Truck classifications are typically based upon the maximum loaded weight of the truck, typically using the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and sometimes also the gross trailer weight rating (GTWR), and can vary among jurisdictions.
In the United States, commercial truck classification is determined based on the vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The classes are numbered 1 through 8. Trucks are also classified more broadly by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which groups classes 1 and 2 as light duty, 3 through 6 as medium duty, and 7 and 8 as heavy duty. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a separate system of emissions classifications for trucks. The United States Census Bureau also assigned classifications in its now-discontinued Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) (formerly Truck Inventory and Use Survey (TIUS)).
United States federal law requires drivers to have a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate heavy-duty vehicles (Class 7 and 8) in commerce, with the exception of emergency vehicles and vehicles strictly used for recreational and/or agricultural purposes, though it allows states to require a CDL for these vehicles under their discretion. A CDL is also required to operate any vehicle that transports at least 16 passengers (including the driver) or hazardous materials requiring placards under federal and state law regardless of the weight of the vehicle.  States may extend CDL requirements for additional vehicles, for example, New York requires a CDL to operate a stretched limousine and California requires a CDL for any vehicle with three or more axles that has a gross vehicle weight rating of over 6,000 pounds.
Table of US GVWR classifications
This section needs expansion with: weight limit maximum for standard Class 8 trucks in the US. You can help by adding to it. (December 2022)
|US truck class||Duty classification||Weight limit ||Examples|
|Class 1||Light duty||0–6,000 pounds (0–2,722 kg)||Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline FWD, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma|
|Class 2a||Light duty||6,001–8,500 pounds (2,722–3,856 kg)||Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500, Ford F-150, Honda Ridgeline AWD, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra|
|Class 2b||Light duty||8,501–10,000 pounds (3,856–4,536 kg)||Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500, Ford F-250, Nissan Titan XD, Ram 2500|
|Class 3||Medium duty||10,001–14,000 pounds (4,536–6,350 kg)||Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 3500, Ford F-350, Ford F-450 (pickup only), Ram 3500, Isuzu NPR|
|Class 4||Medium duty||14,001–16,000 pounds (6,351–7,257 kg)||Chevrolet Silverado 4500HD/International CV, Ford F-450 (chassis cab only), Ram 4500, Isuzu NPR-HD,|
|Class 5||Medium duty||16,001–19,500 pounds (7,258–8,845 kg)||Chevrolet Silverado 5500HD/International CV, Ford F-550, Ram 5500, Isuzu NRR, Freightliner Business Class M2 106, Kenworth T170, Peterbilt 325|
|Class 6||Medium duty||19,501–26,000 pounds (8,846–11,793 kg)||Chevrolet Silverado 6500HD/International CV, Ford F-650, Freightliner Business Class M2 106, International MV, Kenworth T270, Peterbilt 330, Mack MD|
|Class 7||Heavy duty||26,001–33,000 pounds (11,794–14,969 kg)||Autocar ACMD, Freightliner Business Class M2 106, Ford F-750, Hino 338, International MV, Kenworth K370, Kenworth T370 and T440/470, Mack MD, Peterbilt 220 and 337/348|
|Class 8||Heavy duty||33,001 pounds (14,969 kg) and above||Autocar ACX and DC; Volvo Truck VNL; Freightliner Cascadia, Business Class M2 112, 118SD, and EconicSD; Ford F-750; Hino XL8; International LT, HV, and RH; Kenworth T680, T880, and W990; Mack Anthem, Granite, Tesla Semi, Nikola TRE, Pinnacle, and TerraPro; Peterbilt 389, 579, and 520; Western Star 4800, 4900 and 5700; Pierce, E-One, Spartan, Ferrara, KME custom fire apparatus.|
Notes on weight classes
When light-duty trucks were first produced in the United States, they were rated by their payload capacity in tons: 1⁄2 (1000 pounds), 3⁄4 (1500 pounds) and 1-ton (2000 pounds). Ford had introduced the "One-Tonner" in 1938 to their line of trucks. The "Three-quarter-tonner" appeared in the Ford truck lineup in 1939. Over time, payload capacities for most domestic pickup trucks have increased while the ton titles have stayed the same. The 1948 Ford F-1 had a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 4700 pounds. The truck was marketed with a "Nominal Tonnage Rating: Half-Ton." The actual cargo capacity had increased to 1450 pounds. Ford adopted this promotional nomenclature in 1948 to assist buyers, sellers, and users. The now-imprecise ton rating has continued since the post World War II era to compare standard sizes, rather than actual capacities. In 1975, a change in U.S. emission laws required any vehicle under 6000 pounds GVWR to burn unleaded fuel. U.S. pickup truck manufacturers responded with a "heavy half" pickup of over 6000 pounds GVWR. The F-150 had a capacity of over 2000 pounds, compared to 1500 pounds for the F-100.
This has led to categorizing trucks similarly, even if their payload capacities are different. The Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500, Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500, and Toyota Tundra are called "half-ton" pickups (1⁄2-ton). The Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500, Ford F-250, and Ram 2500 are called "three-quarter-ton" pickups. The Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 3500, Ford F-350, and Ram 3500 are known as "one ton" pickups.
Similar schemes exist for vans and SUVs (e.g. a 1-ton Dodge Van or a 1⁄2-ton GMC Suburban), medium duty trucks (e.g. the 11⁄2-ton Ford F-550) and some military vehicles, like the ubiquitous deuce-and-a-half.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2019)
The Class 8 truck gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is a vehicle with a GVWR exceeding 33000 lb (14969 kg). These include tractor trailer tractors, single-unit dump trucks of a GVWR over 33,000 lb, as well as non-commercial chassis fire trucks; such trucks typically have 3 or more axles. The typical 5-axle tractor-trailer combination, also called a "semi" or "18-wheeler", is a Class 8 vehicle. Standard trailers vary in length from 8 ft (2.4 m) containers to 57 ft (17 m) van trailers, with the most common length being the 53 ft (16 m) trailer. Specialized trailers for oversized loads can be considerably longer. Commercial operation of a Class 8 vehicle in the United States requires either a Class-B CDL for non-combination vehicles, or a Class-A CDL for combination vehicles (tractor-trailers).
Vehicle classifications vary among provinces in Canada, due to "differences in size and weight regulations, economic activity, physical environment, and other issues".: 3 While several provinces use their own classification schemes for traffic monitoring, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan have adopted the 13-class system from the United States' Federal Highway Administration—sometimes with modifications, or in Ontario's case, for limited purposes.: 3–4 [needs update] British Columbia and Ontario also distinguish between short- and long-combination trucks.: 3–4 [needs update] In accident reporting, eight jurisdictions subdivide trucks by GVWR into light and heavy classes at approximately 4500 kg (9921 lb).: 6
European Union and United Kingdom
Vehicle categories on a European driving licence include (among others) B for general motor vehicles, C for large goods vehicles, D for large passenger vehicles (buses), and are limited by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and number of passenger seats.
The general categories are further divided as follows:
- appending the number 1 to the licence class C or D denotes the "light" versions of said class (e.g., Minibus, or medium truck).
- appending the letter E allows for trailers of larger Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) than permitted by the standard licence category.
For the "trailer" categories, a separate driving test is generally required (e.g., "C", and "CE" require separate tests).
The classifications used on the International Driving Permit are similar to the European model.
The licence categories that deal with trucks are B and C:
- Class B permits the use of vehicles with GVWRs of not more than 3500 kg plus a trailer with GTWR not exceeding 750 kg; or, a trailer above this limit so long as the combined gross weight of car and trailer does not exceed 3500 kg (in some jurisdictions a higher combined weight limit of 4250 kg is permitted after a theoretical and practical course of seven hours, but this permission is not transferable between EU countries). Class B covers both standard passenger cars of all sizes as well as vehicles that are specifically designed for transport of goods. The latter are commonly known as light commercial vehicles (LCVs), and include vans such as the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Fiat Ducato, as well as pickup trucks such as the Ford Ranger or Mitsubishi Triton.
- Class BE allows a trailers of up to 3500 kg GTWR to be used while driving a class B vehicle.
- Class C1 raises the GVWR limit to 7500 kg and permits a trailer with GTWR not exceeding 750 kg.
- Class C removes the GVWR limit of Class C1, but the GTWR limit for the trailer of 750 kg remains. (This often referred to as a "Rigid Heavy Goods Vehicle" or "Rigid truck" licence)
- Class C1E allows for a class B or C1 vehicle and a trailer of more than 750 kg GTWR, so long as the combined gross weight does not exceed 12000 kg.
- Class CE removes all weight limits for a Class C vehicle with trailer. (known as an "Articulated Heavy Goods Vehicle", or often simply "HGV", licence )
List of truck types
Class 1 Light duty Toyota Tacoma
- Car classification
- Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)
- Commercial vehicle
- Curb weight
- Driver's license
- Fifth wheel
- Gross weight:
- Large goods vehicle
- List of truck types
- Tow hitch
- Vehicle category
- Vehicle Weight Classes & Categories from the United States Department of Energy
- NTEA.com – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) by Class
- Vehicle Weight Classifications from the United States Environmental Protection Agency
- "Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey – Discontinued". Census.gov. June 30, 2015. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- "May a State require persons operating recreational vehicles or other CMVs used by groups of people, including family members, for non-business purposes to have a CDL?". US: FMCSA. March 1, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
- "Drivers". US: FMCSA. February 8, 2022. Retrieved June 19, 2022.
- FHWA Vehicle Types from the United States Department of Transportation
- Truck Classification, Changingears.com, March 28, 2009, retrieved April 9, 2012
- "Stretch limo drivers and CDL licenses". July 8, 2020.
- "Commercial Driver's License Classes & Certifications".
- "Class 3-4-5 Truck Model Roundup". Nextexitlogistics.com. October 22, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- "Appendix: Truck Types and Classes" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 22, 2011. Retrieved March 12, 2018.(archived)
- "2005 Dodge Dakota Specifications, Fuel Economy & Overview". Truck Trend. February 26, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Model (GEM) User Guide EPA 420-B-10-039. United States Environmental Protection Agency, October 2010
- "Isuzu N-Series Diesel Trucks". www.isuzucv.com. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- GMC TopKick 4500[dead link]
- "Purpose-built trucks engineered by the leading OEM dedicated to severe-duty trucks". Autocar Truck. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
- Rik Hinton, Idaho Transportation Department (December 22, 2011), Idaho Commercial Driver's License Program, Itd.idaho.gov, retrieved April 9, 2012
- "Model 389 | Peterbilt". www.peterbilt.com. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
- Wagner, James K. (1994). Ford Trucks Since 1905. US: Motorbooks International.
- Ford Light Duty Truck brochure. US: Ford Motor Company. 1948.
- Bruzek, Joe (September 1, 2016). "What Does Half-Ton, Three-Quarter-Ton, One-Ton Mean When Talking About Trucks?". Cars.com. US. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
- Gonderman, J (June 2, 2021). "What Is a ¾-ton Truck?". Motor Trend. US. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
- '82 Ford F Series Pickups brochure. US: Ford Motor Company. 1982.
- "International Class 7 Crew Cab Pickup". Truck Trend. February 26, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Clayton, Alan; Montufar, Jeannette; Middleton, Dan; McCauley, Bill (August 27–31, 2000), "Feasibility of a New Vehicle Classification System for Canada" (PDF), North American Travel Monitoring Exhibition and Conference (NATMEC) 2000, archived from the original (PDF) on November 1, 2004, retrieved August 9, 2013,
Furthermore, the fleet characteristics vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction across the country because of differences in size and weight regulations, economic activity, physical environment, and other issues. This has led to a wide variety of vehicle classification systems used by highway agencies and municipal authorities in their traffic monitoring programs.
- Reducing CO2 emissions from Heavy-Duty Vehicles (European Union)
- Führerscheinklassen (Klassen der Lenkberechtigung) (in German) (trans.: Driving license classes)