A straight truck, also known as a box truck, sits on a single chassis with all axles attached, with the driver’s compartment separated from the cargo area by a wall.
Notably, some straight trucks provide the driver with direct access to the cargo area via a door between the cab and the box.
Unlike a semi-trailer, which the driver may drop during loading and unloading, the cargo area of a straight truck must be unloaded or reloaded before proceeding to another destination.
Advantages of Using Straight Trucks
Many municipalities regulate the size and weight of the trucks that pass through neighborhoods and ride over bridges and overpasses.
As a result, semi-trucks often ride too high for underpasses or weigh too much for local bridges, especially single-lane ones.
A good example of this exists in Wheeling, West Virginia, where the load limit for the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is currently 4000 pounds, well below the weight of even empty semi-trucks.
On the other hand, smaller straight trucks often fit into dense neighborhoods with narrow streets and low overhangs, making them useful for last-mile deliveries.
Disadvantages of Straight Truck Usage
Straight or box trucks require waiting for unloading and reloading rather than dropping a load and picking up the next immediately.
This increases downtime, making it more difficult to meet delivery deadlines and keep the truck in service for the maximum daily driving hours.
Moreover, each hour off the road without a new load decreases profitability, whether you drive independently or for a trucking company.
Safety Features of Straight Trucks Versus Semis
While the cab and trailer of a semi can fold together at an angle of 90 degrees or less in the event of a sudden need to stop, causing a wreck, a straight truck will not.
Depending on the speed, cargo weight, and road conditions, the box truck will have less chance of crashing than the semi.
Out of 120,000 crashes between April 2001 and December 2003 with fatalities or injuries, 141,000 involved large trucks.
Notably, 7000 of those accidents resulted from jackknifed trailers.
In January 2020, the FMCSA requested input from drivers to update its records due to a 52.6% increase in truck crashes between 2009 and 2018.
Box Truck Fuel Efficiency Gains
Although labor costs require the greatest outlay for any truck fleet, fuel costs come a close second.
Although fleet managers have little control over fuel prices, they have a great deal of control over fuel efficiency.
One strategy involves using more compact vehicles for in-city deliveries, where the straight truck excels over the semi-trailer.
Offloading semis to straight trucks for last-mile delivery reduces truck weight, resulting in a 5% to 10% reduction in fuel use.
Semi-trucks operate at their highest fuel efficiency level on the highway, where they encounter fewer stops and starts.
Box trucks, therefore, provide a more agile in-town solution where fuel economy, vehicle size, and maneuverability matter most, such as at the turn radius from a major artery into a dense neighborhood.