Highway Trucks by Weight

Highway Trucks by Weight

The number of trucks in the United States grew 41 percent between 1992 and 2002 and 15 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) conducted once every five years [1, 2]. The 85 million-truck fleet includes a variety of vehicles, ranging from large 18-wheel combination trucks used to transport freight to small pickup trucks, often used for personal travel.

Between 1992 and 2002, the number of light trucks and light-heavy trucks each grew 24 percent, while growth of heavy-heavy trucks declined 16 percent and medium trucks grew 223 percent (figure 13-1).

The growth in medium trucks was driven by increases in the number of trucks weighing between 6,001 and 10,000 lbs (figure 13-2). While the number of these trucks rose at a moderate pace between 1992 and 1997, their growth surged between 1997 and 2002, from 5.3 million trucks to 17.1 million. Trucks in this category include heavier pickups and heavier sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that have been increasingly sold in recent years.1 These vehicles may be used for passenger travel, as well as to transport freight. By 2002, medium trucks represented 22 percent of the total number of trucks.

Light trucks, which include SUVs, minivans, vans, and pickup trucks weighing less than 6,000 pounds, represented 74 percent of the truck fleet in 2002, a smaller percentage than in 1992 (84 percent of the truck fleet). Their declining share reflects their weaker growth between 1997 and 2002 coupled with the large increase in the number of medium trucks during the same period.

Among trucks under 6,000 pounds, pickup trucks (38.0 million) barely outnumbered minivans and SUVs (36.4 million) in 2002. In 1992, there were over twice as many pickup trucks as minivans and SUVs in the under 6,000 pound category. Over the 10-year period, the number of SUVs and minivans in this category increased by 239 percent and 99 percent, respectively, much faster than the growth rate for pickup trucks (13 percent) [1, 2].


1. U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, 1997 Economic Census: Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey: United States (Washington, DC: 1999).

2. ______. 2002 Economic Census: Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey: United States (Washington, DC: 2004).

1 According to Wards Auto.Com (February 2005), between 2000 and 2001, new truck registrations in the United States declined 1.5 percent for trucks 6,000 pounds and under and rose 5.4 percent for those between 6,001 and 10,000 pounds.