Compare the Top Rated Box Truck Dealers: 2020 Best & Most Popular Box Truck Manufacturers
They go by many names – moving vans, medium duty trucks, straight trucks, cabover trucks, cube vans, box vans, and more. Whatever you call them, businesses of all sizes and types use box trucks to transport products and supplies.
What Is a Box Truck?
Organizations use box trucks to transport goods from one location to another. Of course, you can use any vehicle to accomplish this task. The box truck is defined not by its purpose but by its construction, which is a truck cab mounted on a frame (picture a pickup truck without the cargo area). When you attach a box to the frame, you create the box truck.
From there, these vehicles are categorized by cargo weight capacity and length:
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- Class 3: 10,001 to 14,000 pounds and 14' long
- Class 4: 14,001 to 16,000 pounds and 16' long
- Class 5: 16,001 to 19,500 pounds and 17' long
- Class 6: 19,501 to 26,000 pounds and 18' long
- Class 7: 26,001 to 33,000 pounds and 24' long
Technically, Class 3 is considered a lightweight truck and Class 7 a heavyweight truck. However, these vehicles still qualify as box trucks assuming they have the frame-mounted cab and box. Operating a Class 7 vehicle in America requires a Class B commercial driver's license.
Top 6 Box Truck Brands
Numerous companies manufacture box trucks, but the following six build the most popular cargo trucks in America.
- Chevy: In 1911, an auto manufacturer teamed up with a racecar driver to found Chevrolet. Over 100 years later, you still see Chevy vehicles – including cars, trucks, and SUVs – all over America's highways.
- Ford: Ford has been an industry leader since releasing the first Model T in 1903. The company earned high marks when it refused government bailout money during the financial crisis of 2008. A decade later, Ford is still going strong, with a wide array of vehicles designed to meet any budget.
- Freightliner: Part of Daimler's North American division, Freightliner is mainly known for its heavy duty trucks, although it also produces Class 5, 6, and 7 trucks.
- International: Another industry leader in the heavy duty truck class, International also manufactures medium duty trucks, with distribution throughout the Americas.
- Isuzu: In addition to personal vehicles, the Japanese manufacturer designs diesel engines as well as medium and heavy duty commercial trucks.
- Nissan: another Japan-based auto manufacturer, Nissan first opened its doors in 1933. In addition to cabover trucks, Nissan designs a variety of personal vehicles, including SUVs, sedans, and crossovers.
Types of Box Trucks
Box trucks come in a wide variety of types, including designs to fit very specific needs.
- Flatbed trucks are ideal for transporting larger items, particularly those that require loading or unloading with a crane.
- Landscape trucks typically have open space for equipment such as lawnmowers, line trimmers, leaf blowers, chain saws, and more. They may also include a ramp to easily "drive" wheeled equipment in and out of the cargo hold.
- Refrigerated trucks keep cargo cold. They're mainly used to transport food, but may be used for any temperature-sensitive item.
- Utility trucks include racks and bins to store the tools, parts, and equipment used in maintenance and repair.
Box trucks also differ according to the cab configuration. The conventional cab sits high and behind the engine, such as you see in an ordinary pickup truck. These trucks offer improved distance visibility. They also offer greater driver comfort.
The cab-forward design (where the term cabover truck originates) puts the cab in front of the engine and over the front axle. Typically, the cab tilts forward to allow easy engine access. The driver has better visibility when operating the vehicle in tight spaces, which is important when maneuvering the vehicle for loading and unloading.
Finally, you want to look at the gate type. Most box trucks use a roll-up style but you can upgrade to a lift gate. They're mainly recommended to save both time and effort for drivers performing street deliveries.
Diesel vs. Gas Engines
When it comes to powering your box truck, you have two main choices: diesel and gasoline (alternative fuels are an outlier with trucks this large).
Diesel engines are slightly more popular with larger trucks simply because they offer greater power when operating at a low RPM. When you're carrying a heavy load, this makes it a lot easier to move forward from a standing position. Diesel engines also tend to have a longer lifespan thanks to a cooler operating temperature and sturdier design.
Gasoline engines give you more power once you're actually moving. They also spew fewer noxious chemicals, although newer diesel models meet more stringent pollution standards.
When it comes to costs, the engine types are pretty close. Diesel usually gets better mileage, but buying and maintaining the engines also usually cost more, so it's a bit of a wash.
With costs being basically equal over the life of the engine, and pros and cons evening out, the deciding factor may come down to what's already in your fleet. It simplifies your fuel storage and maintenance needs to stick with a single engine type.
Before buying a box truck, you definitely want to take it for a test drive, preferably under driving conditions similar to your everyday use. You need to know how well it handles sitting in traffic as well as driving in town and on the highway.
It's also helpful to know how "friendly" the cargo area is for loading and unloading your usual cargo. See if the dealer will let you perform a demo run. If not, maybe they have a test vehicle specifically for that purpose. Closely related is the weight capacity. You may be tempted to buy a medium weight truck based on your average load. Instead, look for a vehicle rated for your maximum load. This protects you against premature wear and tear.
You may also want to invest in a couple of add-ons, particularly an extended warranty and anything that increases efficiency. The warranty protects your investment. And extras like wider door openings, grab handles, and lower steps increase efficiency, particularly when your drivers enter and exit the vehicle numerous times each day.
Author: Angela Escobar