18 Wheeler Truck - Big Rigs

18 Wheeler Truck – A Comprehensive Guide to Big Rigs

From 18 wheeler truck to powerful big rigs and versatile tractor-trailers, these big commercial vehicles are essential for moving goods over long distances. Due to these vehicles’ impressive size and capacity make transporting goods across long distances easier. 18-wheelers are also called semi-trucks. Another name that is also commonly used is tractor-trailer.

18-wheelers have a 6 times larger engine than a regular car. The engines of these trucks run for 1,000,000 miles. It can carry up to 800,000 pounds and is around 80 feet long with the trailer attached.

History on 18 Wheeler

The concept of 18-wheelers was started in 1896 by Alexander Winton, who sold the first manufactured semi-truck in 1899. Alexander Winton was the CEO and founder of The Winston Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland. He faced a problem delivering cars to buyers across the United States. He couldn’t drive each car to buyers’ homes, which was expensive and risky.

To solve this problem, he came up with the concept of the “automobile hauler” or semi-trailer. He attached a tractor to the back of a truck to transport cars. However, the early semi-trailer could only carry one car at a time, which needed further improvements.

Winton’s invention paved the way for the trucking business using the 18-wheeler. The first semi-trailer had an engine at the rear and could only carry one car, which took a lot of time and effort to load.

As demand for trailer trucks grew, others like August Charles Fruehauf and John C. Endebrock modified the design to increase capacity and efficiency. George Cassens designed a semi-trailer that could carry up to four cars in the 1930s.

Mack Trucks, an established company, played a significant role in developing heavy-duty commercial trucks from 1929 to 1944.

While self-driving cars may be the future, tractor-trailers remain the most cost-effective and efficient way to transport goods from one place to another, ensuring their continued presence in the transportation industry.

Understanding the Structure of 18 Wheelers

The foundation of every successful truck driver owner-operator is the essential components that form its core. These components work together to ensure a smooth journey, from the sturdy truck cab to the robust trailer and the dependable axles to the strong wheels. However, the engine, transmission, and suspension truly bring life into this machine. Let’s take a closer look at these vital components that contribute to trucks’ functionality and exceptional performance.

18 Wheeler Engines

Diesel engine is mostly used on 18-wheelers because diesel engine has greater compression resistance than gasoline and provides higher torque than gasoline engines.

The engine of an 18-wheeler has a displacement of 12 to 15 litres, producing 400 to 500 horsepower and generating 1200 to 2000 pounds-feet of torque, which is more than a regular car.

18-wheelers can have one or two tanks that can hold 300 gallons or more diesel, which could last nearly 1,500 miles between fill-ups.

The common diesel engines produced are Cummins, Volvo, Mack, Detroit Diesel, Navistar International, Caterpillar, and Paccar.

18 Wheeler Transmissions

Modern truck transmissions are mostly known as “range-splitter”. The trucks generally have 10 gears but can have up to 18 gears. Transporting heavy loads in mountainous regions requires the use of a higher gear. Many gears can make driving easier and more profitable by reducing fuel consumption.

18-wheeler comes in manual and automatic transmission, but most trucks use manual transmission. The trend of the automatic transmission has been growing in recent years. Automatic transmissions are easy to use and more efficient compared to manual transmissions.

18 Wheeler Equipments

The equipments used on the 18-wheeler are:

  1. Fifth Wheels and Kingpins
    Fifth wheels are the large U-shaped steel slabs bolted to the tractor’s frame behind the cab. Kingpins are arm-sized pins that stick out from the front of trailers. The kingpin smoothly slides into the fifth wheel when the tractor reverses under the trailer. Powerful jaws lock it into place and move the trailer when done correctly.
  2. Axles
    Drive axles at the tractor’s rear connect to the engine through the drive shaft to harness the engine’s power from the diesel and utilize it to move the truck forward and backwards. While some tractors have only one drive axle, most have two axles.
  3. Fairings and Skirts
    In modern times, most trucks have fairings and skirts. While initially found primarily on tractors, they are also increasingly integrated into trailers. Their primary purpose is to increase aerodynamics and boost fuel efficiency, ultimately reducing the vehicle’s operational expenses.

Tractors have included fairings on their roofs, over their fuel tanks, and behind their cabs for many years. However, trailer skirts are a relatively recent addition. These trailer skirts are long, slim sections made of metal, fiberglass, or plastic that hang under the trailer, helping the truck glide through the air with reduced resistance.

Types of 18 Wheelers (Semi Trailer Trucks)

The common types of 18-wheeler trailers are:

  1. Flatbed Trailers
    Flatbed trailers are the most commonly used trailers due to their exceptional versatility. They feature a flat, open deck without a roof or sides to enclose the cargo. While this design makes loading and unloading easy, it does not shield the cargo from the weather or road conditions. Flatbed trailers are ideal for transporting wide or oversized items, as they can be loaded from above using a crane or a forklift from the side.
  2. Step Deck Trailers
    Step deck trailers, also known as drop deck trailers, share similarities with flatbed trailers but come with a noticeable difference. Unlike flatbed trailers with a single level, step deck trailers have two deck levels: upper and lower.
  3. Lowboy Trailers
    Lowboy trailers, often called double-drop trailers, feature two distinct drops in deck height, allowing for an exceptionally low deck. The first drop occurs after the gooseneck, and the second happens before the wheels. This unique drop feature makes lowboy trailers ideal for transporting taller equipment without requiring height permits. They are well-suited for carrying large construction equipment and machinery.
  4. Reefer Trailers
    Reefer trailers, also known as refrigerated trailers, are equipped with insulation and temperature control systems. These trailers use refrigeration to transport perishable, chilled, or frozen goods while protecting temperature-sensitive cargo from extreme outside conditions.
  5. Dump Trailers
    Dump trailers are a type of hauling trailer that utilizes hydraulic systems to lift and tilt the trailer bed, making it easy to unload heavy cargo with the assistance of gravity. While they are sometimes confused with dump trucks, dump trailers offer the advantage of customizing the trailer size to match the load. They are a cost-effective way to transport heavy payloads safely and efficiently.
  6. Dry Van Trailers
    Dry van trailers, also called box trailers, are designed for shipping non-perishable goods. Although they lack temperature control, these trailers protect from the elements. Freight is typically loaded at the rear of the dry van trailer.
  7. Tanker Trailers
    Tanker trailers are primarily used for transporting liquids and are constructed from aluminum or stainless steel. Recognizable by their cylindrical shape, these trailers offer various advantages. The cylindrical design reduces pressure on the tank, provides a lower center of gravity, prevents liquid surges, and allows easier extraction and cleaning.

18 Wheeler Facts

  • 18-wheelers use diesel fuel because it’s more efficient than gasoline.
  • Diesel fuel has become more environmentally friendly.
  • Big rig engines are designed to run nonstop.
  • 18-wheelers can have up to 18 gears.
  • It can be dangerous to make a turn in a semi-truck.
  • Aerodynamic mud flaps help increase fuel efficiency and safety.
  • Standard tractors are typically 13½ feet high, about 70 feet long, and have five axles.
  • Most semi trucks have devices on their engine that limit speed, which is 62-68 miles per hour.
  • A new semi-truck can range from $100,000 – $200,000 or more.

What to Consider When Buying an 18 Wheeler?

When buying a semi-truck, the first thing to consider is how you will use it. There are many reasons to get a semi-truck, but you should figure out how it will help you before deciding which one to get.

You also need to decide if you want a new truck or a used one. Now that you know how much they cost, you can choose better.

Another thing to consider is how safe the truck is on the road and if it comes with a warranty. Check if other drivers say it’s safe, and find out if the warranty covers you for a few months after you buy it.

If You are Buying Used 18 Wheeler, Consider:

  1. Age and Mileage
    Consider the age and mileage of the truck. This can give you a good idea of the truck’s overall condition. Sometimes, older trucks that have been well cared for can be a good choice, even if they have more miles.
  2. Previous Owner and Maintenance History
    It’s important to find out who owned the truck before you and ask for a record of its maintenance history. This can help you see if the truck has had any problems in the past. Buying a used semi-truck from a reputable company is also a good idea because it increases the chances of getting a reliable truck.
  3. Warranty/Insurance
    The parts and components of semi-trucks can be quite costly, and it’s beneficial if the company’s warranty covers their replacement. Therefore, it’s crucial to gather comprehensive information when considering the purchase of a used truck.

Visit Truck Driver News to know more about the truck buying guide.

Where Can I Buy 18 Wheelers?

You’ll work with an authorized manufacturer’s dealership when purchasing a new truck. However, you can choose between used truck lots and private sellers if you choose a used truck.

Several new truck dealerships also provide gently used and factory-reconditioned trucks, which are usually safer for those seeking reliability.

Nevertheless, some of the most exceptional used truck deals often arise from owner-operators who have actively maintained their vehicles over the years. In such examples, they should possess receipts as proof of their care.

How Can I Finance My 18 Wheeler Truck?

If you plan to operate under your authority, you can purchase your truck outright with cash or seek financing from a bank.

If financing is your chosen way, you’ll typically need to provide documentation such as a freight contract or evidence of prior successful truck leasing or purchases.

Larger carriers with owner-operator divisions also offer financing alternatives for your consideration.

Can I Lease a Truck From a Trucking Company?

Yes, you can lease a truck from a trucking company, but that doesn’t mean you should.

Lease operator programs may appear attractive, especially for those developing from company drivers to owner-operators. However, in many cases, trucking companies can use carrier leases to take advantage of unsuspecting drivers. These leases often burden drivers with truck ownership without offering equivalent rewards.

While there might be some reputable options available, they are rare. If you come across a leasing opportunity with a carrier you believe to be trustworthy, it’s advisable to have an attorney review their lease agreement before committing to it.

Proper Training and Regulations for 18-Wheeler Drivers

Today, the demand for truck drivers is high. Getting a CDL license is essential, but it can be complex. Driver training programs simplify this process. They cover everything, from vehicle inspections to hours-of-service rules. These rules ensure safety by regulating driver hours. Training programs teach drivers to manage their time effectively and stay compliant. Motivated truck drivers benefit from these programs, saving time and gaining essential skills for a successful career. Here are 11 Truck Driving Safety Tips Every Professional Driver Should Follow.

18 Wheeler Truck Drivers Salaries

Truckers’ earnings vary widely, ranging from low to high, but most drivers fall within the average range.

Despite facing challenging driving conditions, extended periods away from their families, and extensive oversight and regulations, over-the-road truckers frequently earn lower incomes than local drivers.

The average annual earnings for an 18 wheeler truck driver in the United States is $69,335 annually. The experienced OTR driver can earn more than $100,000 per year.

Some of the Best 18 Wheeler Brands

  1. Freightliner
    Freightliner holds a significant market share, close to 40%, in new truck sales. They are known for their strong construction, reasonable pricing, and lower operational expenses than many competitors. This makes them a popular choice among fleets and savvy business-oriented owner-operators.
  2. Kenworth
    Kenworth trucks are renowned for their robust durability, well-designed interiors, and diverse styling options, ranging from the traditional W900 to the aerodynamic T680. Paccar owns Kenworth and Peterbilt, and Kenworth holds a similar market share, about 15%, in the new truck market.
  3. Peterbilt
    Peterbilt is highly respected on the open road, known for its iconic long hoods, comfortable rides, and strong resale value. It remains a top choice for owner-operators seeking top-tier features. Peterbilt trucks make up around 15% of annual new truck sales in the United States.
  4. Volvo
    Volvo trucks are gaining popularity thanks to their driver-friendly features, numerous engine choices, and overall value. They are among the most aerodynamic and fuel-efficient Class-8 trucks available, coming in various configurations, including day cabs, heavy haulers, and over-the-road tractors. Volvo accounts for approximately 9% of the new truck market. While these manufacturers dominate over 80% of new sales annually, other options are available.
  5. Mack
    In 1900, Jack and Gus Mack established Mack Trucks in Brooklyn, NY, initially operating under the name Mack Brothers Company. Mack Trucks has a long history of manufacturing heavy-duty trucks, but they are most famous for their distinctive Bulldog logo and hood ornament. Mack accounts for 6% of the new truck market.

FAQs on 18 Wheelers

Why are 18-wheelers called semi trucks?

“18-wheelers” are often called “semi-trucks” because they consist of two main parts: the tractor (front) and the trailer (rear). The term “semi” indicates that the tractor partially carries the load and relies on a separate trailer for transporting goods. This design provides flexibility for different types of cargo.

What’s the height of a semi-truck?

On average, semi trucks in the United States are around 72 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet tall.

What’s the best 18 wheeler truck brand?

The best 18 wheeler truck brands are Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Volvo, and Mack.

How many miles is good for an 18 wheeler?

On average, 750,000 miles is good for an 18-wheeler, but a well-maintained truck can last more than 1,000,000 miles.

Should I buy a new or used 18 wheeler?

Purchasing a new truck reduces time in the workshop and increases road time. New semi-trucks, especially with proper care, require less maintenance and are more user-friendly. They also amount to prosperity, growth, and commitment to the job. But buying a new or used truck depends on your budget.

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