Understanding Truck Size and Weight Classes
Unless you’re a die-hard truck fan, you’ve probably had trouble keeping up with all the different terms used to classify pickup trucks and what they all mean. Pickup trucks possess classification terms that aren’t used outside of their segment, so if you aren’t familiar with these vehicles, it’s like a different language.
Here are the basic terms that you should know to understand truck classifications.
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In the American market, there are four different pickup truck categories: compact (aka mini or small), mid-size, full-size, and heavy duty. The compact and mid-size are considered small, while the full-size and heavy duty are deemed standard.
- Compact/mini: Also known as Utes (utility vehicle) in some regions, these small trucks are more popular internationally than in the USA. They have a small bed and mild engine. Example: Chevrolet S10
- Mid-size: These are popular trucks with those who want towing and hauling functionality at their disposal, but also enjoy driving a truck as a passenger vehicle on a daily basis. Example: Chevrolet Colorado
- Full-size: These are the most widely-popular trucks in the USA and make up much of the segment’s sales year after year. Their payload capacity sets them apart. Example: Chevrolet Silverado 1500
- Heavy duty: These large pickup trucks often have V8 engines, tremendous strength, and sometimes even doubled rear tires. Example: Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD, 3500 HD
Pickup trucks are often also referred to by their payload capacity:
- Half-ton: Trucks that can hold 1,000 pounds or somewhat above. Example: Chevrolet Silverado 1500
- Three-quarter-ton: Trucks that can hold 2,500 pounds or somewhat above. Example: Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD
- One-ton: Trucks that can hold 3,500 pounds or somewhat above. Example: Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD
The American market and the Federal Highway Administration have their own classification system based on the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). With nine different classes that range from small models like the Chevrolet Colorado to big rigs, this system covers every type of truck. Classes 1-3 cover light duty models (up to the 3500 trucks), classes 4-6 cover medium duty trucks (from 4500 to 6500 trucks), and classes 7-9 cover heavy duty and special trucks (7500 and above).
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Sources: Real Truck, US Department of Energy
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