Here are some of the best-known truck types and a short definition of each one:
Modern tow trucks are vehicles that feature any type of hoisting mechanism or winch device that can be used to remove stuck vehicles from ditches, crash sites, hillsides, snow banks, or virtually any place that does not allow freedom of movement. Tow trucks are also used to transport crashed or disabled vehicles from an accident scene or the point where they broke down. Typical examples include tow trucks that work during winter months to rescue vehicles stranded in snow and ice.
The words “bus” and “buses” have many definitions, but for the purpose of trucking, the word “buses” is simply the plural form of “bus,” which refers to any of many types of motor vehicles whose primary purpose is to transport human passengers from one point to another. In many cases, buses carry passengers along routes that are fixed according to schedule and direction. School buses, tour buses, and commuter buses are common examples.
On a straight truck, the cab (where the driver sits) and the trailer (where the cargo is) are not able to be separated. As opposed to a tractor-trailer truck, the straight truck is a single “body-and-cab” unit, and are usually about half the size of a typical tractor-trailer vehicle. In their most common configurations, straight trucks have just two or three axles and no articulation.
Trucks used to transport other vehicles and sometimes other trucks. Drive-away trucking involves hauling cars to dealerships, trucks to trucking companies or drivers, and sometimes refers to the truck used to deliver heavy-duty construction equipment.
Box trucks are similar in many ways to vans but feature different designs and purposes. Also known as box vans, cube vans, and cube trucks, these versatile trucks usually have cube-shaped areas for carrying cargo and include a standard chassis cab. The most common setup is for the box truck’s cabin to be completely separated from the cargo space. However, there are some box trucks where the cargo area is connected to the cabin by either a door or window.
The key difference between box trucks and their cousin, the cargo van, is design. Vans feature a single body that houses the cargo area and driver while a box truck has separate spaces for driver and cargo, even when the two spaces are connected in some way.
Power only trucking is a term that has a variety of meanings but usually refers to the tractor portion only, not a trailer. On job boards for truckers, the person who lists a position as “power only” needs nothing more than a tractor unit. In other words, just the “power” portion of the arrangement. Power only truck drivers hire out their ability to transport trailers of various types. For customers who want to move a trailer full of goods, or just an empty one, a power-only driver is the one who will be hired to do the job.
In general, the word “truck” is typically used to mean a vehicle to moves cargo of some kind and is powered by a motor. The main differences include characteristics like power, vehicle design, fuel, overall size and number of wheels. In fact, the origin of the word “truck” dates back to terms used to describe iron wheels that were shaped like hoops and used on wooden supply carts.
It’s also important to remember that there are dozens of different kinds of trucks and trucking tasks. The above list contains the most common terms. Power only, box trucks, straight trucks, tow trucks, buses, and drive-aways make up a large percentage of all trucks on the road today.