Full Trailer vs. Semi Trailer – What Are the Differences?

There are two types of trailers in the transportation industry: full trailers and semi-trailers. They look somewhat similar, but they are actually different.

What is a full trailer?

A full trailer has both front and rear axles and there is no way to detach them. This is because they are fixed parts of the truck. The drawbar is located on the full trailer truck meant for towing. Most commercial full trailers have a length of about 40 ft. Compared to a semi-trailer, it does not weigh as much for the towing vehicle.

full trailer

What is a full trailer used for?

It is usually used for transportation over short distances to factories, warehouses and ports. Full trailer’s cargo needs to be transported to multiple stations, where only a portion of the cargo is unloaded at each station.

Pros:
  • Suitable for local and regional transportation. For smaller shipments, a full trailer is more practical than a semi-trailer. Because companies need to deliver goods to multiple locations in shifts.
  • Independent cargo capacity. A full trailer does not need to be attached to a tractor to become a cargo vehicle.
Cons:
  • Cargo weight and size. Full trailers are able to carry less cargo and cannot afford the option of long-distance deliveries.
  • Not detachable. The steering axle of a full trailer cannot pivot independently like a semi-trailer, it is less maneuverable than a semi-trailer of the same size.

What is a semi-trailer?

A semi-trailer is a truck and trailer combination without a front axle. When the semi-trailer is removed from the tractor, there are legs that can act as support. During normal driving, a large portion of the semi-trailer’s weight is supported by the tractor.

Semi-trailers cannot exceed 53 feet in length, but if necessary, a special permit can be applied for.

flatbed semi-trailer with cargo

What is the use of semi-trailers?

Semi-trailers are popular in the long-distance transportation industry. It often transports fully loaded cargo to a single location. This also means that semi-trailers and can carry larger size loads.

Pros:
  • Functional versatility and high load capacity. The semi-trailer can handle heavier and larger loads. And it has multiple types, so you can choose different semi-trailers depending on the load.
  • Manageability. Semi-trailers are detachable, so they can be handed over in less time when loading or stopping between stations.
Cons:
  • Lack of independence. Without the tractor, the semi-trailer will not be able to transport cargo.
  • Requires proper usage. The semi-trailer has very strict requirements for securing the load. Because once the cargo is not effectively secured, it may break and lead to an accident.

What is the difference between them?

According to popularity, semi-trailers have more advantages than full-trailers. But they both have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the following are the 4 main differences.

  1. Axle position and weight support
    • Semi-trailers do not have a front axle, so the weight is partially shared by the tractor.
    • Full trailers have front axles, so they can support the weight of the entire trailer.
  2. Connection
    • A semi-trailer is attached to a tractor by a kingpin. The kingpin is the device that secures the trailer to the truck.
    • The full trailer is attached to the truck through the truck’s front hook, which is fixed to the tractor’s hitch.
  3. Size and capacity
    • Semi-trailers are usually between 48 feet and 53 feet in length and 8.5 feet in width. The weight of cargo that can be handled is usually 80,000 lbs.
    • Full trailers are much shorter, usually 10 to 26 feet in length and 8.5 feet in width. The weight of cargo that can be handled is usually 26,000 pounds.
  4. Uses
    • Semi-trailers are usually used for long-distance transportation. Because the loading and unloading speed is faster and easier to operate.
    • Full trailers are usually used for short hauls. Unloading at different drop-off points in the same city.

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