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10 Things You Didn't Know About Semis

Semi-trailer trucks, or semis, are large trucks used to carry freight. As of 2014, there were almost 2 million semi-trailer trucks in use in the United States. If you’ve driven on the road at any time in your life, you’ve probably seen one. Although they’re a familiar part of traffic life, there are a few things you may not know about them.

1.They Have a Lot of Nicknames: What do you call a semi-trailer truck? In parts of the United States, people know them as semis, big rigs, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers. In Australia, they’re either called semis or singles. In Britain and Ireland, they’re called articulated lorries (or artics).

2.They Weigh and Can Tow a Lot: Most semis are 70–80 feet in length but can be longer if they pull more than one trailer at once. Semi engines can weigh almost 3,000 pounds and can tow up to 300,000, although U.S. regulations restrict total weight to 80,000.

3.They Take a Long Time to Stop: A semi takes 40% longer to stop moving than an average car. A semi would need the length of two football fields when braking to come to a complete halt, partly because, although they may have 18 wheels, they only have 10 brakes.

4.They Help the U.S. Economy: Many U.S. businesses rely on semi transportation to get goods from one side of the country to another. While trains can accomplish similar goals, they can’t take the freight to specific places like a big rig can. Around 68% of all U.S. goods get to their destinations via semi.

5.They Use a Ton of Gas: While technology has gotten better, most semis still get 4–8 mpg. That’s not very far, which is why many semis have fuel tanks that carry an average of 125–300 gallons of fuel.

6.They Have Lots of Gears: The average semi has 10 forward-drive gears and 2 reverse-drive gears, but some semis can have up to 18. Drivers use these gears to slow down if their brakes fail, but they’re also used to transport hefty materials up and down hills across the United States.

7.They Drive Far: Semis are driven at all hours and for thousands of different businesses. It’s unsurprising they rack up the miles to prove it. One semi can drive up to 100,000 miles a year. (If you do the calculations, that’s about 12,500–25,000 gallons of fuel).

8.They Can’t Turn Easily: It may seem obvious to most, but semis have a hard time turning. Many people misjudge the amount of room a big rig needs and end up getting in the way of a wide turn. Accidents caused by small-vehicle drivers misjudging wide turns are often the reason many semis have a wide-turn caution sign on the back of the truck. On average, 18-wheelers need about 55 feet to make a turn, although many road widths range from 12–24 feet.

9.They Have Speed Limiters in the UK: Since the early 1990s, the UK has mandated speed limiters, a device that keeps a vehicle's speed to a certain level, for semis. Before EU harmonization, the speed limit was 60 MPH. Now, the limit is 56 PMH, and for certain classes, the limit drops to 53 MPH. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are considering implementing a similar law in the United States.

10.They’re Expensive: If you’re thinking about buying yourself a semi, you should know new trucks can start around $80,000 and peak around $200,000 for all the bells and whistles. Keep in mind semis are designed to last much longer than the average car.

If you were involved in an accident with one of these vehicles, you need experienced representation. Contact us at 850.724.4792 or fill out our online form for a complimentary case evaluation.


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