What Is a Straight Truck?

Dustin Hawley | Feb 14, 2021

A straight truck is a truck where the entire vehicle shares a single frame. The cab, cargo compartment, and axles are all a single, unified piece. This distinguishes it from a semi-truck, which consists of a separate tractor and trailer.

Straight truck

What Are the Advantages of a Straight Truck?

One of the primary advantages of straight trucks is that they are easier to operate than semi-trucks. Because they don’t articulate in the middle, they’re more predictable when cornering and navigating curves, which is particularly advantageous when reversing. Since you don’t have to account for the sway of the trailer, even an inexperienced driver can easily back a straight truck up to a loading dock. On the flip side, this can be a challenging endeavor with a semi.

Along the same lines, a straight truck is more navigable. You can turn around in tighter spaces and drive up narrow driveways that a semi wouldn’t be able to handle. Straight trucks are also usually not as tall as semis, a function of their need to fit under low overpasses.

Additionally, straight trucks typically have lower weight ratings than semis. At first glance, this may seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually not. The goal is not to use the heaviest possible truck but to use the right truck for the load.

Suppose you run a local delivery company, and on an average day, your driver delivers 25,000 pounds worth of goods. You wouldn’t want to have them driving an 80,000-pound semi on their route. Maintenance aside, the fuel costs alone would put your company in the red. Instead, you would want them to drive a truck more suitable for the task at hand.

Finally, a straight truck does not necessarily require a CDL for operation (although some do, depending on the gross vehicle weight). However, non-CDL drivers can operate a straight truck with up to 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW) without the requirement of a CDL, making them a reliable option for people who want to handle their own hauling or large transport. It also makes them an affordable alternative for companies who don’t want to pay a premium for CDL drivers.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Straight Truck?

Under current federal law, a straight truck — specifically, a two-axle truck — can carry a maximum of 34,000 pounds. By contrast, a semi-truck can carry up to 80,000 pounds, or 20,000 pounds per axle. If you need to move a hefty load, a straight truck will simply not be large enough.

Keep in mind that these are federal laws. Certain state laws allow for heavier vehicles on non-interstate roads. However, since you cannot legally drive these larger vehicles on the interstate, you would only ever find a larger straight truck as a custom build. No manufacturer will mass-produce a truck that’s not federally compliant.

Another disadvantage of a straight truck is that they’re not as versatile as semis. With a straight truck, your cab is affixed to a single trailer that cannot be changed out. But with a semi-truck, you can use different trailers as needed. Drivers can hitch a cab to a large box trailer for moving goods that need to be protected, and if you need to move extra-long loads, you can hitch the same cab to a flatbed trailer. You can even connect a tank for carrying liquids like fuel or milk. Simply put, if you need to transport various loads, a semi-truck is usually a better choice.

We should note that both semi-trucks and straight trucks share one disadvantage: they are easy to overload

This is typically due to the fact that some loads are far denser than others. You can pack a whole truck full of empty milk cartons and not run into any trouble, but the same truck might be over its rated weight with just a few pallets of bricks.

Remember, the fact that you’re not driving a semi does not mean you’re not subject to safety regulations. If you get pulled over, and your 30,000-pound-rated truck is loaded with 40,000 pounds of goods, you can be cited and fined just like a semi-truck driver.


A straight truck is simply a single-piece truck that’s built on a single chassis. They’re easier to drive than semi-trucks, particularly in reverse. But that said, for some larger loads, a semi-truck is the only viable option. If this information was helpful, read more of our automotive guides and articles!

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