Tractor vs Trailer: What Is The Difference? (with pics)

What is the difference between a tractor and a trailer? A tractor refers to the truck that has the engine. The tractor contains an engine and can operate without being attached to a trailer. The trailer is attached to the tractor and is where the freight is placed. The trailer does not have an engine.  

A tractor is referred to with many different names, which include tractor-trailer, big rig, semi-truck, and an 18-wheeler.

In the trucking industry a tractor is usually just referred to as a ‘tractor’.

The tractor is where the driver will sit and drive, and that is the cab of the tractor.

The tractor is the truck.

The trailer is attached to the tractor.

The trailer has its own wheels that have the ability to be repositioned if the driver needs to even out the load.

Depending on the freight, there are different kinds of trailers.

The most popular trailer is a box trailer or also called a dry van trailer.

Other kinds of trailers include a car carrier, flatbed, livestock, refrigeration, tanker, curtainsiders, and a dry bulk trailer.

The tractor and trailer joined together is referred to as a tractor trailer, a semi-truck, and an 18-wheeler. I wrote a thorough article describing what a tractor trailer is, you can find it right here

What is Considered a Trailer?

Freight that is needing to be transported is placed in the trailer.

The trailer doesn’t have an engine and it doesn’t have any drive axles.

When the trailer isn’t connected to a tractor the landing gear that are on the trailer will hold any weight from the freight.

Here is a picture of a trailer that is not attached to a tractor: 

A trailer that needs to have the freight delivered will need to be hooked to the fifth wheel that is located on the tractor.

The fifth wheel resembles a horseshoe, and the trailer can be attached or unattached to the truck easily with the quick release with the fifth wheel.

The trailer cannot be moved by itself.

It has to be connected to a tractor to be moved.

A typical trailer is fifty-three feet long.

What is Considered a Tractor?

A tractor has an engine along with a cab.

The cab is where the driver sits and operates the tractor. This is a picture of a tractor with a sleeper berth:

A tractor could have a sleeper berth that has a bed for a driver that is driving over the road. If you want more info about the sleeper berth then check out this article that I wrote (with pictures).

The driver will drive until they reach their daily drive time, then they will stop, and have a place to sleep.

A tractor that doesn’t have a sleeper birth is called a day cab, and these tractors are usually used for dedicated routes or local driving.

A truck driver that has a dedicated route is usually home daily or nightly.

A bobtail tractor is a tractor that doesn’t have a trailer attached to it.

It is the tractor only.

Types of Tractor Trailers

There are many different types of tractor trailers.

A tractor that connects to a trailer is usually referred to as a tractor trailer.

Depending on the type of freight that needs to be transported, the trailer will be selected.

The different type of tractor trailers are:
Box Trailer – The box trailer is the most popular trailer that is used in the trucking industry. It is your standard trailer.

Flatbed Trailer – The flatbed trailer is used for many different types of freight. The freight is placed on the flatbed trailer, then the freight is strapped down.

Refrigeration Trailer – The refrigeration trailer is used for fruits, vegetables, meat, and frozen foods. The refrigeration trailer is actually a box trailer, but on the front of the trailer there is a reefer unit attached. The reefer unit is a heating and cooling unit.

Car Trailer – The car trailer transports cars. The cars could be new or used cars.

Tanker Trailer – The tanker trailer is used for hauling liquid materials such as gasoline.

Dry Bulk Trailer – The dry bulk trailer looks similar to a tanker trailer, but the dry bulk trailer will haul dry goods such as flour and sand.

Livestock Trailer – The livestock trailer is used for hauling livestock such as pigs and sheep. The livestock trailer may have two levels too.

Curtainsiders Trailer – The curtainsiders trailer is similar to a box trailer, but each side of the trailer will have a curtain that is movable.

Side Bay Trailer – The side bay trailer is used for hauling beverages. There are panel doors on both sides of the trailer. The panel doors open up, then there are separate compartments in the trailer.

Why Is It Called a Tractor Trailer?

When the tractor and trailer are together it is referred to as a tractor trailer, semi-truck, or an 18-wheeler.

It is called a tractor trailer because it has two parts, the tractor and the trailer.

A trailer has to have the tractor to be movable. A tractor trailer can carry 80,000 pounds of freight legally.

Trailer Facts

  1. The trailer doesn’t have an engine.

      2. It can only be mobile when it’s attached to the tractor.

      3. There are no front wheels on a trailer.

      4. Fifty-three feet in length is the average for a trailer.

      5. The average cost for a trailer is $30,000 to $80,000.

      6. A trailer connects to the tractor, then it is referred to as a tractor             trailer.

Tractor Facts

      1. A tractor is known as a tractor-trailer, an 18-wheeler, and a big rig.

      2. A tractor engine has 400 to 600 horsepower.

      3. A tractor engine can go a million miles before being rebuilt.

      4. A tractor engine holds fifteen gallons of oil.

      5. The standard height for a tractor is 13 foot and 6 inches.

      6. A tractor can cost approximately $130,000 to $180,000.

There is a big difference between a tractor and a trailer.

There are numerous types of trailers and tractors.

When the tractor and trailer are combined, they are usually referred to as a tractor-trailer, an 18-wheeler, and a big rig.