Trucks and standards. 10 years later


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Oct 2009 - Nov 2020

Statistics · Dimensions · Mass · Speed · Maneuverability · Comfort · Condition


The statistics of imports of new and used vehicles with a gross weight of over 16 tons for the first decade of this century reflects both the dawn and decline of the era of American trucks in the local market.

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2012
4128 9066 12029 14254 15569 19763 31242 32492 43109 1551 ~4300 ~11500
87 184 519 931 2519 3016 5412 5862 8235 224 ~70 ~200

In total, over the years of mass-import, about 30,000 American trucks were imported into the Mordor. It is approximately 2.5% of the local fleet of heavy trucks, which today officially numbers about 1.2 million vehicles.

Nevertheless, in the late 2000s on the highways US-trucks created a much more significant part of the traffic - 15-20% even in the European part of the country, and clearly dominated in the East.

We calculated the share of trucks on today's roads in several regions (about 600 oncoming heavy trucks were included in a random sample): the expected 3% at Europe, about 5% near Georgia border, almost 10% at Far East... Without the same scope, but the trucks continue to work.

If the total number of trucks by brand is not a secret, then the number of vehicles for each model was not specially calculated. Based on the available scattered data, we can roughly estimate the share of specific models of US-trucks at the local market and form a top 10 (which will include 90~95% of all imported trucks).

Freightliner Century20-24
Freightliner Columbia18-22
Volvo VN/VNL16-20
International 9700/98008-10
International 9200/94007-9
Freightliner FLD4-6
Kenworth T20002-4
Peterbilt 3872-4
Freightliner Argosy1-3
International Prostar1-2

Some obvious findings:
- Like at the truck-homeland, the major brand is Freightliner, the main models - Century Class / Columbia, which together account about a half of all US-trucks. It so happened that in the west there is a little more Columbia, in the east - Century.
- Local journalists often forget about the existence of American Volvo (customs statistics do not separate them from European ones, and in US they are traditionally in the shadow of other big brands, several times behind the sales of Freightliner and Peterbilt/Kenworth). Meanwhile, for the local market VN is the second most widespread brand and model of trucks.
- Classic Americans make up a very modest share of the truck fleet. Most of them are FLD, a small part - 9900, and a varied fragments from the past.
- Cab-overs are represented by 9800, which were popular im mid-2000s, and a small amount of Argosy.

Most of the imported trucks belonged previously not to a owner-operators, but to large transport and leasing companies (fleet-operator), which affected the configuration and vehicle health.

Trucks bulk import from USA continued within a rather short period of the most successful years and took on the character of a "gold rush". A lot of customers and companies, who had no special experience or were just casual in the business, rushed to the transport market in the expectation that tariffs and loads would continue to grow rapidly. They sold cars and apartments, getting into debt, hoped to recoup their investments in 1-2 year. Companies ordered hundreds of new trucks for future development or to be leasing-providers. Dealers filled the parkings with hundreds of used trucks for future sales.

But the real "future" turned out to be the crisis of 2008-2009. The transportation market collapsed, the need to expand the vehicle fleet disappeared - the question became much more urgent of how to sell the loan-bought vehicles, and the already imported trucks were subsequently enough for several years of sales.

It is noteworthy that when the economy rose from a knockdown on the new and last spurt in oil prices, imports of US-trucks did not show growth - their share in relation to imports of used Europeans fell to the level of the very beginning of the 2000s. In the meantime, very little remained before the aggresion against Ukraine and disaster of 2014...

However, during this period, the state development strategy began to work against any imported trucks. New customs duties and technical regulations, utilization fee and preferential targeted loans... were organically supplemented by the falling currency.


In the countries of the European Union, on the basis of Directive 96/53/EC and its subsequent developments, there are universal restrictions on the length of a road train (tractor + semitrailer) - 16.5 m, as well as on the dimensions of a semitrailer - 12 m from the fifth wheel axle to the rear and no more than 2.04 m to any point in the front. On this basis, the "euro-standard" of a semitrailer was formed - about 13.6 m long with a three-axle, and a truck tractor - two-axle, 4x2 drive type. Three-axle models (6x4 or 6x2) are used, as a rule, as a chassis for dump trucks, construction and special vehicles, or in tandem vehicles.

In the United States, since 1982, there have been only state-specific restrictions on the length of conventional semi-trailers, and federal law set only the low margin of this limit at 48'(§658.13 FMCSA Regulations). At almost half of the states, the minimum value is taken for the limit, and the maximum for today is Oklahoma's 59'6" (~18.1 m). This is how the "american standard" was formed - a semi-trailer of 48'(~14.6 m) with two axles and arbitrarily long 6x4 bonnet-type tractor with a large sleeping compartment (truck). Cabover models were quite widespread before 1980s, but gradually left the US market.

In Russia, only the total length of the road train was historically limited - 20 m. A wide variety of combinations fit into this value: euro-tractor + euro-semitrailer (16.5 m), euro-tractor + american semitrailer (~18 m), truck + euro-semitrailer (18-20 m, depending on the length of the tractor), truck + american semi-trailer (~20 m). In addition, semitrailers with a length of more than 16 m, which fit into the size only with a cabover tractor, were put into operation.

The technical regulation adopted in 2009 was supposed to bring local legislation closest to the common European norms a year later. However, such harsh restrictions even came into conflict with the own business interests of a number of representatives of the ruling regime, therefore, in the revised version of the regulations, the proposed restrictions on the length and maneuverability of road trains were removed. The maximum length of the road train is still 20 m.

One could often hear an appeal to a certain "Scandinavian experience" - they say, because in Sweden and Finland, the operation of road trains up to 25.25 m is allowed. But, firstly, only modular trains (options are shown in the illustration below), and purely standard pan-European sizes allowed. Secondly, the length of a tractor + semitrailer trains in Sweden is limited to 24 m, in Finland - to the usual 16.5 m. Finally, in Sweden, climatic conditions are not the most favorable, there are no length restrictions, there are two largest truck manufacturers (one of which is known for its trucks for the North American market) - however, there is no dominance of bonnet-tractors on Swedish roads.

While in Mordor, the large-sized transport appeared en masse only by the mid-2000s, having hit the already formed road and economic infrastructure, laid down in the sovietische era under the then balance of rail, water and road transport, the then weight and size restrictions and the very modest capabilities of red trucks.


    23.5. The transportation of heavy and dangerous goods, the movement of a vehicle, the overall parameters of which, with or without cargo, exceed 2.55 m in width (2.6 m - for refrigerators)... are carried out in accordance with special rules.

Almost everything is fine with the trucks, but... Built under US restrictions on the width (102" - §658.15 FMCSA Regulations), the tractors have a width along the running-boards (non-retractable steps) of 2570-2590 mm. In addition, a variety of body kit elements can come out of 2550 mm, such as fuel tank covers. So, 2-3 extra centimeters of width, if desired, could be found - there were precedents.


The maximum permissible height of local vehicles is 4 m. In USA, differentiated height limits are set by the states in the range of 4.11-4.30 m.

In this respect, the trucks did not have any surprises - the only thing that sometimes rose over limit was the tips of the exhaust pipes.


The issue of overall weights and axle loads in local reality is too multifaceted (road categories, seasonal restrictions, vehicle configuration etc.) We will restrict ourselves to the most general case: a single rear axle of 4x2 tractor allows a load of 10 tons, a 5-axle road train must fit into 40 tons; two axles of a 6x4 truck allows 16 tons, and a 6-axle road train can have 44 tons of gross weight.

USA have even stricter limits for highway transport (23 CFR Part 658.17): 80,000 lb (36.3 tonnes) gross weight, 20,000 lb (9.1 tonnes) for single axle, and 34,000 lb (15.4 tonnes) for dual axles.

For Europe as a whole (Directive 96/53/EC) the maximum total weight is 40 tonnes, the drive axle load is 11.5 tonnes (local regulations may allow more weight).

The second, in addition to the extra axle, the commercial merit of American trucks is a rather small curb weight: according to documents, the most common 6x4 truck is 7.0-7.2t, while a modern european 4x2 weights at least 8.0-8.5t, and with three axles it will be another 1-1.5t heavier (in fairness, it would be worth comparing the dry weight, since the difference in the tanks capacity can add half a ton to European). But in principle it is understandable - the huge upper parts of the American truck consist mostly of plastic and aluminum, while the European engineers are traditionally heavily invested in passive safety.

As a result, if working within the current legislation, the American tractor allows both to take noticeably larger loads, and to be less scrupulous in placing the load in the trailer.

On the other hand, many buyers deliberately purchased trucks for operation with overload (60-80+ tons), so one cannot fail to note their complicity in the triad of the main destroyers of roads (grain carriers, chinese dump trucks, oversize dump-trailers). Not for nothing in the past, among the factory characteristics of the most monstrous trailers was listed "for american tractors". Unfortunately, weight and speed limits do not apply to vehicles carrying out transportation in the interests of representatives of the ruling dom.


The following local speed limits are currently adopted:

    10.2. In settlements, vehicles are allowed to move at a speed not exceeding 60 km/h, and in residential areas and in courtyards no more than 20 km/h.

10.3. Outside settlements, the following is allowed: ... trucks with a maximum permissible weight of more than 3.5 tons on motorways - no more than 90 km/h, on other roads - no more than 70 km/h;

Another 20 km/h can be added to this limit without penalty.

In Europe, in the absence of uniform restrictions, the maximum speed for road trains is set at 60 to 90 km/h, depending on the country and road category. And back in 1992, a directive for the EU countries (92/6/EEC) came into force, prescribing the mandatory installation of speed limiters on heavy vehicles. The current version (2002/85/EC) reads as follows:

    1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that motor vehicles of categories N2 and N3 may be used on the road only if equipped with a speed limitation device set in such a way that their speed cannot exceed 90 kilometres per hour.

In addition, documentary control of the driving modes, work and rest of the driver is carried out using mandatory tachographs, the introduction of which has been going on since 1985 (EEC 3821/85 rules and their development).

In the United States, speed limits are set by each state and vary considerably. In some regions, heavy trucks and road trains are segregated from other road users, in others they are subject to general rules on a par with cars (
NHTSA summary). Thus, the maximum permitted speed for trucks ranges from 55 to 75 mph (88-120 km/h), and an additional limitation for HMR is possible. At the same time, federal legislation does not put requirements for the installation of limiters. In practice, most american trucks gain 110-120 km/h even under load, and some outstanding examples are capable to run 140-160 (making "100mph" on a truck is considered a kind of fetish even in US).

It would be naive to expect that vehicle with such capabilities will be operated within the margins of the traffic rules or at least common sense. Before the era of the road-cameras, truck drivers were able to maintain a cruising speed of more than 100 km/h regardless of the background on which the names of settlements were written... Of course, now the chinese experience of total surveillance is being actively adopted, but even so, the eternal race for profit does not stop, but only breaks down into a series of stages.


At one time it was planned to introduce requirements for the maneuverability of vehicles, which were in line with European standards (directives 96/53/EC-2002/7/EC and their development):

    Appendix 4, 2.1. Any vehicle of categories M3 and N3, as well as any semitrailer, must be able to turn 360 degrees in either direction within the area enclosed between two concentric circles with radii of 12.5 m and 5.3 m, provided that none of the protruding the rotation of parts of the vehicle (with the exception of the protruding parts specified in paragraph 2.2) does not go beyond the boundaries of the circles when driving.

It is easy to guess that road trains of the european format fit into this size. But what about American tractors.

Alas, the maneuverability of the trucks is a huge and irreparable drawback. Many of them require for a turn a circle radius twice greater then a standard cabover tractor. Of course, the maneuverability of road trains also deteriorate significantly.

There a few illustrations below from the North American Roadway Design Manual chapter on truck maneuverability and how it counts in road design. These official guidelines help to draw objective conclusions about how much space is needed for the successful operation of trucks or long semi-trailers.

Some differences are worth noting compared to local reality:
- the standard euro-semitrailer has a smaller wheelbase (~ 7.7 m from the axle of the SSU) than the standard 48 'American;
- wheelbase may be substantially longer - from 4.6 m of the compact VNL to 6.7 m of 379 (the "base" in the European sense - from the first to the second axis rather than to the bogie center).

In general, some relatively compact trucks were able to meet the Euro-standard even as part of a road train (with a Euro-semi-trailer), but long-wheelbase tractors, American-style long semi-trailers - turn out to be the embodiment of evil.

- Oversized road trains hardly perform their direct functions in the conditions of terminals built for freight transport of traditional dimensions, not to mention the classic old industrial zones . Sometimes it comes to the point that truck drivers hire shunting euro-tractors to supply semi-trailers for loading / unloading.

- In urban conditions, trucks, in principle, are unable to move without systematic traffic violations (such as driving into the oncoming lane when cornering). Long semi-trailers, even when paired with conventional tractors, force you to build unconventional trajectories and severely cut the inner edge of the turn. Actually, all the maneuvers of American heavy trucks in the city are based only on the goodwill and fear of the rest of the traffic participants.

Of course, the local truck trade-union fantasies looked pretty:
    ... backbone distribution terminals should not be located in cities at all. That, as a matter of fact, we are seeing today: logistics centers, warehouses, terminals are being removed everywhere outside the cities ... And the drivers of heavy vehicles no longer need to "squeeze" through the city streets, already clogged with passenger transport ... without American trucks normal transport links in Siberia and the Far East are impossible

Only since the mid-2000s, there have been enough suburban cargo terminals, enough regions with harsh conditions, long-routes and other areas of rational use of bonnet tractors. However, for some reason, faster than the share of trucks in the cargo fleet grew, their share was arriving on shuttle flights on the city streets. The problem was in the pathological psychology of the mass of carriers who took a car with a two-meter sleeping bag instead of a delivery truck only because of the low price; who needs two driving axles only to comply permitted axle loads; who are physiologically incapable not todeceive the customer:
    "I can sometimes give a load of milk food to Oryol from Noginsk. The temperature regime is +4..+8, but I never bother and only cool the ref for an hour or two before unloading - the obtainer doesn't measure the temperature of the product, ha-ha"

Can be heared that "two driving axles are especially convenient in mountainous conditions" - but in addition to the axles, there are at least 6-7 meters of a tractor sticking out in front of them. And how happy the oncoming drivers are, seeing a truck maneuvering across the entire width of the carriageway behind a closed cornering...

And a few words about vertical maneuverability. In the American tradition, the "front overhang" of the semitrailer (the shortest distance from the pin) is ~910 mm, in the European - about 1600 mm. When some particularly outstanding trucks were coupled to Euro-semi-trailers by especially outstanding drivers, the gap turned out to be so small that when the truck was "folded" at the exit, the semi-trailer contacts with the fairings of the tractor.


Almost any story about American trucks will contain the definition of "powerful", but in reality everything is too ambiguous and too relative ...

These tractors rightly seemed the personification of power against the background of ancient red lorries, were on an equal with the old Europeans, but after modern Europeans they make a dull impression.

Today, for comfortable long-range operation at full load (20-22 tons), a Euro-tractor with 500 forces and 2500 torque is enough (and in the mountains it does not seem excessive at all).

Theoretically, the power of engines of the Century / Columbia family could be from 310 to 560 hp . In practice, it is understandable that the 500+ versions were imported in minimal quantities, a significant part accounted for a reasonable 400-450, but about a third of the cars had only 330-370. Once the popular cabovers International had a miserable 280-330 ... Conclusion - in each specific case, you should first look under the hood, and then talk about "power".

A related question is fuel consumption. For a serviceable truck with a permissible load and in simple road conditions, most operators considered 35-40-45 liters per 100km as a norm (summer-winter); "Europeans" of that period consumed not much less (within 5 liters) and in a tangible dependence on the load. But times and technologies are changing - now a decent "European" of the last generation under the same conditions burns 27-33, with a 10tons should fit into the range of 25-30, with an empty trailer - 20-25. It is clear that the diesel fuel bought for the difference in the price of the new European and the old truck would be enough to literally travel to the Moon, but the point is that the rumors about the fuel economy of the "Americans" are somewhat outdated.


When it comes to rest for the driver, American trucks will always be out of competition due to the size of the sleeping compartments.

As a rule, each model comes with several factory cab options - basic daycab with a low roof and without sleeper, mid-roof and raised-roof with sleeper 40-76" (1-2 m) long, flat floor and maximum height up to 2.5 m. The regular sleeper does not imply any excesses - the length is enough for a wide (meter) shelf and a rack-wardrobe with a folding table. Larger-sized sleepers are custom, build by separate tuning studios: they may already have a separate entrance from the street, a bathroom, a full living room, a compartment for a motorcycle... and sometimes they serve as the permanent residence of the owner. The largest sleeper we know is 260" (6.6 m) long.

Europeans can only oppose a relatively narrow shelf with a small refrigerator and a locker, closing drawers above the windshield, good autonomous heater. And, transmission selector on the steering wheel, a flat floor and a two meters ceiling, even for top series, became the norm not so long ago, and before that, an engine tunnel, a gear-poker or a pedestal with a gear lever took an already meager reserve of free space.

However, the owners of stock fleet versions of trucks could only dream of custom luxury. In addition, the imported vehicles were carefully gutted from the panel to the rear wall; lost additional appliances, a coffee machine, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a TV - this is understandable, but sometimes even the plastic bedside tables were removed.


It is still impossible to understand why the Americans, uncompromisingly approaching the issue of driver's rest, did so unforgivably little to improve his working conditions.

• NOISE. Mediocre sound insulation, noisy engines, vertical exhaust tract (on the classics, it often goes along the working cabin) led to the fact that in terms of internal noise, the trucks did not even meet mordorian safety requirements and excess beyond the maximum threshold of 80 dBA (during local certification once changed the exhaust pipilines and installed additional mufflers). Instead of the silent retarders, a Jake-brake used on the trucks the character and sound of which is comparable to the MG-42 machine-gun. And, of course, the interior creaks with all its parts, which was not very neatly assembled from frankly cheap materials.

• Vibration. Traditional design features predetermine a very high vibration load and rigidity of American trucks: air suspension is only for the rear axles, full air suspension of cabs is not practiced at all. The bonnet-type layout, it seems, should minimize vibration from the engine - but in practice this does not happen.

Speaking of the layout... In classic trucks, the cabin was located deep enough inside the wheelbase, which somehow reduced shaking on bumps. All modern trucks can rather be called "semi-bonnet" - the cab is moved forward as much as possible over the engine and the front axle, so that the driver gets even stronger shaking. And of course, modern layout made difficulties for on-road repair fans.

• Ergonomics. With the impressive dimensions of the truck superstructure, the actual working cabin is much narrower (and even cramped) than european, the working space is arranged with the traditions of the second half of the last century. The area and shape of the glazing, especially on the classics, does not reach the level of euro tractors, although with such a dimensions it would be desirable to have better visibility. The optics do not formally comply with Euro-standards, and, to put it mildly, do not have sufficient efficiency.

• Gearbox. The vast majority of imported US-trucks were equipped with non-synchronized manual transmissions and clutch without booster. In the conditions of hypothetical interstate-routes, this may not be so important - the clutch is squeezed out once when starting off, and then the gears are changed only by selecting the crankshaft revolutions . But in Mordor the road traffic looks like Europe more - many kilometer traffic jams (stau), city traffic, traffic lights... Today, even light vehicles with synchronized manual gearbox and light clutch pedal only buy because of financial despair. But why so expensive professional tool as truck makes each once to squeeze the pedal with the effort of a weightlifter and tinker with the gearshift mechanism of the WWII epoque, at the same time trying not to grind anyone with a twenty-meter train?
"Three-pedal robots", which required squeezing the clutch at start-off and stop, were present in the market in minimal quantities, and their worthness seems to be very doubtful. Full-fledged 2-pedal variants did not have time to become widespread until the end of the era of US-trucks in Mordor.

Yes, in the cab of a euro-tractor you cannot relax so fully, make pauses, bother with the housework, bask in the process of the engine overhaul in the middle of the frozen tundra... But the Europeans were the first who realize that with 40 tons behind backs it would be safer for those around them not a brutal cowboy, but the driver of an agile, soft, quiet tractor with an automatic transmsission and a full set of active safety equipment.


In the 2000s, a whole sub-industry flourished magnificently, aimed at servicing American trucks - supplying parts, second-hand parts, specialized services and even its dealers. But when import statistics showed that there was no local future for US-trucks, an equally active reorientation to a more promising clientele began.

The common expression that the resource of many imported trucks was exhausted several times by the mid-2010s sounds incorrect technically, but it reflects reality well. However, what is happening in the engines, transmissions and chassis are solely personal problems of the owners. Electric? - just to mark th vehicle on the road in the dark. Worn and tattered tyres that others would be ashamed to put on their spare wheels? - "we don't live in Europe".

But the brakes of the trucks already concerns all the participants of road traffic. Initially coordinate the pneumatics of the American tractor with the Euro-trailer, think about the difference in the operation of valves and pressures? Set 24-volt power to the trailer ABS or adjusting of EBS? Replace a rotten sensor, not to mention something more serious (however, this is a misfortune for all elderly trucks in Mordor)?

Forget it! All this is either entertainment for the very literate, or economically inexpedient - "the vehicle should earn, not spend". Instead of extremely worn-out brake drums you can find half-dead ones at cars shrot dump. Chinese linings can be riveted onto the worned pads. Rotten regulators and springs - the chinese helps again. As a result, CB-radio warning "America goes downhill without brakes!" became the designation not of an single road massacre, but of a mass phenomenon.


While the trucks of the 1990-2000 ended thir lifetime in Mordor, some changes were taking place in the homeland of the trucks.

The engines have not become more powerful, but more capricious. The local owners saw only a change in emission standards in 2004 (so called pre/post-EGR). The Americans subsequently had to face no less painful 2007/2010 regulations, which added to the engines a particulate filters and SCR (urea injection), since 2015 new restrictions on CO2 (actually on fuel consumption) have been added.

The understanding of the advantages of automated geearbox in terms of economy and safety finally came to the New World. So today it is the AMT that is considered standard, while the manual transmission has moved to the list of options.

The most noticeable was the introduction of driver assistance systems - we have to admit that in this respect the trucks have pulled up to Europeans. In the basic configuration of the current generation Freightliner - automatic pre-crash braking, adaptive cruise control in the entire speed range, lane warning, light and rain sensors, automatic high beam, traffic sign recognition. Blind spot monitoring, active lane keeping, predictive cruise, telematics are available as options.

However, all this pleasure is not cheap - new mid-range trucks are already more expensive than more technically advanced new tractors of the top European series.


Working in international road transport burns a lot of nerves, but still ennobles a person (sometimes forcibly). She teaches to drive the car in a different way, changes behavior on the road and attitude towards other road users, changes the attitude towards reasonable rules. Forces to comply with the work and rest regimes, maintain the vehicle in good condition. It makes think - work with documents, keep in mind the peculiarities of each of the multi-colored fragments of the European map, and most importantly - constantly count several moves ahead.

Working exclusively within Mordor (and the near abroad) does not leave the owners and drivers with any tasks except one - getting the maximum profit here and now. And here the American truck most noticeably symbolizes the owners' deliberate refusal of the prospects for civilized development - as the symbol of downstairs.