Heavy Duty Truck Classifications Explained

When it comes to the trucks classifications, most people can see visual differences in commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks, but the details of these various vehicle classes are less obvious. Here we’ll go into some of the nitty gritty of heavy duty truck classifications and discuss how they differ, so you can have a better idea of which vehicle suits your business best.

Basic Truck Classifications

In a nutshell, truck classes boil down to weight. A truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (or GVWR) determines whether it’s considered light duty, medium duty, or heavy duty. The truck GVWR tells you it’s weight once it’s been loaded to capacity – that means cargo, fuel, passengers, and the weight of the truck itself all combined.

Many pickup trucks and small commercial vehicles would be considered light duty, whereas box trucks and school buses fall into the medium duty category. Any truck over 26,001 pounds is a heavy duty vehicle, and this category is broken down into 3 additional weight classes of its own to distinguish the different types of heavy duty trucks.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the truck weight classes in the United States:

Light duty trucks:

  • Class 1: Any vehicle less than 6,000 lbs; for example, a small pickup truck or SUV
  • Class 2: Any vehicle between 6,001 and 10,000 lbs; for example, a larger pickup truck or utility van

Medium duty trucks:

  • Class 3: Any vehicle between 10,001 and 14,000 lbs, such as a mini-bus, box truck, or heavy duty pickup truck
  • Class 4: Any vehicle between 14,001 and 16,000 lbs; for example, a step-van or large box truck
  • Class 5: Any vehicle between 16,001 and 19,500 lbs, such as large walk-ins and delivery trucks
  • Class 6: Any vehicle between 19,501 and 26,000 lbs; for example single-axle trucks, school buses, and beverage trucks

Heavy duty trucks:

  • Class 7: Any vehicle between 26,001 and 33,000 lbs, such as garbage collection vehicles or livestock transports
  • Class 8: Any vehicle 33,001 lbs and larger, including 18-wheelers, sleeper cabs, dump trucks and tractor trailers

All trucks will fall into one of these categories – but these aren’t just meaningless labels. A truck’s classification has practical, day-to-day implications for drivers and businesses.

Why Do Truck Classes Matter?


The biggest factor behind truck classification is safety. Knowing what weight class your vehicle falls into helps you avoid overloading it with cargo. This means you can ensure safe crossing of bridges, but it also means less wear and tear on the vehicle itself – and thus, safety for driver as well as other vehicles on the road.

There are also a number of legal guidelines that come into play with your truck’s weight class.

Operating a medium or heavy duty vehicle requires specific commercial truck driver licenses, and compliance with state and federal guidelines. These guidelines cover the number of uninterrupted hours a driver can operate the vehicle, regular mandatory drug testing, scheduled maintenance, and even parking.

In general, any truck over 10,001 pounds (anything class 3 or larger) and/or a truck that is used for trade or transport is given a USDOT number for tracking. If the truck belongs to a company, that number is shared across all business vehicles. USDOT numbers make it easier for the government to track safety records and ensure vehicles are up to standards, keeping everyone safe on the road.

The Bottom Line on Truck Classifications

By understanding the basics of truck weight classes, you can easily know not only what type of truck will work best for you, but also what to expect in terms of upkeep and regulatory requirements. Keep these in mind when choosing your next business vehicle, and you’ll save yourself unnecessary hassle!

Inland Truck Parts proudly provides parts and service for all truck classes and types. Looking for something for your truck? Contact your local ITP today!