Brian Smith

March 22, 2024

15 minutes

Buyer's Guide to Commercial Box Trucks: Box Truck Sizes and Weight Classes

Buyer's Guide to Commercial Box Trucks: Box Truck Sizes and Weight Classes

The box truck industry is on the rise. According to Cognitive Market Research, from 2023 to 2030, the truck industry is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 5.5%. This growth is fueled by the demand for box trucks (especially those that are electric and hybrid). It reflects a trend that's on the move towards sustainability and efficiency in transportation.

In this blog, we're going to provide potential buyers with a comprehensive guide that covers different types of box trucks, including box truck measurements, their uses, purchasing advice, maintenance tips, and operational strategies for box trucks. At Cota Systems, we aim to equip you with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions on box truck investments. Let's get started.

box truck size range

What Is a Box Truck?

A box truck is also known as a cube truck, a cube van, or a straight truck. Box trucks are characterized by a cab attached to a cargo area. They're enclosed by a rectangular or cube-shaped body. These trucks are extremely important in the logistics and transportation industry. A box van or cube van moves goods from place to place, making them vital in the world of commerce.

What's a straight truck?
Straight body trucks are vehicles with a fixed trailer (meaning they're permanently attached) and are also characterized as box trucks. These trucks are commonly used for small-scale transportation needs. This includes local deliveries and distributions.

Box Truck Sizes

Box truck sizes range between 10 and 26 feet in length. Depending on a business' needs, the size of a box truck must be carefully considered. They'll need to take into account factors such as cargo volume and maneuverability. They must also understand the importance of considering the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is to avoid the necessity of a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) for trucks under 26,000 pounds and ensure compliance with regulations. In GVWR, box trucks can range from Class 3 (12,500 lbs) to Class 7 (33,000 lbs). This offers businesses flexibility when selecting a commercial box truck.

What's the height of a 26 foot box truck?
The box truck's height ranges between 12.5 and 13.5 feet.
The vertical space is ample enough for efficient loading and transporting.

How much weight can a box truck carry?
The payload capacity of a box truck refers to the maximum weight of cargo it can safely carry, excluding the box truck weight itself. To calculate payload capacity, you need to know the weight of the vehicle with standard equipment. You'll also need to consider all necessary operating consumables. These include things like motor oil, transmission oil, and coolant. Additionally, you'll need to take into account a full tank of fuel (while not loaded with passengers or cargo).

Here's the formula to Calculate Payload Capacity, with accurate calculations of payload capacity, businesses can optimize their box truck usage.

Payload Capacity= GVWR − Curb Weight

Example Calculation:

Suppose you have a medium-duty box truck with the following specifications:

GVWR: 15,000 pounds
Curb Weight: 8,500 pounds

To calculate the payload capacity:

Payload Capacity: 15,000 pounds (GVWR)−8,500 pounds (Curb Weight)
∴ Payload Capacity = 6,500 pounds
So, this box truck can safely carry up to 6,500 pounds of cargo.

Box Truck vs Cargo Vans

When comparing box trucks to cargo vans, there are some differences to keep in mind:

Design differences:
Box trucks feature a separate cab and cargo area.
The size of a box truck's cargo area is typically large. It's a rectangular box mounted on the frame. Cargo vans, on the other hand, have a unibody design.

Size comparison:
When box trucks are used, they provide much more space than that of a cargo van.
Although cargo vans are smaller, they offer the advantage of maneuverability. They're also easier to park and drive in dense urban environments.

Utility comparison:
A small box truck is well-suited for moving household goods, delivering appliances, or carrying equipment for mobile services. This makes them ideal for bulky items. Cargo vans excel in expedited delivery services. This would include things such as parcels and document delivery. They're ideal in areas where agility and accessibility are taken into consideration.

Can You Make Money with a Box Truck?

Owning a fleet of box trucks can be a very lucrative way to earn income. This is because a box truck business earns money by transporting and delivering loads. This is especially true in the less than truckload (LTL) sector. They're also suitable for local deliveries and are well-equipped for urban navigation.

In order to maximize earnings potential, consider business models for box trucks such as hot shot trucking and LTL freight shipping.

Hot shot trucking is the transportation of time-sensitive or expedited loads. They often go short distances and provide quick and responsible delivery services. It's a niche market that box truck owners can capitalize on through urgent delivery demands.

LTL freight shipping involves transportation of smaller shipments. These shipments don't require an entire truckload. Box trucks work well for this because they can handle multiple deliveries within a localized area.

How Many Types of Box Trucks Are There?

By Size and Weight Class

A commercial box truck can come in different types. They're each designed to cater to specific requirements and needs. Here are the box truck sizes classified by weight class:

  • Light Duty Box Trucks: This small box truck is primarily used for light transport and local deliveries. They often require no special licenses to operate.
    • Size: A light duty box truck can range from 10 to 16 feet in length.
    • Weight Class: These fall within Class 2 to Class 3, with Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings (GVWR) ranging from 6,001 to 14,000 pounds.
  • Medium Duty Box Trucks: Medium duty box trucks are more versatile. They can handle a wider range of tasks. This includes everything from delivering consumer goods to transporting smaller pieces of equipment.
    • Size: This box truck's dimensions can range from 16 to 26 feet in length.
    • Weight Class: They fall within Class 4 to Class 6. GVWRs range from 14,001 to 26,000 pounds.
  • Heavy-Duty Box Trucks: These trucks are designed for the heaviest loads. They're used for large deliveries and often require a commercial driver’s license to operate.
    • Size: The size of a box truck that's heavy-duty can exceed 26 feet in length.
    • Weight Class: They fall within Class 7 to Class 8. GVWRs range from 26,001 pounds and up.
box truck types

By Usage

The size of the box truck isn't the only feature that plays a major role, use cases assigned to each box truck should be considered.

What are box trucks used for?
Box trucks are used to transport non-perishable and dry goods. This includes electronics, retail and consumer products, as well as machine parts and palletized freight. Here are the trucks by usage:

  • Moving Trucks: Often rented for moving household goods. They come in various sizes to accommodate different volumes of belongings.
  • Delivery Trucks: Used by companies to deliver goods to homes and businesses. These include parcel delivery trucks and those used by furniture companies.
  • Refrigerated Box Trucks: Equipped with cooling systems, these trucks transport perishable goods such as food and flowers.
  • Utility Trucks: Customized for specific services, such as mobile workshops, bookmobiles, or broadcasting units. These trucks come with equipment and features tailored to their specific use.
  • Commercial & Specialty Services: Examples include mobile retail, event catering, mobile healthcare units, broadcasting and media production trucks, and others.

Special Design & Features

Box trucks can also be classified by special design & features:

  • Cutaway Van: The box is separate from the cab, with a passageway between them. These are often used for ambulances or small buses.
  • Tilt Cab: The cab tilts forward to provide access to the engine beneath. This design is common in medium to heavy-duty cargo trucks.
  • Lift Gates: Box truck sizes with liftgates come with a mechanical lift at the rear of the truck. This helps with the loading and unloading of heavy items.
  • Side Doors: In addition to the rear door, these trucks have one or more side doors for easier access to cargo.

When it comes to box trucks, the size, usage, design, and features all play a significant role in their functionality and suitability for specific tasks.

6 Common Types of Box Trucks for Freight Shipping

There are different types of box trucks used for freight shipping. Let's take a closer look at the 6 most common and uncover what their unique serving purposes are within the logistics and delivery industry.

straight truck shipping options

General Freight Box Trucks

A commercial box truck is one of the most versatile and widely used types on load boards. They're ideal for a broad range of general freight. This includes packaged goods, furniture, and appliances. Take a closer look at light, medium, and heavy duty below:

Light Duty
Typically a 10-16 ft. box truck.
Price Range: $25,000 - $45,000 new.
Payload Capacity: Up to 5,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: Light duty trucks are fuel-efficient. Additionally, as mentioned above, they're easy to drive in urban settings with no special licenses required for operation.

Medium Duty
This truck ranges from 16-26 feet in length.
Price Range: $35,000 - $70,000 new.
Payload Capacity: 6,000 - 15,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: These trucks are more versatile and can handle a wider range of tasks. They may require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This will depend on the weight.

Heavy Duty
26 feet and up.
Price Range: $50,000 - $120,000 new.
Payload Capacity: Anything over 15,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: This box truck's dimensions are designed for large deliveries. They also require a CDL and are known for higher fuel consumption.

By understanding these distinctions, businesses are able to choose the best option based on their needs.

expedited delivery truck

Expedited and Parcel Delivery Trucks

These trucks are specially designed for quick and efficient transport of parcels and small packages. Expedited and parcel delivery trucks are in high demand on load boards for last-mile delivery services. They aim to meet the demands of e-commerce and logistics industries. Take a look at compact delivery vans and standard parcel trucks:

Compact Delivery Vans
These vans are small, nimble vehicles perfect for navigating narrow streets and delivering small parcels and documents directly to customers' doors.
Size: When it comes to the size of a box truck, this one is compact. It's similar to a large SUV.
Price Range: $20,000 - $35,000 new.
Payload Capacity: Up to 3,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: These straight trucks are highly maneuverable. As mentioned earlier, they're ideal for city deliveries and offer low operating costs.

Standard Parcel Trucks
These trucks are larger than compact vans. They can handle a bigger volume of parcels while still being efficient for urban deliveries.
Size: 12-20 feet in length.
Price Range: $30,000 - $60,000 new.
Payload Capacity: 3,000 - 8,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: These trucks offer a balance between capacity and maneuverability. This makes them suitable for a broad range of parcel delivery services.

Compact vans and standard parcel trucks help businesses optimize their delivery operations. This ensures swift and reliable delivery of parcels and packages.

refrigerated box truck reefer

Refrigerated Box Trucks (Reefers)

A refrigerated commercial box truck is also known as a reefer. These trucks are for transporting perishable goods that require temperature control. This can include food, flowers, and pharmaceuticals. Take a look at the differences between small and medium to heavy-duty reefers below:

Small Reefer Vans
Small reefer vans are ideal for delivering small quantities of perishable goods. For example, food or flowers can be delivered directly to retailers or consumers. These vans ensure freshness and quality.
Size: Similar to compact delivery vans but with refrigeration.
Price Range: $30,000 - $50,000 new.
Payload Capacity: Up to 3,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: Ideal for small-scale or last-mile deliveries of perishable goods. However, these trucks incur higher maintenance and operation costs due to refrigeration units.

Medium to Heavy-duty Reefers
These reefers are larger refrigerated trucks designed to transport significant volumes of perishable goods over longer distances.
Size: Starting out as a 16 ft box truck, these trucks can be up to 26 feet in length.
Price Range: $40,000 - $100,000 new.
Payload Capacity: 5,000 - 15,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: Designed to transport significant volumes of temperature-sensitive goods. Importantly, refrigeration unit maintenance and fuel costs are higher.

Refrigerated box trucks are vital in preserving the quality of perishable goods during transportation. They ensure fresh, reliable, and efficient transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo.

specialized goods transport

Specialized Goods Transport

For the transport of specialized goods, box truck sizes with liftgates and side doors make it easy to load and unload. Take a closer look at these delivery trucks:

Furniture/Appliance Delivery Trucks
When it comes to different box truck types, these are specifically fitted with features like air-ride suspension for a smoother ride. These features make this truck type a go-to for moving furniture and appliances safely and securely.
Size: 16-26 feet in length.
Price Range: $35,000 - $70,000 new.
Payload Capacity: 5,000 - 15,000 pounds.
Special Considerations: The lift gates make it easy to unload and load heavy items. Furthermore, the padded interiors may be necessary for protection of fragile or delicate goods.

Trucks with liftgates are beneficial to businesses operating in industries dealing with furniture or appliance delivery because they cater to their unique cargo handling needs.

moving box trucks

Moving Trucks

Moving box trucks are similar to general freight trucks. However, they're specifically used for household moves or office relocations. These services are common on load boards, as they cater to both local and long-distance moves.

Range of Sizes: The size of a box truck for moving ranges from 10 feet (suitable for a studio apartment) up to 26 feet (capable of moving 4+ bedrooms).
Price Range: $25,000 - $80,000 new, depending on size and features.
Special Considerations: Larger trucks might require a CDL. Moving trucks with lift gates and ramps are helpful features. Additionally, insurance and permits may vary based on use and geography.

Moving trucks offer a reliable and convenient solution for businesses that are relocating due to the size and features that accommodate various moving needs. These trucks ensure individuals and businesses have a successful moving experience. It's not uncommon to find local retail businesses outsource their moving trucks to increase revenue.

utility and service truck

Utility and Service Trucks

Box truck types also include utility and service trucks. Although they're not as common, there's a niche market on load boards for mobile workshops or utility trucks equipped for specific services. These trucks support industries like construction, repair, and maintenance.

Some utility and service commercial box truck examples include mechanic service trucks, electrician service trucks, and telecommunication service trucks. Here are some things to consider:

Custom Builds: The size of a box truck for utility and service as well as its features will depend on specific service needs. For example, mobile workshops may require ample storage space for equipment or emergency service vehicles may require specialized lighting and communication systems.
Price Range: $30,000 - $100,000+, heavily dependent on customization.
Special Considerations: Consider the need for built-in storage, power supply, and other specialized equipment. Operating costs can be higher due to added weight and equipment.

By investing in custom-built trucks that meet their unique requirements, businesses can enhance efficiency, productivity, and in some cases - earn extra revenue by outsourcing when their trucks are not in service.

How To Start A Box Truck Business

There are a few ways to increase revenue for your business through your fleet of box trucks.

1. Set up a business

When starting out, you'll need to create a business plan and outline your initial investment. This way, you can see if you need to raise capital or apply for a loan. Then, you'll establish a business, choosing a name & logo. Afterwards, you'll need to open a business checking account and credit card. Finally, you'll need to set up a website. The website doesn't have to be complicated. You can choose a simple one pager that describes what you do, what you offer, how you're different, and how to get a quote.

2. Get permits & licenses

Next up, you're going to need to obtain all the necessary permits and licenses. This is required to operate your box truck business. Importantly, if your truck weighs more than 11,000 lbs, you have to register for an MC (motor carrier) number and a USDOT number. You can find out more on registration requirements at FMCSA. Then you'll need to file for a BOC-3 form. This is known as the Designation of Agents for Service of Process. If you're transporting interstate, you'll also need a Unified Carrier Registration (UCR). Last but not least, you'll need to acquire the appropriate insurance coverage that protects your business and assets.

3. Buy a box truck

You'll need to choose the best option for your business whether that's to purchase or lease your box truck:

When to purchase:

  • If you plan to use the truck for a long time, no restrictions on mileage or modifications or if your business requires heavy usage or specific customizations.
  • This could be advantageous for businesses looking to build equity and have the option to sell the box trucks used.
  • If you benefit from tax deductions, including depreciation, operational costs, and interest on any loans used to purchase the truck.

When to lease:

  • This option is great for startups and businesses with limited capital to acquire a truck.
  • If you prefer predictable monthly expenses, which can simplify budgeting and cash flow management.
  • Leasing can be advantageous for maintaining a modern, fuel-efficient fleet.

When you buy a box truck, you need to equip it with truck driver accessories. This enhances productivity and safety.

4. Operations Setup

The final steps in a start-up trucking business include:

  • Securing a safe and legal parking space for your trucks when they are not in use.
  • Setting up a scheduling system or implementing a Transportation Management System (TMS). This is trucking dispatch software that aims to streamline operations management and efficiency optimization of the box truck business.

With careful planning and strategic decisions, you can establish a successful box truck business.

start box truck business

How to Find Box Truck Loads for Your Current Fleet

It's essential for a box truck owner to utilize reputable load boards, especially if they want to connect with available freight opportunities efficiently. When looking to find guaranteed loads, try our Cota Systems Load Board. We prioritize the credibility of our brokers, carriers, and shippers within our network. This is a great option to minimize risks and ensure steady freight opportunities, offering peace of mind for box truck operators.

As a business owner, your trucks are likely dropping off shipments and coming back empty. With Cota Systems, you can ensure your drop-offs aren't dead-heading (driving back empty). On their way back, they can pick up another load that's on route for another shipper - making your trucks work for you for every mile driven with LoadBoost™. Our platform is designed to optimize your load planning while boosting your earning potential.

What is the Best Box Truck to Buy?

When considering which box truck types are worth the investment, there are several models that stand out for their reliability, performance, and versatility. Some of the best box trucks of 2023 include:

  • Ford F-650
  • Isuzu FTR
  • Hino 268
  • Freightliner M2
  • International Durastar 4300
  • Kenworth T270
  • Mitsubishi Fuso

These are popular choices among box truck buyers. This is because these models have consistently earned high marks in various aspects, especially to buyers that desire quality and dependability.

What is the life expectancy of a box truck?
According to the HFI Truck Center, a box truck's lifespan can range anywhere between 250,000 and 155,000 miles. Factors that influence the life expectancy include the maintenance or replacement parts needed.

popular box truck types

Why Use a Box Truck

A commercial box truck is a great option for those who need to transport loads in cramped areas and busy traffic. Here's why:

  • Accessibility: Box trucks can access areas where larger vehicles like tractor-trailers cannot. This allows for delivery to residential neighborhoods, urban areas, and tight spaces. It also makes it easier to scale your business if your box trucks don't require CDL licenses.
  • Versatility: Box trucks can accommodate various types of freight. This includes small parcels and large items. This offers flexibility in shipping different types of goods.
  • Branding Opportunities: These trucks also serve as moving billboards. This provides an opportunity for branding and advertising your freight shipping service while on the road.
  • Easy Maintenance: With a box truck, look forward to simpler mechanical systems compared to that of larger commercial vehicles like tractor-trailers. This makes maintenance and repairs more straightforward and cost-effective. You can also implore a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist to ensure your vehicles are ready for the road.
  • Efficient Loading and Unloading: Rear loading docks and hydraulic lift gates enable quick and efficient loading and unloading of cargo. This reduces turnaround times. This is crucial for meeting delivery deadlines and ensuring customer satisfaction.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Box trucks typically meet size and weight regulations for urban and suburban roads.

With reasons like these, it's easy to see why many businesses choose straight trucks. Whether you're a small business owner or a seasoned logistics professional, integrating box trucks into your fleet can be a strategic investment.

Your Takeaway

We hope this guide to different types of box trucks has shown you that they offer a versatile and efficient solution for transporting goods. Congested urban areas and residential neighborhoods greatly benefit from this trucking solution. By leveraging the insights provided, you can optimize your box truck operations and maximize your revenue. Remember, the key to unlocking the full potential of your box truck business relies on informed decision-making and strategic planning. Cota Systems is here to help you streamline operations and enhance the use of every mile for ultimate earning potential. Get in touch, we'd be happy to help!

Brian Smith

I joined Cota Systems to help U.S. truckers grow their businesses. I proudly served in the U.S. Navy, managed some of the largest brands on earth, and I'm excited to share what I've learned with you. Truckers are the backbone of our great nation and when you and your family are thriving, so is America! 🇺🇸

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