What Are the Differences Between Semi-Trailer and Full Trailer?

Trailers can be divided into two types: semi-trailers and full trailers. These two types look almost the same and are used to transport items. But in fact, they are still very different.

What is a semi-trailer?

Semi-trailers are often used in the trucking industry because it is a more economical option.

The distinguishing feature of a semi-trailer is that it does not have a front axle, which means that the rear axle can only support half of the semi-trailer’s weight. But this does not mean that the semi-trailer cannot stand.

There are two ways to support the front half of the semi-trailer.

  1. when using it: the semi-trailer cannot be used directly, it needs to cooperate with the tractor. So, when the semi-trailer is in use, the tractor will support the weight of the front half of the semi-trailer
  2. when it not in use: the semi-trailer will have landing gear when it leaves the factory. The role of the landing gear is to support the front half of the weight of the semi-trailer. When the semi-trailer is needed, the landing gear can be raised. When the semi-trailer is not needed, the landing gear can be lowered to support the semi-trailer from falling down.
flatbed semi trailer

What is a full trailer?

Full trailer is often used for short distance transportation in factories, ports, docks, warehouses, etc. because of its smaller capacity.

Unlike a semi-trailer, a full trailer can stand up on its own. It has both front and rear axles. When it needs to be used, people use a tractor to tow it.

full trailer

The difference between a semi-trailer and a full trailer

1. Position of axles and weight support

Semi-trailers do not have front axles, they are located at the rear of the vehicle, and each shares half of the weight.

Full trailers have both front and rear axles and are able to support the weight of the entire trailer alone without worrying about weight distribution.

2. Connection type

Semi-trailers are linked to the tractor with over the main pins. The main pins are made of metal, which ensures that the pins will not break off during driving. The main pin is a cylindrical metal that is located under the front end of the trailer.

The Full trailer is linked to the tractor through the front hook, and the link is the hitch of the tractor.

3. Dimension and capacity

This is the fundamental reason to distinguish their usage.

Semi-trailers have larger capacity and can be used for long-distance transportation to reduce the number of round trips and save costs. Full trailer has smaller capacity but better driving, so it is more convenient for short-distance transportation to and from warehouses, docks, factories, etc.

Dimensions of semi-trailer
  • Length: 20 feet to 53 feet
  • Width: 8 feet 6 inches
  • Height: 13 feet

Typically, a semi-trailer can carry 45,000 pounds of cargo. But as the number of axles increases, so does the amount of weight it can carry.

dimensions of Full trailer
  • Length: 10 feet to 26 feet
  • Width: 8 feet 6 inches
  • Height: 13 to 14 feet high

A full trailer can carry 33,000 pounds of load.

4. Applications

Overall, semi-trailers are more popular than full-trailers in the logistics industry. This is because semi-trailers are easier to handle, move, load, and unload quickly. The larger capacity also determines that it can reduce the number of round trips between two locations, reducing fuel consumption and saving costs.

Full trailers, on the other hand, are usually used for short-distance transportation, from factories to docks, ports, and warehouses. These shipments are usually local to local and sometimes do not even require a commercial driver’s license.

Summary

On the market, semi-trailers are a more common choice and there are more manufacturers of semi-trailers.

Semi-trailers are suitable for heavier and larger loads, provide better traction in rain and snow, and offer more profitable opportunities.

Full trailers are suitable for transporting lighter loads and are easier to drive and less expensive to operate.

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