vehicle, though, GVWR considers two elements of weight measurement:

  • Base curb weight: The weight of a vehicle when including all standard equipment and a full tank of fuel.
  • Optional weight amount: The weight of a vehicle when including all standard equipment, a full tank of fuel, cargo, passengers, and any optional equipment or features.

The base curb weight rating of a vehicle using the GVWR scale is useful because this weight is predictable and shouldn’t change once a vehicle is manufactured and road ready. For example, two MAC trucks of the same year and model should, in theory, have the same GVWR base curb weight, regardless of how those trucks are used or maintained.

Semi Truck Weight Classification

Using the GVWR scale, eight weight classes exist among three types of commercial trucks:

  • Light-duty trucks:
    • Class 1: GVWR between 0 and 6,000 pounds (most passenger, non-commercial vehicles)
    • Class 2: GVWR between 6,001 and 10,000 pounds (most cargo vans and full-size pickup trucks)
    • Class 3: GVWR between 10,001 and 14,000 pounds (most box trucks and delivery trucks)
  • Medium-duty trucks:
    • Class 4: GVWR between 14,001 and 16,000 pounds (most large box trucks)
    • Class 5: GVWR between 16,001 and 19,500 pounds (most bucket trucks and fully loaded delivery trucks)
    • Class 6: GVWR between 19,501 and 26,000 pounds (most school buses and small food delivery trucks)
  • Heavy-duty trucks:
    • Class 7: GVWR between 26,001 and 33,000 pounds (most stand-alone truck tractors and city buses)
    • Class 8: GVWR at or above 33,001 pounds (most semi trucks, 18-wheelers, cement trucks, and dump trucks)

Nearly all semi trucks are considered class 8 trucks once they are loaded with cargo, but some can be class 4, 5, or 6 trucks when not loaded and not attached to a trailer. The classification of a truck is important because it must match the vehicle’s GVWR when it passes an inspection and weighing point, which can be found along most major American highways. The inspection points calculate GVWR with a simple formula: GVWR = trailer capacity + trailer weight. If a trucker reports that they are operating a Class 7 truck but the scales calculate a GVWR of more than 33,000 pounds, then the trucker and trucking company could face fines and other penalties.

Semi Trucks & Stopping Time

Trailers vary in size and weight depending on the haul. Any truck driver will tell you that driving a semi truck with a tanker trailer carrying natural gas or other chemicals is different than driving a semi truck with a double-deck trailer transporting cars. It is all about weight and weight distribution, and how these important aspects of hauling freight will change the handling and performance of the semi truck.

Such discrepancies are particularly important when considering stopping distances. It takes a semi truck-trailer combination much longer to stop than a standard car due to the massive weight. This remains true even if the trailer is not loaded with cargo.

At 65 miles per hour, the average passenger car can come to a complete stop in roughly 300 feet. In contrast, a fully loaded semi can take more than double that distance to a complete stop. The distance is even longer if the truck driver has to deal with rain, ice, or snow.

Truck Weight & Accident Severity

The sheer size and weight of semi trucks make them particularly destructive in accidents. That is why it is vitally important for truck drivers to operate their vehicles with the utmost care and diligence.

Heavier trucks increase the risk of severe injuries or fatalities when they are involved in crashes. According to the Association for the Work Truck Industry (known as the NTEA), an overloaded semi truck, meaning that it exceeds the gross vehicle weight limits and weight distribution regulations, has “dramatic effects” on steering, maneuverability, braking, and acceleration.

If a truck driver, trucking company, subcontractor, freight loader, or another party fails to take reasonable care concerning loading and transporting goods, the drivers and the companies they work for may be held liable for damages in a truck accident lawsuit. An experienced trucking lawyer will understand how to properly investigate a case to uncover any issues with truck weight violations. Having someone who knows the intricacies of truck crash litigation can level the playing field against major trucking companies and their legal teams, who will go to great lengths to limit their liability.

Do I Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?

Truck accident cases are complex and often involve multiple liable parties, insurance companies, and intricate trucking laws. To navigate these complexities and ensure that victims receive the compensation they deserve, an experienced truck accident lawyer is essential. Below are some of the reasons why you should hire a trucking accident attorney.

Truck Accident Claims Usually Involve Multiple Parties

One of the primary challenges in truck accident cases is determining liability. While the driver may have directly caused the accident, claims often involve multiple parties, including different trucking companies, brokers, manufacturers, and others. For example, the trucking company may be liable for their drivers' actions, the truck's manufacturer may be liable for defective parts, and the shipping company or maintenance company may also be held liable for any negligence that caused or contributed to the semi crash.

Truck accidents often involve multiple victims, such as in multi-car pileups. Each victim deserves their own fair compensation, and pursuing an individual claim is necessary. Hiring a truck accident lawyer ensures that victims have their best chance at securing the compensation they deserve.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Another challenge in truck accident cases is dealing with insurance companies. Each liable party will likely be represented by a different insurer, making negotiations difficult and time-consuming. While truck accident victims and their families are seeking full and fair compensation for the damages they have suffered due to negligence, insurance companies are often inclined to offer lowball settlements that are less than a claim might be worth. Without the guidance of a knowledgeable lawyer, victims may be unaware of the full value of their claim. Simply put, victims of truck accidents should prioritize their recovery and leave the back-and-forth with insurance companies to their attorney.

Trucking Laws Are Complex

Trucking laws add another layer of complexity to these cases. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry, and violations of their regulations can be used as evidence of negligence. An experienced lawyer will have in-depth knowledge of these regulations and will understand how they apply to individual cases, as well as any relevant state and local laws.

Trucking Accidents Often Involve Significant Injuries or Fatalities

Truck accidents often result in severe injuries or fatalities, further complicating the litigation process. The size difference between a car and a semi truck, combined with high speeds and other factors, frequently leads to catastrophic outcomes. Recovering compensation for these injuries requires collecting extensive evidence and relying on expert testimony. A skilled truck accident lawyer will know where to look for evidence and which experts to consult in order to build the strongest case possible and maximize compensation.

Fatal truck accidents present their own unique challenges. The losses faced by surviving family members are significant, but insurance companies may prioritize their bottom line over fair compensation. Working with a lawyer experienced in handling wrongful death cases is crucial to ensure that the affected family members receive the compensation they deserve.

Trucking Accidents and Comparative Fault

Comparative fault laws further complicate truck accident cases. California and other states may reduce the proportion of damages based on the victim's responsibility for the accident. Parties involved may attempt to argue that the victim is partially or entirely at fault, potentially reducing the compensation awarded. In these cases, it is vital to consult with an attorney to protect the right to full compensation.

Talk to Wisner Baum After a Truck Accident

As seasoned truck accident lawyers with a proven track record of success in litigation against many of the largest trucking companies in the country, we know what it takes to win justice and compensation for truck accident victims and their families. Thanks to our reputation and resources, we work with leading truck crash experts and accident reconstruction professionals to elevate your case.

We get real results for real truck accident clients:

  • $20 million commercial vehicle verdict for wrongful death against Ride the Ducks International.
  • $15 million tractor trailer vs. pedestrian for catastrophic injury.
  • $8.5 million truck accident verdict (plus pre and post-judgment interest) for wrongful death against Tyson Foods.
  • $6.9 million truck accident settlement during a trial against a major truck company.
  • $6 million truck accident settlement for a wrongful death case in a truck crash.
  • $3.5 million truck accident settlement for a wrongful death case in a truck crash.
  • 75 truck crash lawsuits settled for $1 million or more.

If you would like to learn more about your legal rights after a truck accident, call us today at (855) 948-5098 or fill out our contact form for a 100% free and confidential case evaluation.



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