Trucks and Tractors: what is the difference?

As a beginner in the trucking industry, you can be confused trying to understand the entire truck-world lingo, such as, “What is the difference between a truck and a tractor?” So, we will help you. A tractor is a type of truck that is capable to carry heavier loads than a regular (or “straight”) truck. A truck is referred to any number of larger vehicles that require CDL to drive.

In the trucking industry there are some words that seem to mean the same thing such as semi-truck, 18 wheeler, tractor-trailer, and semitrailer. You feel yourself overwhelmed by all these difficult words that truckers use on a regular basis.

Don’t worry, it will easier for you to puzzle all these terms out when you start immersing yourself in the world of truck driving. When you get to this expert level as a truck driver you will use this truck lingo without thinking about it twice!

But now if you are doubt about the difference between a truck and a tractor, we are here to help you.

The Meaning of The Words – a Truck And a Tractor

To understand better how to use these words in the trucking industry, let’s take a look at what the words themselves actually mean, both in the truck driving world and beyond.

First what we need to do is to go to vocabulary school before we will immerse into the trucking world. So let’s try to understand the meaning of these words better:

  • Truck – In general, when people say truck, they are referring to the kinds of trucks that we teach you to drive at NSTS. But before automobiles were invented, the word “truck” was simply referred to any wheeled structure used to carry heavy things from one place to another. So, years and years ago, a “truck” might have such meaning – anything from a horse-drawn cart to a wheelbarrow.
  • Tractor – This term is used in the truck driving world and also in the farm world. On a farm, people use a tractor for things such as harvesting fields or plowing. But truck drivers don’t use these definitions in the meaning of the word tractor when they use it to refer to a truck. The word “tractor” also had appeared before motor vehicles existed. It meant – a device which is capable to pull heavy things. The reason why there’s so much confusion about the meaning of these words is that the word “tractor” is referred to a subset of trucks. It can be referred to a wide variety of vehicles, and a tractor is a specific kind of truck.

Tractors as a type of truck were designed specifically to pull trailers, it is the wagon-like part attached to the backs of trucks. Tractors differ from other kinds of trucks because they have a fifth wheel mounted over the rear axle that enables them to pull a trailer. As a type of powerful truck, a tractor is used when the heavy cargo must be carried by a regular or straight truck. But a truck is able to carry the weight of its cargo without any additional help.

Tractors have different names, such as:

  • semi
  • big rig
  • 18-wheeler

Tractors are used to pull semi-trailers because semi-trailers do not have front axles and aren’t able to move on their own.

What Kind of CDL Does a Driver Need For a Truck or a Tractor?

Now we have understood the difference between a truck and a tractor, and another question is appeared – What kind of CDL do I need to drive these vehicles? There are three classifications of CDLs.

  • Class C CDL – you can drive vehicles with more than sixteen people and to transport hazardous materials. This type of license allows you to drive buses, hazmat vehicles, and trailers.
  • Class B CDL – let you drive vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, or to tow a vehicle up to 10,000 pounds. You can drive larger buses (such as segmented buses or school buses), box trucks (such as delivery trucks) and straight trucks.
  • Class A CDL – you can drive vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or to tow a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds. It allows you to drive tractors, flatbeds, trailer combinations, truck and livestock carriers, as well as most Class C and B vehicles.

Here at NSTS, our school focuses on CDL Class A and Class B. When you complete our courses, you will be able to drive any kind of truck, including those powerful tractors.

To get more information about getting your CDL with NSTS, contact us today. We are looking forward to teach you everything we know about how to become an efficient and confident truck driver.