If you are a relative newcomer to operating a truck – perhaps you have been running smaller vans and are looking to make the next step, then be prepared to be confronted with a choice of box truck lengths and heights.
If you are only familiar with cars, you may think that trucks come in one length. If you have experience of operating vans, then two or three wheelbase lengths is not unusual. As far as rigid trucks are concerned, you can have as many as seven wheelbase lengths on a 7.5 tonne DAF LF (now rebranded the XB). But, since the box bodies can be made individually, the length of the body is potentially whatever you want it to be. Of course, there are technical limitations to the length of the body – you don’t want a huge overhang over the rear axle unless you want a wheelie truck! Also, the longer the body, the heavier it is – built the largest box you can to a 7.5 tonner, add a tail lift then you will find that all you will be allowed to transport is fresh air as you will be close to the 7.5 tonne limit.
European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (EWVTA)
A quick piece of history. It used to be the case that any Tom, Dick or Harry could start making box bodies for trucks and buyers of new trucks could specify any length within reason. Then came ‘European Whole Vehicle Type Approval’ which means that a new truck could not be registered unless the chassis and the body both have been type approved. Prior to this, only the chassis needed the approval. As a result of the added cost and complexity of having your box body designs and specifications ‘approved’ to be fitted to every make and model of truck, many smaller body builders went out of business and the larger bodybuilders chose to standardise designs (and therefore lengths) of their bodies.
It is still possible to have a ‘one-off’ box body made for you, however it will need to go through an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) which adds more time to the build and cost and paperwork!
What’s Your Duty Cycle?
Most operators have an idea of what the maximum load weight and size will be for the type of work they carry out. This information is vital before heading out to buy any truck. It is important to consider not simply the way things have been done in the past, but how best to meet the transport needs for the future. Trucks are more efficient the more they are loaded – an 18-tonne truck is much more efficient than a 7.5 tonner. They can typically carry three to four times the payload or more, yet consume only marginally more fuel with road tax rates that are just £135 higher for a full twelve months.
So, if you can take more in one trip, get the larger of the trucks.
If your cargo is heavy relative to the size (think gold vs feathers) then the shorter the body the better, as this will save weight and improve payload. If you are transporting empty boxes, then you should be looking for the longest box body available in the market.
Used Box Truck Availability
So, what sized box trucks are available in the used truck market in the UK?
Thanks to EWVTA outlined above, we see a few sizes appearing frequently. If you are in the market for a 7.5 tonner, then you will most likely encounter 20ft (6.2 metre) box bodies. If you are looking for something longer, then 23ft (7 metre) bodies are freely available. Any longer than this and you will be looking higher up the GVW range as there won’t be a lot of payload left. For example, moving to a 12 tonne DAF XB from a 7.5 tonner gives you the choice of an additional four wheelbase lengths with a maximum of 6.7 metres as opposed to just 5.4 metres for the 7.5 tonner. This extra 1.3 metres (just over 4 feet) could give the operator an additional 1.7 metres for the box body – over 5 feet more. In addition, the operator gets a body & payload allowance of 8.5 tonnes as opposed to 4.3 tonnes with the 7.5 tonner.
As far as 18 tonne box trucks are concerned, the standard length is 8.2 metres which is almost 27 feet long, although the bodies can go up to 32 feet, but at this length, the truck would typically be a 3 axle 26 tonner. As far as the regulations are concerned, the maximum overall length of a rigid truck regardless of 4×2 or 6×2 is 12 metres so, allowing around 2 metres for a day cab gives you a theoretical maximum length for a box body of 10 metres.
As far as the shortest box body available, 18 feet examples are available, but with a short wheelbase, 14 feet bodies are possible.
Looking at box trailers, the maximum trailer length for the UK is historically 13.6 metres. However, longer semi-trailers (LSTs) are now possible which can be up to 15.65 metres and means that an additional four standard UK pallets can be carried. This has only been in place since the trial completed and the legislation was updated in May 2023 and there are additional hoops for the operator to jump through before operating an LST.
In the used truck market it is the very short or the very long bodies that can command higher prices – it is simply a question of supply and demand. If you are selling the only 14ft 7.5 tonne truck in the UK’s used truck market at any one time, it will be priced higher than a 20ft box where the buyer can choose from hundreds!