Truck Echelon

Vehicle manufacturers in the United States categorize trucks by gross vehicle weight rating, defined as the combined weight of the truck and its maximum cargo. The Federal Highway Administration categorizes them by their configuration, including the total number of axles and tires and whether the truck typically pulls a trailer. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have a third categorization for trucks, based on their gross vehicle weight rating and wheelbase. The Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) establishes various consumer and commercial classes of vehicles in the United States. These classes are based on what are referred to as Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings or GVWR. Currently there are eight classes of trucks, ranging from light-duty to heavy-duty variants. Commercial trucks are identified as those vehicles associated with Classes 6 through 8.

Vehicle Manufacturer Classes

• Vehicle manufacturers recognize eight truck classes, grouped into three truck categories. The light truck category encompasses trucks from Class 1, 2 and 3, which weigh up to 14,000 pounds and include pickup trucks, ambulances and delivery trucks. The medium truck category includes Class 4 and 5 trucks. These weigh between 14,001 and 33,000 pounds and include cargo vans, wreckers and school buses. Heavy duty trucks are Class 8 vehicles. These weigh more than 33,000 pounds and include semi trucks, fire trucks and cement mixers.

Federal Highway Administration Classes

• The Federal Highway Administration divides vehicles into 13 classes, 10 of which include trucks. Class 3 vehicles are passenger vehicles other than passenger cars, that have two axles and four tires. This classification includes pickups, motor homes and vans, whether or not they pull recreational or light trailers. Classes 5 through 13 are all trucks. Trucks in Classes 5 through 7 have two or more axles and six or more tires on a single frame. These classes include trucks, campers and large recreational vehicles. Trucks in Classes 8 through 13 have up to seven or more axles and more than one unit, including a tractor or straight truck. Semi trucks with one or more trailers would fall into one of these classes. The University of Washington indicates that most states aggregate these classes into three to five categories of vehicle.

Environmental Protection Agency Categories

• The Environmental Protection Agency and United States Department of Energy recognize three truck classes for the purposes of fuel economy regulations. Category 1 trucks include small and medium pickup trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) up to 8,500 pounds. A small or medium pickup has a standard wheelbase up to 115 inches–a truck with an extended wheelbase over 115 inches may still qualify as a small or medium truck. Category 2 trucks are large pickup trucks with a wheelbase over 115 inches, and a GVWR less than or equal to 8,500 pounds. Class 3 trucks are large trucks weighing over 8,500 pounds, but less than 10,000 pounds. Class 3 trucks are not rated for fuel economy.

Commercial Truck Classifications

Class 6
• According to the DOT Class 6 trucks are identified as “truck gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ranges from 19,501 to 26,000 pounds (8,846 to 11,793 kg).” Vehicles that relate to this medium-duty class include bobtail box trucks, small tractors, or small dump trucks. Some of these trucks in this class are the International Durastar 4100 to the 4400, the GMC Topkick small tractor (used to haul bottled water or soda), or the Isuzu tractor H-Series. These trucks can be operated without carrying a Class B commercial drivers license.

Class 7
• According to the DOT, Class 7 trucks are identified as “truck gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ranges from 26,001 to 33,000 pounds (11,794 to 14,969 kg).” Vehicles of this type include commercial bus frames, medium-sized tractors or special heavy-duty vehicles such found on some emergency response vehicles. Some of the trucks in this class are the: International Navistar Lonestar, the CE300 commercial bus, or the IDF custom Navastar. Drivers in this class require a Class B license.

Class 8
• According to the DOT, Class 8 trucks are identified as “truck gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ranges from 33,000 pounds (14,969 kg).” Vehicles of this type include full-sized cab-over tractors, large dump or trash trucks, or large-framed custom vehicles. Some of the trucks in this class are: the Kenworth W900, Freightliner SNC Century, or the Volvo North American VN. Drivers in this class require a Class B license.