Heavy Duty vs Medium Duty vs Light Duty Trucks


There is a total of eight different classes of commercial vehicles operating in Canada and the United States and these are divided into three, general categories – heavy, medium, and light-duty, as you are probably aware. What though, makes each of these different?

Well, it all comes down to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. If you are new to the trucking industry or want to understand the finer details a bit better, you’ve come to the right place.

What is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating?

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, often abbreviated to GVWR, is a safety standard that is used to stop trucks from being overloaded. Essentially it is the safe maximum weight of any vehicle, but for the benefit of our post, we are focusing on trucks. As well as the weight of the truck, it also includes the weight of the cargo, fuel, drivers, and any passengers. An important note to make is that this number will never change and is determined by the manufacturer.

The manufacturer of a truck determines the vehicle’s GVWR by taking into consideration the strongest weight-bearing components’ combined weight, like the axles and the least strong components like the tires, suspension, frame, and body. This is how the truck class is determined. Such as whether a truck is light, medium or heavy-duty. Each class of vehicle has different regulations they need to follow, and some special driver’s licenses may be required for operators to use them.

Let’s look at each of these classes individually.

Heavy Duty Trucks

The category of heavy-duty trucks includes commercial class 7 and 8 vehicles. Drivers are required to hold valid a valid Class B commercial driving license to drive and operate these kinds of vehicles.

  • Class 7 Vehicles. Class 7 vehicles are those that have a GVWR of between 26,001 and 33,000-pounds. Livestock transports and garbage collection vehicles fall into this classification.
  • Class 8 Vehicles. Class 8 vehicles are generally larger and are any vehicles with a GVWR that is higher than 33,001-pounds. Tractor-trailers, dump trucks, sleeper cabs and 18-wheelers are all considered Class 8 vehicles.

It is important to understand, particularly if you have a vehicle with a GVWR that is close to being a class 6 or class 7 truck because if it is a considered heavy duty.   These class of trucks will often use Bendix heavy truck parts such as their air brake systems.

Medium Duty Trucks

Commercial vehicle classes 4, 5 and 6 make up the medium-duty truck category.

  • Class 4 Vehicles. Class 4 trucks are vehicles that have a GVWR of between 14,001 and 16,000-pounds. Larger box trucks and step-vans are considered class 4 vehicles.
  • Class 5 Vehicles. Class 5 vehicles are trucks with a GVWR that ranges from 16,001 to 19,500-pounds. Delivery trucks and large walk-ins fall into this classification.
  • Class 6 Vehicles. While Class 6 Vehicles are larger still and have a GVWR of anything from 19,051 to 26,000-pounds. Beverage trucks, school buses and single-axle trucks are classified as Class 6 vehicles.

Light Duty Trucks

Last, but certainly not least, the light-duty truck category consists of class 1, 2 and 3 commercial vehicles.

  • Class 1 Vehicles. Class 1 trucks have a very low GVWR of anything from 0 to 6,000-pounds. Examples of these kinds of vehicles include SUVs and small pickup trucks.
  • Class 2 Vehicles. Class 2 vehicles are trucks with a GVWR between 6,001 and 10,000-pounds. Examples include larger utility vans and pickup trucks.
  • Class 3 Vehicles. Class 3 trucks are vehicles that have a GVWR ranging from 10,001 to 14,000-pounds. Heavy-duty pickup trucks, box trucks and mini-buses generally fall into this classification.

Whether you are involved in owning and operating one of the vehicles above or own a business that uses a fleet of these or own the fleet itself, it is important to understand the different classifications and where your own commercial vehicles fit in. Particularly from a safety point of view.


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