Types of Trucks and Truck Companies

There are many different types of trucks with which we must share the road. Each truck presents unique risks and dangers to the other cars, drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians around them. 

An incredible 86 percent of fatalities and 77 percent of injuries happen to the drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicles involved in the crash. This adds up to an added responsibility for truckers on our roadways. Unfortunately, because of trucking company demands and driver negligence, this is a responsibility that often goes neglected.

In some cases, you may be able to hold both the driver and truck company responsible for your accident. Our lawyers can help you navigate the complex laws which govern responsibility in these circumstances. Contact McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt to get over 30 years of holding truckers accountable on your side.

What Qualifies as a Truck?

This category of vehicle is responsible for 5,000 traffic deaths per year — a disproportionate number when measured against that caused by other vehicles.

What makes a truck so deadly in the first place? If we discount light trucks and SUVs, it’s their weight and the fact that they are built to transport cargo and not passengers. The dangers of sharing the road with them often come down to this mismatch between the ways each vehicle uses the roadways.

Adding to this clash is the fact that most heavy-duty trucks are articulated vehicles. This is a vehicle that has a permanent or semi-permanent pivoting joint, allowing the often large vehicle to make sharp turns. In the broadest sense, any vehicle that tows a trailer could be classified as articulated. 

Here is a list of some of the most common types of heavy-duty trucks:

  • Tractor Unit: Also known as a “towing engine” or “tractor,” this is basically the cab of the truck, built to tow a trailer.
  • Semi-Trailer Truck: A semi-trailer is often known as a “semi,” “big-rig,” “18-wheeler” or “transfer truck.” A semi is an articulated vehicle that consists of a tractor unit and an attached trailer.
  • 18-Wheeler: A semi-trailer truck with an 18-wheel configuration. These are known as the giants of the road.
  • Heavy Truck: These are often semi-trucks or 18-wheelers, and they are the largest trucks allowed on the road. They are typically used to haul extremely heavy cargo for long periods of time.
  • Tanker Truck: These trucks are meant to carry liquid loads such as gasoline, concrete, milk, water, diesel, and industrial chemicals. “Tank trucks” are often distinguished by the cylindrical shape of the trailer. These trucks are particularly dangerous due to their high center of gravity and often lethal cargo.
  • Dump Truck: Dump trucks are often used by construction workers for transporting loose material such as dirt, gravel, or sand. Dump trucks are unique because they are equipped with a hydraulically operated open-box bed at the rear. The front of this open-box bed can be lifted to drop the contents.
  • Flatbed Truck: This type of truck has an entirely flat, level body with no sides or roof. It allows for easy and quick loading and is typically used to transport sturdy, heavy loads. It can be articulated or rigid.
  • Garbage Truck: Garbage trucks, also known as waste collection vehicles (WCV), are designed to pick up the waste and haul it to landfills or other recycling or treatment facilities. Garbage trucks can be dangerous because they often work in residential areas full of pedestrians, and are quick to stop and start.

Largest Truck Companies

There are numerous trucking companies operating in the U.S. today. Together these companies put hundreds of thousands of large trucks on the road. While many of the biggest companies have admirable safety records, company pressure is a big reason that many truck accidents happen, even if it’s not immediately obvious.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted a two-year study of almost 1,000 large truck crashes and found that a significant amount could be connected with company protocol. “Traveling too fast for conditions” was to blame in 23 percent of cases — often a consequence of tight delivery deadlines. “Unfamiliarity with roadway” was cited in 22 percent of cases, which is a situation that could be mitigated by assigning drivers to routes they are more familiar with.

For your convenience, we have compiled a list of the largest truck companies in the U.S.:

  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • FedEx Ground
  • FedEx Freight
  • United Van Lines
  • Overnite Transportation
  • American Freightways
  • Schneider National, Inc.
  • Ryder Integrated Logistics
  • RPS
  • J.B. Hunt Transport Services
  • Con-Way Inc.
  • ABF Freight System
  • North American Van Lines
  • Swift Transportation
  • Werner Enterprises
  • Penske Logistics
  • Atlas Van Lines
  • Landstar Ranger
  • M.S. Carriers
  • USF Holland
  • Watkins Motor Lines
  • Allied Van Lines
  • U.S. Xpress
  • YRC Worldwide
  • Estes Express Lines

Our Track Record Winning Truck Accident Cases

Our law firm has won over $200 million for our clients in various personal injury cases. Below are a sample of awards we have won for victims of truck accidents:

  • $4.5 million: Awarded on behalf of a young mother who was killed by a truck that failed to stop at a stop sign.
  • $2.9 million: On behalf of a young woman killed when a truck wheel came off and struck her car.
  • $1.8 million: For a 43-year-old woman permanently disabled by a tractor-trailer that crossed the road’s centerline.
  • $1.35 million: On behalf of a man who was killed by a truck while waiting in traffic.
  • $925,000 (the policy maximum): For a 19-year-old passenger in a vehicle that was hit by a truck that illegally went through a stop sign. 
  • $650,000: For a school teacher who sustained head injuries after a truck accident.
  • $250,000: For a woman whose truck-caused knee injury required multiple surgeries and left her unable to play sports.


The scene of a traffic accident on Highway 9 near New Britain, Connecticut.

When to Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, attempting to go up against its parent company can be a daunting and complicated undertaking. That is why it is critical to hire an attorney who has the experience, knowledge, and resources to stand up against these big companies and their even bigger insurers.

At McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt, we can help with virtually any type of injury or wrongful death claim against a trucking company. Our 30-plus years of experience litigating truck accident cases has assisted clients from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania communities near and far. 

To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at (866) 694-5578.