Even though truck driving happens throughout the world, each country has its own rules and restrictions. As a result, American and European trucks have different designs.
American Trucks vs European Trucks: American trucks have a design where the engine is in front of the cab to accommodate more living space. In contrast, European trucks have a cabover design where the cab is on top of the engine, as they don’t need as much space. Both American and European trucks can carry the same maximum weight but American trucks are longer and wider.
Difference between American and European Trucks
The restrictions around size are much different between American and European trucks. A semi-trailer in America can be 70 feet long, while in Europe it can only be 61 feet long.
Furthermore, there are some cases in America where semi-trucks can tow two trailers at a time. European semi-trucks don’t have that option.
In America, the weight of an empty semi-truck is about 35,000 pounds. When full, it can have a maximum capacity of 80,000 pounds.
This is the same as European trucks, which also have a maximum weight capacity of 80,000 pounds. Still, it is not as common to see European trucks with this amount of weight.
A standard semi-trailer in America will have a maximum height of 13.5 feet. While most major highways can accommodate this height, there will occasionally be detours to work around older infrastructure.
In Europe, the height is about the same. There it is measured in meters, with 4 meters being the maximum, which translates to 13.1 feet.
Even though semi-trucks only travel on major highways in Europe, which are newer and modern, there are still some areas that will have older infrastructure.
In particular, semi-trucks will need to be aware of local height restrictions in older cities that still have ancient architecture.
A notable difference between American and European semi-trucks is that American ones will have cabs that you can sleep in. In contrast, European designs don’t have this.
The reason is quite straightforward. In America, truck drivers are allowed to drive for 12 hours in a 24-hour period. In contrast, most European truck drivers can only drive for 9 hours.
A larger cab, including a bed, means American drivers have a more convenient place to rest before being able to drive again. European drivers will make it to their destination with plenty of time to find somewhere to rest and lodge before driving their next shift.
Speed limits vary greatly in both America and Europe. In America, different states set their own speed limits for trucks while in Europe, each country will have its own limit.
These limits are also based on the size of a truck and the type of road they are on. Major highways permit semi-trucks to drive faster while smaller highways have lower limits and then any city driving will have its own restrictions.
In California, the maximum speed limit for trucks is 55 mph while in Texas it is 85 mph.
In Europe, most countries set a maximum of 55 mph on large highways although some are even more conservative and drop this to only 50 miles per hour.
American trucks are all about comfort for drivers. Their wheelbases are wider to accommodate the extra room in the cabs.
As a result, bumpy roads don’t feel as bumpy, and truck drivers can better settle in for longer commutes.
Modern semi-trucks can have very cozy cabs. There is plenty of room for a bed, TV, and storage, so you can find a second home as you drive.
There’s a reason semi-trucks in America are so comfortable. Truck drivers are expected to spend a lot of time in them.
While this can be a benefit for those who want to make as much money as possible, the long hours expected of American truck drivers can take a toll. Too much time spent driving and not enough time sleeping can lead to accidents.
There are many owner-operator truck drivers in America, so the bottom line is even more important. These drivers may feel pressured to continue driving past their physical limits in order to make more money.
The handling of European trucks is often better as they have shorter wheelbases. This is because their cabs are shorter.
The roads in Europe may be modern but there are still restrictions when it comes to terrain. Being able to better maneuver your truck is important to drive through windy, narrow areas.
As noted, the speed limit in most European countries is drastically different for trucks than it is for cars. While this is definitely a safety issue that is commendable, it means more time on the road for truck drivers and thus a loss of profit.
Why are trucks flat in Europe?
European trucks look very different than American trucks. They have a flatter front in Europe while in America, the front protrudes a lot, just below the level of the windshield.
The reason for this is that in Europe, the cab part of the truck is actually situated over top of the engine. In contrast, the engine juts out in front of the actual cab in America.
The main reason for this is that American truck drivers are often doing long haul trucking. They need the extra cab space to stay overnight in their truck.
This way, they can easily drive from city to city for months at a time and not have to worry about accommodations. In Europe, however, most truck drivers drive for fewer hours per day and thus don’t need to sleep in their trucks.
Why are US and UK trucks different?
The United Kingdom has a vast array of major highways. They are straight and wide enough for any semi-truck.
However, as soon as you drive off a highway, you may be subject to the various twists and turns that still exist on UK roads. Truck drivers can’t always stick to major highways so their trucks have to be built to accommodate the many different routes they can take.
Even if a more remote road is flat, it can still be rather narrow. Driving in the UK takes a lot of patience and courage for visitors as roads seem to narrow at random.
In the United States, roads are newer and thus are wider. You don’t have to worry about having enough space to drive, even in rural areas.
The road networks of the US and the UK are just very different, so trucks are built according to the needs of drivers in each country.
Why are American trucks not popular in Europe?
There simply is no need for American trucks in Europe. The trucking system is set up differently, and while it may work in America, it won’t work in Europe.
The major difference is in how European truck drivers see their profession. It is a job and not a way of life, which is the case with many American truck drivers.
Owner-operators are very common in America, with some truck drivers on the road for months at a time. They travel from city to city to pick up new jobs and are fine with the long hours demanded of them.
Because of this long time on the road, long haul truck drivers will create impressive living spaces in their cabs. With full-size beds, high-tech TVs, and plenty of living space, it’s like a mini apartment in American trucks.
European truck drivers, on the other hand, have shorter working hours. They see driving a truck as a job and want to end their day back at home. Even if they are on the road for longer, it is a matter of days and not weeks.
European trucks are better designed for their job duties and for the roads they travel on. They are more compact so drivers can navigate the twisty turns that are still common in Europe.
Why does Europe use Cabover trucks?
Europe uses cabover trucks for two reasons. The first is because they don’t need extra space in their cab to sleep and rest.
Most truck drivers in Europe can only drive for 9 hours a day, unlike the 12 hours a day in America. Having a cabover truck is more space efficient and also allows for easier cleaning on the front. Furthermore, it makes it easier to get in and out of the cab.
The second reason is that a smaller cab means a shorter wheelbase. Even though there are plenty of wide, straight highways in Europe, there are still many windy roads.
European truck drivers need trucks that are easier to turn as they navigate the terrain. Smaller cabs help them in this respect.
American semi-trucks have much larger cabs than European semi-trucks, as drivers spend more time on the road and need a place to sleep. European semi-trucks need to be more compact to navigate the windy, narrow roads of Europe.