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How Long Is a Semi Truck Without a Trailer?

how-long-is-a-semi-truck-without-trailer

Semi-trucks are incredibly important. Chances are, everything around wouldn’t be there without these semi-trucks. If you’re looking to buy a semi-truck or interested in them, you must have many questions. One of them might be how long a semi-truck is without a trailer?

Depending on the type of semi-truck, it can be anywhere between 20-35 feet. While there are no government-imposed restrictions on the length of semi-trucks, there are for semi-trailers. It can be anywhere between 48-59.6 feet, depending on the state.

These terms can be confusing sometimes. And these lengths can vary sometimes. If you’re in the industry, understanding the specifics of a semi-truck is vital. So, here I’ve talked about this specific topic in great detail. Keep on reading to find out more.

What Is A Semi Truck?

semi-truck-without-its-trailer-on-the-highway

A vehicle carrying cargo has many names. In North America alone, they have names like semis, transport trucks, 18 wheelers, semi-trailer trucks, and so on. These interchangeable terms can be confusing. 

Thus, before exploring how long a semi-truck without a trailer is, it is crucial to understand the term “semi-truck.”

A semi-truck is made of two different parts. Semi-trailer(s) and tractor.

Firstly, detachable trailer(s). The correct term is semi-trailers. They are attached to the tractor. It has wheels but no front axle and engine.

The wheels on semi-trailers are only on one end. When driving, the chassis of the semi-truck supports the semi-trailer. You need a specific semi-truck to tow a semi-trailer safely.

Secondly, the tractor unit (also known as a semi-truck). It contains the engine and provides power to haul the semi-trailers. Length of the semi-truck doesn’t change when the semi-trailer is attached. 

By now, you can guess that a semi-truck can run by itself without the need for a semi-trailer. You probably have seen one downtown or highway. 

A tractor can be attached to multiple semi-trailers. Therefore, their names would vary depending on how many semi-trailers are attached. For example, a tractor attached with two semi-trailers should be called a “semi-trailer-trailer.” But people may just choose to call it “semi” or “semi-truck”.

It is important to identify between 18-wheelers and semi-trucks if you want to buy one. Simply put, 18-wheelers have 18 wheels. 18-wheelers can be semi-trucks too. But all semi-trucks are not 18-wheelers, simply because they don’t have 18 wheels.

Now, even if someone calls a vehicle carrying cargo with a new name, you can identify if it’s a semi-truck or any other vehicle.

Semi Trailer Length Around The U.S.

Below is the list of semi-trailer lengths around the United States. The data has been taken from the U.S. Department of Transportation. These lengths are subject to change, so it’s best to check the government website. You can, however, use a higher-length trailer, but that would require special permission.

StateMaximum Trailer Length (in feet)
Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin.48’
Indiana, Rhode Island.48’6”
Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania.53’
Alabama, Arkansas.53’6”
Colorado, Wyoming.57’4”
Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico.57’6”
Texas.59’
Louisiana, Oklahoma.59’6”

In this day and age, innovation knows no bounds. So they can be as long as you want. But this can’t be done mainly due to safety concerns.

Long vehicles like semi-trucks have a large turning radius. Therefore, there will always be a risk of hitting other vehicles in sharp corners.

The U.S. has hundreds and thousands of miles of straight highways. As such, semi-trucks here are longer when compared to their European counterparts. In Europe, due to most of its highways running through mountains, semi-trucks are of limited length.

How Many Kinds Of Semi Trucks Are There?

semi truck types

Semi-trucks can be divided into three types: day cabs, sleepers, and custom haulers. Sleepers have a sleeping area in them and are used for long trips. Day cabs are the same humongous truck without the sleeping area and are used for short trips. Custom haulers can be customised according to your needs and personal choice and are used for excessive loads.

Sleepers can be further divided into three categories.

  • Flat Roof Sleeper: Flat roof, less headspace.
  • Mid-Roof Sleeper: Higher rounded roof, more headspace. Along with a bed, they usually come with a TV and storage space.
  • Raised Roof Sleeper: Highest roof and most spacious. Comes with more resources such as minifridge and premium sound system.

Disclaimer: I am talking about tractors here. Sleepers, day cabs, and custom haulers are a subset of tractors. You wouldn’t be wrong in using tractor/semi-truck but without context it may be harder to determine what you mean. A truck could also be a pickup truck.

Length Of A Semi Truck

Without a trailer, measuring from one end to the other of the tractor would be somewhere between 20-35 feet. But most truckers, when measuring, use Bumper to Back of Cab (BBC). In that case, the average length is 10 feet. Even this is variable.

What is important to understand is that there isn’t any law limiting tractor and (semi) trailer merging. However, there are only laws for semi-trailers which I have already discussed above. And you can always use a tape measure when in doubt.

On average, the total length of a semi-truck (tractor + trailer) is 70 feet. But this length can vary depending on three things.

1. Tractor Type

These are usually 20 feet in length. But this can vary depending on the manufacture and type of tractor.

2. Trailer Type

These are usually 53 feet long. Some of its lengths sit on top of the tractor, coming to an average of 70-72 feet. If there are multiple trailers, the total length can be more or equal to 120 feet.

3. State Requirements

Depending on what is being delivered and who is transporting it, the length of specialty freight delivery might vary. In terms of length, each state has various regulations which must be looked into.

Conclusion

Semi-trucks are the vehicles that keep our country going. Without them, you wouldn’t have gas in your local gas station or your Amazon delivery. By now, you not only know how long a semi-truck is without a trailer but can also differentiate between confusing terms. Thank you for reading.

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