Semi-trucks can be a confusing topic, finding accurate and reliable information should not be a struggle. That being said, this article will cover some of the most commonly asked questions about semi-trucks.
We cover everything from what is a semi-truck, how much semi-truck drivers get paid, how to finance a semi-truck, how to get a CDL, and where to buy a semi-truck.
What is a semi-truck?
What is a semi-truck? In North America, the combination vehicles made up of a powered truck and one or more semi-trailers are known as “semis”, “semi-trailers”, “tractor-trailers”, “big rigs”, “semi-trucks”, “18-wheelers”, or “semi-tractor trailers” and “semi-trailer trucks”.
The tractor unit typically has two or three axles; those built for hauling heavy-duty commercial construction machinery may have as many as five, some often being lift axles.
The most common tractor-cab layout has a forward engine, one steering axle, and two drive axles. The fifth-wheel trailer coupling on most tractor trucks is movable fore and aft, to allow adjustment in the weight distribution over its rear axle(s).
A semi-trailer truck more commonly semi truck or simply “semi” is the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers to carry freight.
A semi-trailer attaches to the tractor with a fifth-wheel coupling as known as a hitch, with much of its weight borne by the tractor. The result is that both the tractor and semi-trailer will have a design distinctly different from that of a rigid truck and trailer.
How much do semi-truck drivers make?
An American Trucking Association study released on August 10, 2022, states that truck driver wages increased by 18% compared to 2019 average wages.
Median compensation in 2021 stood at $69,687. This does not include benefits, but it does include bonuses.
“In the truckload space, compensation was up 18% from 2019,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said during a conference call, “but it was up nearly 11% over 2020 levels. So it just shows you that the market got very tight for drivers. Median compensation in for-hire truckloads was nearly $70,000 last year. That includes bonuses, but does not include benefits.”
This year, 60% of fleets have said they plan on increasing wages again.
On average, 90% of fleets increased wages by 10.9%, which surprised Costello since he was expecting more significant numbers.
Independent contractors performing non-drayage activities earned about $235,000 median income last year. The drayage sector stands at a median income of $164,000.
The survey also indicated that 96% of fleets offered a referral bonus for new drivers, these bonuses increased by about 15% which bumps the bonus to $1,150.
82% of LTL carriers offer a referral bonus of a median of $875. While only 54% of fleets offer an additional sign-on bonus.
How to finance a semi-truck?
Semi-truck financing is a vital piece of the trucking industry puzzle. Correctly leveraging your credit and having the proper equipment and truck financing is critical to managing cash flow, increasing revenue, and growing your trucking company.
We know what it takes to help you grow your business. Whether you’re an owner-operator, small fleet owner, or own a large fleet buying trucks on a regular basis, we have a finance program for you.
We’re one of the nation’s largest commercial truck financing brokers. We have the partnerships and ability to finance equipment and vehicles the big banks can’t. We have partnerships with 25 of the top lenders in the commercial equipment and trucking industry.
We’ve made the semi-truck leasing and finance process quick and easy so you can get funded fast and on the road with your new truck.
- Apply Online: Click the “Get Pre-Approved Today” button. Fill out the contact form and one of our truck finance specialists will call you ASAP! Or for immediate assistance give us a call at (866) 627-6644
- Select a Solution: A truck finance specialist will contact you to go over your funding and business needs. We want to understand your needs to better help us find the best solution that meets your objectives.
- Review Documents: Once we have determined the best truck finance solution for you and your business, documents are generated and then emailed for review and signature. An electronic signature is acceptable on most documents.
- Get Funded: After the signed contract is returned, we’ll process your documents. Most transactions fund within 1 to 3 days. Fast turn around to get you the truck you want up and running.
Get Pre-Approved – Click the Get Pre-Approve Button Below to get started today. Get pre-approved in minutes. We do a soft credit pull, NO hard inquiries (unlike our competitors), and guaranteed not to hurt your business or personal credit score.
How to insure a semi-truck?
You decide to become a truck driver. You’re looking to finance or lease your new semi-truck. But before you can get approved for truck financing you need to have commercial truck or semi-truck insurance.
There are several types of commercial truck insurance. We will cover everything you need to know about insuring a semi-truck.
The coverage you need and the cost of truck insurance are dependent on a few factors. One of the factors is your owner-operator status. There are two types of owner-operator status.
Owner-operator under lease to a motor carrier – An owner-operator is an individual who owns their own commercial vehicle or small fleet, typically tractor-trailers. Alternatively, they can provide their truck and driving services to another motor carrier under a lease for a contracted period and operate under that carrier’s authority.
Owner-operator under your own authority – Having your own carrier authority means you have the government’s permission to get paid for hauling freight as your own trucking company.
Owner-operators under lease typically pay less due to the motor carrier covering some of the insurance needs.
Owner-operators with their own authority tend to pay more because they’re the owner and have full responsibility and are liable for anything that goes wrong while driving, loading, and unloading their trucks.
What are the most popular semi-truck brands?
Freightliner is one of the most popular semi-truck brands in the United States. The brand is known for its high-quality, durable trucks that can withstand heavy use. Freightliner offers a variety of models, including the Cascadia and the M2 106, which are both popular among long-haul and regional drivers.
Learn more about Freightliner
Kenworth is another well-respected semi-truck brand that is known for its reliable and efficient trucks. The brand offers a wide range of models, including the T680 and the T880, both of which are popular for their comfort and safety features.
Learn more about Kenworth
Peterbilt is a premium semi-truck brand that offers top-of-the-line trucks for a variety of transportation needs. The brand is known for its high-quality and luxurious trucks, which are popular among owner-operators and fleets alike. The Peterbilt 579 and the 389 are two of the brand’s most popular models.
Learn more about Peterbilt
Volvo is a Swedish semi-truck brand that is known for its safety features and fuel efficiency. The brand offers a variety of models, including the VNL and the VNR, which are both popular for their aerodynamic designs and advanced safety features.
Learn more about Volvo
Mack is a well-known semi-truck brand that is known for its rugged and durable trucks. The brand offers a range of models, including the Anthem and the Granite, which are both popular for their power and reliability.
Learn more about Mack
International is a popular semi-truck brand that offers a variety of models for different transportation needs. The brand is known for its innovative features and advanced technology, which make its trucks more fuel-efficient and easier to drive. The International LT and the HV are two of the brand’s most popular models.
Learn more about International
Western Star is a semi-truck brand that is known for its premium, customizable trucks. The brand offers a range of models, including the 49X and the 5700XE, which are both popular among owner-operators who want a truck that can be tailored to their specific needs.
Learn more about Western Star
What are the different types of semi-truck trailers?
A large proportion of a semi-trailer’s weight is supported by a tractor unit, a detachable front-axle assembly known as a dolly, or the tail of another trailer. A trailer is normally equipped with landing gear (legs that can be lowered) to support it when it is uncoupled.
Many trailers have wheels that are capable of being totally dismounted and are also relocatable (repositionable) to better distribute the load to bearing wheel weight factors Semi-trailers are more popular for transport than full trailers, which have both front and rear axles. Ease of backing is cited as one of the semi’s best advantages.
Semi-trailers with two trailer units are called tandem tractor-trailers tandem rigs or doubles. Other terms used are “B-train” or (when there are three or more trailers) “road train”. A double-trailer combination is possible with the use of a dolly, or “converter dolly”, essentially one to three additional axles placed under the front of a second semi-trailer.
Flatbed trailers are the most popular and common of the semi-trailer used today. The length is either 48 feet or 53 feet, and the width of 96 or 102 inches. Including rub rails and stake pockets on the sides, which are generally placed every 2 feet. Some older trailers are only 45 feet or shorter if used in sets of doubles or triples, often used to haul hay.
Several lengths and combination setups can only be legally driven on turnpike/toll roads which are far too long for most roadways. The body and frame can be one of 3 general designs: the heaviest and sturdiest is all steel, usually with wood planks.
The ever-popular combo with a steel frame and aluminum bed. These types often have a wood portion for nailing down dunnage boards, and aluminum. Which is the lightest allowing for more cargo to be legally carried without overweight permits.
Incredibly light and very expensive to purchase, all-aluminum trailers are very slippery when wet. They flex more and are easily damaged. They also have a natural upwards bend so that when loaded they straighten out to be flatter rather than sag in the middle under a load.
A lowboy is a semi-trailer with two drops in deck height: one right after the gooseneck and one right before the wheels. This allows the deck to be extremely low compared with other trailers. It offers the ability to carry legal loads up to 12 ft (3.66 m) tall, which other trailers cannot. Lowboys are used to haul heavy equipment such as bulldozers, industrial equipment, etc.
Lowboys are designed to carry massive weights. 2-axle lowboy trailers have a maximum weight of 40,000 pounds. Lowboys can go up to 80,000 depending on the number of axles used.
Lowboy trailers may require additional permits to operate. State or municipal regulations should be strictly followed.
A refrigerated trailer is also known as a reefer trailer. Generally used for transporting chilled or frozen products. The temperature inside this trailer can be controlled whatever the outside weather is.
Refrigerated trailers are basically dry van trailers that have a cooling system and are insulated to keep the enclosed goods fresh. This type of semi-trailer is mainly used for frozen food and produce. Sometimes pharmaceuticals are shipped via reefer trailers. The maximum weight for refrigerated trailers is the same as dry vans, but they have a maximum legal width of 8.2 feet and a maximum legal height of 8 feet.
Reefer trailers can handle a max weight of up to 45,000 pounds. Maximum refrigerated trailer length between 48 feet to 53 feet.
Conestoga trailers are made by Aero Industries. Design and features an innovative sliding tarp system that covers your valuable cargo without damaging the items underneath. This protects the finish or moving parts of the goods or equipment. Sliding the tarp over and around the goods or equipment makes it unnecessary to move the goods in and out which limits the odds of scratching or damaging your freight.
Conestoga trailers are typically used sophisticated machinery or large items that need to stay in excellent condition.
The roll-tops usually made of heavy-duty plastic, rubber, or canvas. They have a length that ranges from 48 to 53 feet a maximum legal width of 8.2 feet and a maximum height of 8 feet. Maximum weight capacity of up to 45,000 pounds.
Step Deck Trailer
Step-deck semi-trailers are very similar to flatbed trailers with the only difference being the maximum fright height has to be 10 feet or less. Step decks we’re designed to carry goods that flatbed trailers could not. Mostly due to the height restrictions.
Also known as a step-deck or drop-deck trailer. The maximum legal dimensions are length 48 feet to 53 feet. Maximum step deck trailer width of 8.5 feet, and max legal freight height up to 10 feet. Step-deck can hold a maximum weight of 48,000 pounds.
Dry Van Trailer
A dry van is basically an enclosed trailer. Dry van trailers are the most common freight containers. These trailers are fully closed and sealed. Therefore, freight is protected from any external influence.
Dry vans don’t have temperature control, so you can only use them for moving non-perishable goods. Dry vans are weatherproof and keep the good dry from the elements. Used primarily for transporting hard and soft goods like some food, clothing, and other merchandise that need to be protected but not temperature sensitive.
The dry van’s maximum freight weight is 42,000 lbs to 45,000 lbs. Maximum dry van length 48’ to 53’, max-width of 8.2 feet, and a maximum height of 8 feet.
Extendable Double Drop Trailer
Extended double drop trailers are primarily used to carry and haul freight that has an excessive length that standard double drop trailers can handle. Typically have 2 to 3 axles trailers and their length ranges from 29 to 65 feet. With a load height of 11.6 feet and a width of 8.5 feet. And Mac freight weight of 40,000 lbs.
Like the name says double drop, the lower deck height lets you load products that are taller than 10′. It has a longer section in the middle called the “well”. The “well” usually ranges from 25-29′.
Common things to carry on an extendable double drop trailer are heavy equipment and construction equipment.
Removable Gooseneck Trailer (Rng)
These trailers are perfect for hauling both tall and heavy loads and equipment. Designed to carry up to 150,000 pounds depending on the number of axles the trailer has.
Removable gooseneck trailers can have up to 20 axles. The maximum legal length is 29 feet. RGN max weight is from 42,000 to 150,000 lbs. Max length of 29’ and a width of 8.5 feet. Legal max height of 11.6 feet.
Stretch Removable Gooseneck Trailer (Rng)
The stretch rng trailer is similar to the removable gooseneck trailer but the stretch version has a maximum length of 65 feet. With a heavier load, more axles will be required, but the absolute minimum is three axles.
Design to transport massive loads and equipment. The maximum legal length is 29 to 65 feet. With the max weight from 42,000 to 150,000 lbs. Max width of 8.5 feet. Legal max height of 11.6 feet.
Sidekit trailers are most often equipped with wood side paneling and used to carry loads that aren’t packed, like dirt, gravel, and other materials that don’t need to be packaged.
Their max height is 8.6 feet, and their maximum width is 8.2 feet. Basically flatbed trailers with a 4-foot attached to the side of the trailer. Their maximum load weight of 45,000 lbs.
Multi-car trailers are used to transport cars and trucks. They can carry anywhere from two to eight vehicles. When you need to haul several vehicles you’ll use a double-decker trailer. The height can not exceed 11.6 feet because of overpass heights.
How to get a CDL?
According to, Driving Test, “CDL” stands for Commercial Driver’s License. A CDL is a driver’s license required to operate large, heavy, or placarded hazardous material vehicles for commercial purposes in the United States.
Each type of CDL and endorsement requires that you pass a written test; some also require a skills test. Some types of endorsements have additional requirements.
- Be at least 21+ years of age.
- For Class A or Class B CDL, complete FMCSA-approved training providers.
- Submit a state-specific, CDL application and pay any fees.
- Provide identity and social security verification.
- Provide proof of state and country residency.
- Submit a Medical Examination Report Form and Medical Examiner’s Certificate Form.
- Pass a vision test.
- Pass a knowledge exam.
- Once you pass the knowledge exam, you will be given a CLP (commercial learner’s permit).
- Wait at least 14 days before you schedule your CDL road skills exam.
- Pass a pre-trip inspection.
- Pass the road and driving exam (you will need your own truck for this).
- Pay the necessary fees for your new CDL and start truckin’!
Why do I need a CDL?
According to FMCSA, drivers have been required to have a CDL in order to drive certain commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) since 1992. FMCSA has developed and issued standards for state testing and licensing of CDL holders.
These standards require states to issue CDLs to certain CMV drivers only after the driver passes knowledge and skills tests administered by the state and related to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate.
Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV.
Restrictions are placed on a CDL when a driver takes the skills test in a vehicle that lacks critical equipment present in particular types of CMVs.
Therefore, to avoid restrictions, drivers should take the skills test in the same type of vehicle for which they are seeking a CDL to operate.
Where to buy a semi-truck?
Are you looking for a semi-truck for sale and not sure where to shop? We’ve put together this list of the most popular online semi-truck and commercial vehicle classified sites.
Arrow Truck Sales
Arrow Truck Sales were founded in 1950 and have grown to become the leading source of pre-owned medium and heavy-duty trucks in North America. Arrow has built a solid reputation in the trucking industry by providing high-quality, pre-owned vehicles to customers who want to maximize the value of purchasing dollars.
Their reputation rests on what they do and how we do it. Providing high-quality, pre-owned trucks is their core business. Arrow Truck Sales supply expert reconditioned, road-ready trucks you can count on.
Arrow Truck Sales carry all makes and models. They stock a huge, diverse inventory with locations nationwide. They pride themselves on personalized customer service and want to be your one-stop shop.
Shop on Arrow Truck Sales.
Trucker to Trucker
Trucker To Trucker is an online superstore for new and used trucks, trailers, parts, and equipment. With today’s technology, buying a truck, trailer, parts, and equipment is possible totally over the Internet.
If you look at 360 digital photos, and videos, and read a complete specification sheet, you will be quite confident in your purchase.
They have established themselves as a leading low-cost “high return” sales tool for selling trucking equipment. They’ve made online equipment advertising simple and inexpensive.
Truckers and Dealers across the country are achieving higher returns by marketing equipment through our network, using our powerful, simple-to-use website.
Shop on Trucker to Trucker.
My Little Salesman
My Little Salesman became a pioneer in the industry when they launched the catalog in 1958, and continued that tradition of innovation when they became one of the very first online marketplaces in 1996 with the creation of MyLittleSalesman.com.
Their website is intuitive and easily searchable and contains inventory from an even greater selection of manufacturers, dealers, and individuals than our magazines. My Little Salesman has been designed with the customer in mind: its comprehensive inventory and ease of use make it the premier site in the industry for those looking to acquire trucks, trailers, and heavy equipment.
Shop on My Little Salesman.
Truck Paper is the nation’s leading trucking publication and is divided into nine regional editions tailored specifically to reach truck and trailer buyers and sellers in each area. The publication reaches dealers, truck stops, and fleet owners and features full-color photos in an easy-to-read format.
Shop on Truck Paper.
Commercial Truck Trader
Commercial Truck Trader’s mission is to bring everyone who needs commercial trucks to the dealers who sell and lease them. They believe in supporting small businesses and civic needs through robust search capabilities while delivering an easy visitor experience.
Commercial Truck Trader is a part of the Trader Interactive family of sites, which also includes EquipmentTrader, CycleTrader, and RVTrader.
Commercial Truck Trader provides dealers and independent owners alike access to commercial buyers who are interested in researching and purchasing new and used vehicles.
Commercial Truck Trader is part of Trader Interactive’s network of websites covering new and used vehicle categories such as trucks, equipment, boats, motorcycles, ATVs, and aircraft, as well as general merchandise.
Shop on Commercial Truck Trader.
Now that you have the answers to the most commonly asked questions about semi-trucks you are better equipped to make sure you find and purchase the semi-truck that is right for you.
Once you find a truck you like, do not hesitate to contact us! TopMark Funding is here to help you secure the truck you want. Use the banner below to get in contact with one of our highly experienced sales reps.
ABOUT TOPMARK FUNDING
TopMark Funding is a top-rated semi-truck financing and trailer financing company located in Roseville, CA. We specialize in commercial trucking and heavy equipment. Our mission is to become your long-term financial partner by helping you grow your trucking business and fleet.
We’re not here for the short-term, we’re on the long-haul with you!
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Fill out the contact form or give us a call at (866) 627-6644. One of our truck financing specialists will contact you as soon as possible to go over your truck lease needs and learn more about you and your business financing goals.