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A semi-tractor-trailer truck , also known simply as a semi-trailer truck , tractor-trailer truck , semi-tractor truck , semi-truck , trailer truck or tractor truck , 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 type of hitch called a fifth-wheel.
It is variously known as a transport truck , transfer truck or articulated truck , abbreviated artic , in Canada , semi-lorry or single lorry in Australia and New Zealand , semi-tractor-trailer , semi-trailer , tractor-trailer , semi-tractor , semi , trailer , tractor , big rig or eighteen-wheeler in the United States and articulated lorry in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In North America , the combination vehicles made up of a powered truck and one or more semitrailers are known as "semis", "semitrailers",  "tractor-trailers", "big rigs", "semi-trucks", "eighteen-wheelers" or "semi-tractor-trailers".
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. Ubiquitous in Europe, but less common in North America since the s, is the cabover engine configuration, where the driver sits next to, or over the engine.
With changes in the US to the maximum length of the combined vehicle, the cabover was largely phased out of North American over-the-road long-haul service by Cabovers were difficult to service; for a long time the cab could not be lifted on its hinges to a full degree forward tilt, severely limiting access to the front part of the engine.
The cargo trailer usually has tandem axles at the rear, each of which has dual wheels , or eight tires on the trailer, four per axle. In the US it is common to refer to the number of wheel hubs, rather than the number of tires; an axle can have either single or dual tires with no legal difference.
Many trailers are equipped with movable tandem axles to allow adjusting the weight distribution. To connect the second of a set of doubles to the first trailer, and to support the front half of the second trailer, a converter gear known as a "dolly" is used.
This has one or two axles, a fifth-wheel coupling for the rear trailer, and a tongue with a ring-hitch coupling for the forward trailer. Individual states may further allow longer vehicles, known as "longer combination vehicles" or LCVs , and may allow them to operate on roads other than Interstates. Long combination vehicle types include:. Future long combination vehicles under consideration and study for the U.
MAP transportation bill are container doubles. These combinations are under study for potential recommendation in November The US federal government, which only regulates the Interstate Highway System , does not set maximum length requirements except on auto and boat transporters , only minimums. Tractors can pull two or three trailers if the combination is legal in that state. There is a maximum width of 8. Roads other than the Interstates are regulated by the individual states, and laws vary widely.
Reasons for limiting the legal trailer configurations include both safety concerns and the impracticality of designing and constructing roads that can accommodate the larger wheelbase of these vehicles and the larger minimum turning radii associated with them. In general, these configurations are restricted to the Interstates. Except for these units, double setups are not restricted to certain roads any more than a single setup.
They are also not restricted by weather conditions or "difficulty of operation". The Canadian province of Ontario, however, does have weather-related operating restrictions for larger tandem trailer setups. The noticeable difference between tractor units in Europe and North America is that almost all European models are cab over engine called "forward control" in England  , while the majority of North American trucks are "conventional" called "normal control" or "bonneted" in England .
This allows shorter trucks with longer trailers with larger freight capacity within the legal maximum total length.
Furthermore, it offers greater maneuverability in confined areas, a more balanced weight-distribution and better overall view for the driver. The major disadvantage is that for repairs on COE trucks, the entire cab has to hinge forward to allow maintenance access.
Conversely, "conventional" cab tractors offer the driver a more comfortable driving environment, easier access getting in or out and better protection in a collision. In Europe usually both rear tractor axles have dual wheels, while single or dual wheels are used for the cargo trailer. The most common combination used in Europe is a semi tractor with three axles, one a lift axle, and a cargo trailer with three axles, one also a lift axle, giving six axles and 22 wheels in total.
This format is now common across Europe, due to reduced road-loading requirements, especially for bridges. The lift axles used on both tractors and trailers allow the trucks to remain legal, but increases maneuverability while at the same time reducing fuel consumption and tyre wear when carrying lighter loads, by raising one or multiple axle set s off the roadway. Although lift axles usually operate automatically, they can be lowered manually even while carrying light loads, in order to remain within legal safe limits when, for example, navigating back-road bridges with severely restricted axle loads.
For greater detail, see the United Kingdom section, below. When using a dolly , which generally has to be equipped with lights and a license plate , rigid trucks can be used to pull semi-trailers. The dolly is equipped with a fifth wheel to which the trailer is coupled.
Because the dolly attaches to a pintle hitch on the truck, maneuvering a trailer hooked to a dolly is different from maneuvering a fifth wheel trailer. Lower weight semi-trailer trucks can mean some tractors and trailer having fewer axles. Semi-trailer trucks in continental Europe have a height limit of Such vehicles are required to display an STGO Special Types General Order plate on the front of the tractor unit and, under certain circumstances, are required to travel by an authorized route and have an escort.
Starting in January the Department for Transport is conducting a trial of longer semi-trailers. The trial will run for a maximum of 10 years. However, in practice any such vehicle has to travel by a route authorized by the Department of Transport and move under escort.
The escort of abnormal loads in the UK is now predominantly carried out by private companies, but extremely large or heavy loads that require road closures must still be escorted by the police. In the UK, some semi-trailer trucks have eight tires on three axles on the tractor; these are known as six-wheelers or "six leggers", with either the center or rear axle having single wheels which normally steer as well as the front axle and can be raised when not needed i. Some trailers have two axles which have twin tires on each axle; other trailers have three axles, of which one axle can be a lift axle which has super-single wheels.
In the UK, two wheels bolted to the same hub are classed as a single wheel, therefore a standard six-axle articulated truck is considered to have twelve wheels, even though it has twenty tires.
The UK also allows semi-trailer truck which have six tires on two axles; these are known as four-wheelers. This is based on the fact that for light but bulky goods such as toilet paper, plastic bottles, cereals and aluminum cans, conventional semi-trailer trucks run out of cargo space before they reach the weight limit. The vehicle was built after Denby Transport believed they had found a legal-loophole in the present UK law to allow the Eco-Link to be used on the public roads.
The Department for Transport were of the opinion that this refers to recovering a vehicle after an accident or breakdown, but the regulation does not explicitly state this. During BTAC performance testing the Eco-Link was given an "excellent" rating for its performance in maneuverability, productivity, safety and emissions tests, superseding ordinary semi-trailer trucks in many respects.
Although the Department for Transport advised that the Eco-Link was not permissible on public roads, Denby Transport gave the Police prior warning of the timing and route of the test drive on the public highway, as well as outlining their position in writing to the Eastern Traffic Area Office.
On 1 December Denby Transport were preparing to drive the Eco-Link on public roads, but this was cut short because the Police pulled the semi-trailer truck over as it left the gates in order to test it for its legality "to investigate any The Police said the vehicle was unlawful due to its length and Denby Transport was served with a notice by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency VOSA inspector to remove the vehicle from the road for inspection.
However, this prompted the Department for Transport to undertake a desk study into semi-trailer trucks, which has resulted in the longer semi-trailer trial which commenced in The wording of EMS combinations and EuroCombi are now used interchangeably to point to truck combinations as specified in the EU document; however, apart from Sweden and Finland, the EuroCombi is only allowed to operate on specific tracks in other EU member states.
Similarly, Denmark has allowed Two types are to be used: 1 a tonne truck pulling a dolly and semi-trailer, or 2 an articulated tractor unit pulling a B-double , member states gained the ability to adopt the same rules.
In Italy the maximum permitted weight unless exceptional transport is authorized is 44 tonnes for any kind of combination with five axles or more. Czechia has allowed Denmark and Norway allow Before that, the maximum length was unlimited; the only limitations were on axle load.
What stopped Sweden from adopting the same rules as the rest of Europe, when securing road safety, was the national importance of a competitive forestry industry. The change made trucks able to carry three stacks of cut-to-length logs instead of two, as it would be in a short combination. The allowed gross weight in both countries is up to 60 tonnes depending on the distance between the first and last axle.
In the negotiations starting in the late s preceding Sweden and Finland's entries to the European Economic Area and later the European Union, they insisted on exemptions from the EU rules citing environmental concerns and the transportation needs of the logging industry.
In , after their entry to the union, the rules changed again, this time to allow trucks carrying a standard CEN unit of 7. In allowing the longer truck combinations, what would take two The effect this major maximum weight increase would cause to the roads and bridges in Finland over time is strongly debated.
However, longer and heavier combinations are regularly seen on public roads; special permits are issued for special cargo. It will allow even longer vehicles to further rationalize the logging transports. As the name of the project points out, it will be able to carry four stacks of timber, instead of the usual three. As of [update] , the longest and heaviest truck in everyday use in Finland is operated by transport company Ketosen Kuljetus as part of a pilot project studying transport efficiency in the timber industry.
Starting from Jan 21 Finland Government change the maximum allowed length of truck from 25,25 meters to 34,50 meters. New types of vehicle combinations that differ from the current standards may also be used on the road. The requirements for combinations also include camera systems for side visibility, an advanced emergency braking and lane detector system, electronic driving stability system and electronically controlled brakes.
Australian road transport has a reputation for using very large trucks and road trains. This is reflected in the most popular configurations of trucks generally having dual drive axles and three axles on the trailers, with four tyres on each axle.
This means that Australian single semi-trailer trucks will usually have 22 tyres, which is generally more than their counterparts in other countries. Super single tyres are sometimes used on tri-axle trailers.
The suspension is designed with travel limiting, which will hold the rim off the road for one blown or deflated tyre for each side of the trailer, so a trailer can be driven at reduced speed to a safe place for repair. Super singles are also often used on the steer axle in Australia to allow greater loading over the steer axle.
The increase in loading of steer tyres requires a permit. Long haul transport usually operates as B-doubles with two trailers each with three axles , for a total of nine axles including steering. In some lighter duty applications only one of the rear axles of the truck is driven, and the trailer may have only two axles. From July , the Australian Federal and State Governments allowed the introduction of B-triple trucks on a specified network of roads.
The front of their first trailer is supported by the turntable on the prime mover. The second and third trailers are supported by turntables on the trailers in front of them. As a result, B-Triples are much more stable than road trains and handle exceptionally well. True road trains only operate in remote areas, regulated by each state or territory government. In total, the maximum length that any articulated vehicle may be without a special permit and escort is However, heavy restrictions apply to the areas where such a vehicle may travel in most states.
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A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle. In the United States , the term is also used to refer to the combination of a truck and a semi-trailer, a tractor-trailer. A large proportion of a semi-trailer's weight is supported by a tractor unit , or a detachable front-axle assembly known as a dolly , or the tail of another trailer. A semi-trailer is normally equipped with landing gear legs which can be lowered to support it when it is uncoupled.
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