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Straight Truck vs Tractor Trailer: What Shippers Should Know

Resources > Straight Truck vs Tractor Trailer: What Shippers Should Know
If you’re running a business, chances are you’ll need to ship goods at some point or another. Read our article to learn when to use a straight truck or tractor trailer when shipping your goods.
Straight Truck and Tractor Trailer Differences   |   What Is A Straight Truck?   |   What Is A Tractor Trailer   |   Benefits of Straight Trucks   |   Better Versatility   |   Cheaper for Short Distances   |   Great for Short Distances   |   Best for Final Delivery   |   Benefits of Tractor Trailers   |   More Hauling Capacity   |   Multiple Services   |   Cheaper for Long Hauls   |   Shipping Between Warehouses and Stores   |   Our Services
Published: April 4, 2024
Last Modified: April 4, 2024
Author: Jacob Lee

Per the National Private Truck Council, the differences between a straight truck and a tractor trailer is drastic. Straight trucks are all-in-one vehicles made for navigating cities and neighborhoods. Tractor trailers, with their detachable trailers, excel in carrying more cargo over long distances cheaply and efficiently. 

Deciding on which one to use can be a challenging task. Picking the right one ensures that businesses can make informed choices and avoid unnecessary expenses and logistical complications.

In this article, you’ll learn about the key differences between straight trucks vs tractor trailers and the benefits of shipping with each. 

A straight truck traveling on a slick road in a forest

What Is the Difference Between A Straight Truck vs Tractor Trailer?

There’s more that sets straight trucks and tractor trailers apart besides their appearance, but we’ll start out with a simple description. 

A straight truck, of any variety, has the cab and cargo section combined on a single chassis or central axle not meant to come apart. 

A tractor trailer is a combination of two things; a truck with towing capabilities and a free-standing trailer designed to be hitched to another vehicle.

We’ll discuss the unique features of each in the following sections. 

What Is A Straight Truck?

Straight trucks are single-frame vehicles. As mentioned, they come with a cab and cargo area that are permanently attached. These vehicles are often referred to as box trucks. Similar to dry van trailers, the cargo area of this vehicle typically has doors that slide up or swing open. 

Sizes vary, but we’ve provided a list of the most common dimensions of straight trucks that you’ll come across. 

Box Truck Dimensions

LengthWidthHeight
10 feet5 feet6 feet
12 feet8 feet7 feet
16 feet9.5 feet8 feet
22 feet8 feet 6 inches8 feet 6.5 inches
24 feet 6 inches8 feet 6 inches8 feet 6.5 inches
26 feet 7 inches8 feet 6 inches8 feet 6.5 inches

Provided by Cover Wallet

Box trucks have a maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) between 26,000 to 33,000 pounds. While a straight truck can carry a variety of cargo, they’re typically used to deliver furniture, local goods, and appliances. 

What Is A Tractor Trailer

A tractor trailer, commonly referred to as a semi-truck or 18-wheeler, is a two-part vehicle comprising a tractor (the front part with the engine and cab) and a trailer that can be detached. 

These vehicles usually haul dry van trailers that have a length between 26 and 53 feet. This equipment allows plenty of room for large quantities of cargo. 

In addition to dry vans, these vehicles can pull reefer trailers that hold perishable goods and flatbed trailers for a wide variety of other cargo. Tractor trailers are capable of carrying a maximum load of 80,000 pounds.

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Semi trucks traveling on a highway in the desert

What Are the Benefits of Shipping Using A Straight Truck?

Straight trucks are actually quite useful for a variety of reasons, despite their unassuming size. We’ve broken down some notable benefits that you can expect to enjoy when using this vehicle to move your goods. 

Better Versatility

While their smallness might seem like a disadvantage, the compact dimensions of box trucks makes them versatile in congested settings. These vehicles can navigate through narrow streets, crowded urban areas, and tight loading docks.

This allows delivery drivers to get close to their destination points in cramped conditions and drop off the cargo they’re transporting.

Cheaper for Short Distance and Small Volumes

When compared to dry van transport, straight truck shipping is a much more affordable option.

A few reasons for this include:

  • Lower operational costs
  • Smaller loads
  • Shorter distances

Operational costs for straight trucks are much lower because they consume less fuel and require less overall maintenance. Therefore, companies don’t need to charge more to cover these expenses.

Box trucks are also used to transport smaller quantities of freight. If you’re using this mode of shipping, chances are you’re only moving a few products, or only traveling a short distance. Since you’ll be using less space, you can expect cheaper expenses. 

Straight trucks don’t travel nearly the same distance as tractor trailers. Since less distance is covered, shipping costs are lower. 

Great for Short Distances

As we’ve covered, box trucks have the versatility to operate in cities and neighborhoods. Since destinations in these areas are close to one another, straight trucks are ideal for short distance operation.

The compact size of these vehicles also allows drivers to quickly unload freight and travel to the next stop on their route. 

Best for Final Delivery

Straight trucks are almost exclusively used for final delivery. Often times, they carry cargo from a warehouse or a store to the final destination. That can mean it goes to the end use customer or as part of a B2B delivery. 

Part of the reason they’re great for this purpose goes back to their versatility. Box trucks can be filled to the brim with packages, but these goods rarely go to one destination. Instead, the vehicles deliver numerous shipments to multiple customers.

White straight trucks at a warehouse facility

What Are the Benefits of Shipping Using A Tractor Trailer

Tractor trailers are extremely common in the logistics industry. We’ll discuss some of the great features that make it such a popular option for moving freight. 

More Hauling Capacity

Tractor trailers carry a considerably larger amount of freight than box trucks. To prove this, consider some of the data we’ve provided regarding the dimensions of dry van trailers. 

Dimensions of Dry Van Trailers

Length26–53 feet
Width8–8.6 feet
Height8.6–8.9 feet

Provided by Mickey Genuine Parts

With varying dimensions, shippers can transport anywhere between 8 and 26 fully loaded pallets. When you consider the variety of goods loaded onto a flatbed, from lumber to tiny homes, the increased capacity is obvious. 

Then there are reefers, which have similar dimensions, so they can carry close to the same volume of cargo as a dry van. If you don’t want to use pallets, you can ship non-palletized freight on dry van and reefer trailers instead.

Multiple Services

Tractor trailer shipping comes in many variations. This allows business owners to pick a model that works for their unique circumstances.

These services include:

  • Expedited shipping
  • Hazmat
  • Single and team drivers
  • Less-than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL) shipping

Unlike tractor trailer shipping, box truck services are only used for final delivery. As a result, shipping goods with a semi truck gives businesses more flexibility when they need to ship items greater distances and in greater quantities.

Cheaper for Long Hauls

While straight trucks are great for moving small volumes of freight a short distance, tractor trailers are cheaper for transporting cargo in bulk over long distances. 

Most FTL shipments are calculated using a per mile rate. This means the distance of a shipment will have more sway over the final cost than the amount of freight you sent. As a result, using tractor trailers to move cargo in bulk is a great option.

Shippers with smaller quantities of goods also have the option of sending their cargo as an LTL shipment. In either case, a business is able to move both small and large volumes of freight at an affordable cost with tractor trailer services.  

Best for Shipping Between Warehouses and Stores

Due to the size of tractor trailers, they’re not the easiest to navigate through neighborhoods and big cities, which is where straight trucks are better suited.

However, semi trucks can conveniently back into a loading dock at warehouses or stores. These locations have the infrastructure and equipment in place that make loading and unloading shipments easier. 

Get Reliable and Fast Tractor Trailer Shipping with USA Truckload

If you’re looking for tractor trailer transportation services, then you need USA Truckload. We’re a 3PL that has an extensive network of transportation providers. Thanks to these reliable partners, we can provide different shipping services to move your goods. 

Some services we offer include:

  • Standard Truckload Shipping: Ideal for large shipments requiring direct transport across states.
  • Expedited Shipping: Perfect for time-sensitive deliveries that demand quick turnaround.
  • Drayage Services: Specialized handling for your cargo’s port to destination movements, ensuring seamless transitions in your supply chain.

At USA Truckload, we’re committed to providing not just transport solutions, but a partnership that drives your business forward. Stop denying yourself the shipping services you deserve and fill out your quote today. Our team can also be reached at (866) 353-7178 if you have any questions about what we have to offer. 

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