Here’s Why European Trucks Look So Different From What We See In America

European truck on road

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Semi-trucks remain one of the backbones of modern industry, handling a huge portion of domestic shipping. If your products aren’t coming in on a plane or a train, they’re coming in on a truck. Whether you’re in the United States or one of the many member nations of the European Union, semi-trucks are a common sight on the highway. However, while you can see trucks all over the place on both continents, the exact image of the vehicles on the road will vary in a few small yet crucial ways.

The classic big rig is a staple of American iconography, with its protruding front and massive trailer. European trucks, on the other hand, often have flatter fronts and smaller bodies. While it’s easy to dismiss this difference as a matter of regional aesthetics, there are actually a handful of very good reasons for these design differences, including safety measures, local regulations, and the comfort of the drivers.

Stricter regulations keep European trucks smaller

European truck fleet

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In the United States, the various rules and regulations that determine how much a truck is legally allowed to weigh and measure can vary a bit from state to state. For the most part, though, these laws are fairly accommodating. A single truck with three or more axles, for example, has to weigh under 80,000 pounds and have a width below 8.5 feet. That’s more than enough weight and space to haul gigantic loads across the country.

In Europe, on the other hand, trucking laws are a lot more stringent. Trucks driving in the member nations of the EU can’t be longer than 18.75 meters in length (approximately 61 feet). Due to this size restriction, European trucks need to slash sizes wherever possible to accommodate the maximum possible hauling load. The obvious answer, then, is to slice off some of the truck body and save the leftover length for the trailer. Thus, we’re left with flat-faced trucks.

Smaller trucks mean greater safety in Europe

Truck driver in cabin

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Besides the rules of the road, flat-faced European trucks are designed as such to better facilitate safe driving on the EU’s particular highways. European roads tend to be narrower, and EU trucking demands a more nimble vehicle for urban routes and shorter hauls. A smaller, more consolidated design that puts the cabin above the engine instead of behind it ensures that trucks can safely navigate the curvier roads of Europe.

Additionally, in the U.S., many truckers own their vehicles and live in the cabins to save some cash while on the road. This is one of the reasons American semis are so large, as the trucks often include a sleeper cabin and other living accommodations. This practice is far less common in Europe, so the cabins don’t need to be as big. Additionally, European truckers tend to drive shorter distances without breaks than American drivers, so comfort isn’t as big of a factor.

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