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What are the three 3 classifications of trucks?

Apr. 09, 2024
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Last Updated on August 16, 2023

When you choose a truck, you don’t just pick the best-looking model from the lot. You also consider other factors, like specifications, mileage, whether the truck is light duty or heavy duty, and if it has the ability to do the job you have in mind.

Whether you want to use a truck for home improvement or for hauling massive loads across the country, take a closer look at the specs and you’ll discover weight is one of the most important factors. In fact, aside from platform design, weight makes the different between trucks and other vehicles. That’s how we get the different vehicle categories which are aptly name truck classification.

Here’s a helpful guide to understanding how truck classification works.

Why Does a Truck’s Weight Matter?

Before buying a truck, one of the first things you should check is the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Simply put, the GVWR is how heavy the truck will be after it’s loaded with cargo, fuel, and passengers. Neither the truck’s appearance nor its technology (or lack thereof) factor into the gross vehicle weight. Only the truck’s total operating weight — that is, the truck’s weight while being used or driven on the road — counts.

So why all the fuss over weight? Here are the three main reasons.

  • The US government regulates trucks according to weight. If a truck’s GVWR is more than 10,001 pounds, the automotive needs to have a USDOT number so it can be tracked and inspected for safety’s sake. After all, most trucks travel on public roads and if anything happens because a truck is overloaded, responsibility needs to be assigned where responsibility is due, especially if hazardous materials were involved.
  • If you drive a truck with a GVWR over 10,001 pounds, you need to follow all sorts of regulations to stay safe on the highway. For example, you should have your vehicle inspected at certain state stations along the road.  
  • Weight classes help you stay on the same page with truck dealers, repair crews, and similar parties. If you take your vehicle to a service shop, you benefit from knowing the difference between “light duty,” “medium duty,” and “heavy duty.” In case you add or replace any parts, you have to make sure those new parts won’t drastically affect the GVWR of your automotive.

Truck Weight Class Chart

Types of Trucks

Officially, the government sorts trucks into 8 weight-based classes. Although, most people differentiate these vehicles according to whether they’re light, medium, or heavy duty. Since the government and common classes overlap, we’ll talk about them both.

Light Duty (Classes 1-3)

Class 1

Weight: 6,000 lbs. and lighter

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Examples: Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma

This light duty class consists of the smallest and lightest trucks. They’re not much use for towing or hauling, but if you’re a homeowner or do-it-yourselfer, Class 1 trucks will be enough for you. SUVs and small pickup trucks fall under this category, as do some types of cargo vans and minivans.

Class 2

Weight: 6,001 – 10,000 lbs.

Examples: Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 2500, Dodge Ram 1500, Dodge Ram 2500, Ford F-150, Ford F-250, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan

Full-size or half-ton pickups are usually under Class 2. These trucks can haul between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds on their beds. Sometimes, this class is split into two more categories — Class 2a and 2b. Class 2a trucks have a GVWR of 6,001 to 8,500 pounds, while Class 2b trucks have a GVWR of 8,501 to 10,000 pounds.  

Class 3

Weight: 10,001 – 14,000 lbs.

Examples: Chevrolet Silverado 3500, Dodge Ram 3500, Ford E-350, Ford F-350, GMC Sierra 3500

If you have a heavy-duty pickup truck, chances are it’s a Class 3 truck. This type gets often used for “work truck” jobs, “contractor truck” jobs, and the like. You can also put certain types of  walk-ins, city delivery trucks, and box trucks under this category.   

Medium Duty (Classes 4-6)

Class 4

Weight: 14,001 – 16,000 lbs.

Examples: Dodge Ram 4500, Ford E-450, Ford F-450, GMC 4500

Of all the medium duty trucks, Class 4 trucks are the lightest. You can add “chassis cabs” to convert them into makeshift ambulances, box trucks, or wreckers. Certain types of city delivery trucks, bucket trucks, and large walk-ins belong to this category too.  

Class 5

Weight: 16,001 – 19,500 lbs.

Examples: Dodge Ram 5500, Ford F-550, Freightliner M2 GMC 5500, International TerraStar

The job capabilities of Class 4 and Class 5 trucks tend to overlap a bit, but Class 5 trucks can also do construction and “fleet vehicle” work. This category includes all remaining bucket trucks, large walk-ins, and city delivery trucks.

Class 6

Weight: 19,501 – 26,000 lbs.

Examples: Chevrolet Kodiak (GMC TopKick) C6500, Ford F-650, Freightliner M2 106, International Durastar 4300

Beverage trucks, rack trucks, single-axle trucks, and school buses are some of the vehicles that fall under Class 6. They look and feel like Class 5 vehicles, except they can tow and haul heavier loads. In fact, you can expect Class 6 trucks to work almost as well as Class 7 and 8.

Heavy Duty (Classes 7-8)

Class 7

Weight: 26,001 – 33,000 lbs.

Examples: Ford F-750, GMC C7500, International WorkStar, Mack Granite

If you want to drive a Class 7 truck, you need a Class-B commercial driver’s license (CDL). This is because Class 7 drivers mostly work in heavy duty industries like construction, garbage collection, and livestock transportation. Vehicles under this category include tractors and city transit buses.

To get a CDL, visit your state’s DMV, ask for a Class-B CDL application form, and get ready for a written and a practical test. You will also be required to take a physical test (to make sure your eyes and ears are in good shape) every two years, and must be at least 21 years old to drive a commercial truck on interstate highways.    

Class 8

Weight: 33,001 lbs. and heavier

Examples: Cement Truck, Tractor Trailer, 18-Wheeler

Considering all the trucks on this list, Class 8 types are one of the most common. Sleeper cabs, dump trucks, truck tractors, and cement trucks are examples of Class 8 vehicles.

Since this class are the biggest and heaviest of their kind, they require drivers to get a Class-A or Class-B CDL. Class-A CDLs are for combination vehicles like tractor-trailers, while Class-B CDLs are for non-combination commercial vehicles.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, there’s a lot of consideration that goes into buying a truck! By knowing what kind of jobs you intend to do and what kind of hauling, speed, and other capabilities you’ll need, you’ll have an easier time choosing the model and classification that’s right for you.

These charts illustrate the vehicle weight classes and categories used by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The vehicle weight classes are defined by FHWA and are used consistently throughout the industry. These classes, 1-8, are based on gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the maximum weight of the vehicle, as specified by the manufacturer. GVWR includes total vehicle weight plus fluids, passengers, and cargo. FHWA categorizes vehicles as Light Duty (Class 1-2), Medium Duty (Class 3-6), and Heavy Duty (Class 7-8). EPA defines vehicle categories, also by GVWR, for the purposes of emissions and fuel economy certification. EPA classifies vehicles as Light Duty (GVWR < 8,500 lb) or Heavy Duty (GVWR > 8,501 lb). Within the Heavy-Duty class, there is a Medium Heavy Duty Diesel Engine class for engine-only certification, but no Medium-Duty Vehicle class. The September 2011 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)/EPA rulemaking on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles uses categories and weights for Heavy-Duty Vehicle Classes 2b through 8, similar to the FHWA weight classes.

What are the three 3 classifications of trucks?

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