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Why Is A Truck Called A Tractor – Tractor Terminology Defined

A tractor is something that is used on a farm so why do they call a truck a tractor? There is a lot of terminology surrounding trucking that many finding either confusing or which simply draw blank stares. Here are some of the terms used around trucks (and tractors) that you have heard but not understood.

Tractor – the tractor is also known as a road tractor, prime mover (UK, Australia and New Zealand), or traction unit gets its name from the job it does. The tractor is the power house that does the pulling. One or more trailers (or semi trailers) can be attached to the tractor. They can also be referred to as articulated trucks. This simply refers to the fact that the tractor moves and the trailer follows – the same principle applies to a car towing a boat trailer – the boat follows the car.

Rigid Truck – the rigid unit is, as the name suggests, rigid. In other words, the tractor and the trailer are one solid unit – there is no articulation between the tractor and the trailer.

6×4, 6×2, 4×2 – these numbers refer to the wheel configuration of the tractor. The first number indicates the number of wheels (divide by two for axles) whilst the second number refers to the number of wheels powered. The most common tractors are the 6×4. The have three axles two of which are powered. This is commonly seen with the tractor having two wheels (one axle) forward of the drivers cab (used for steering) and four wheels (two axles) behind the drivers cab. The articulation point is located above the rear wheels.

Triple, Turnpike double, Rocky Mountain double or Road Train – this is a reference to a tractor with more than one trailer attached. For example, the triple will have three trailers attached.

There are many more terms in used trucking, far too many to include in a post. However, commence a career as long distance tractor driver and you will very quickly pick up the language used amongst drivers. Naturally, getting the right truck driver training from the beginning is all you need for a successful career as a long distance tractor driver.

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