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How Much Torque Does a Semi-Truck Have?

February 1, 2023 / Truck Accidents

Semi-trucks are large vehicles with a great deal of power. They have a lot of horsepower and torque. In an accident, this matters a great deal. A smaller vehicle like a car or motorcycle stands no chance against these behemoths. Their significant power puts you and your passengers at a disadvantage on busy roads and highways.

Truck torque can vary significantly by truck size, engine, and brand. This article will help you understand the question: how much torque does a semi-truck have? Your Indiana truck accident lawyers are here to help you understand this information and pursue compensation following a truck accident.

What is a Semi-Truck?

Semi-truck is a common term many people use to refer to any large truck. In reality, these trucks can weigh well over 80,000 lb., so it seems odd to call them “semi” anything. The phrase semi-truck is actually short for semi-trailer-truck. This includes the cab and the trailer it pulls.

The cab is the portion in the front of the vehicle. It contains the engine and the pulling power of the vehicle. It is also where the driver sits and controls the semi-truck. Anything pulled behind the cab is usually referred to as the trailer.

When the two parts are together, it is common to refer to the semi-truck with several different names that mean the same thing, including:

  • Tractor-trailer
  • Semi-truck tractor-trailer
  • 18-wheeler (even if the total number of wheels is not 18).

While there are many terms for semi-truck, they all mean the same thing to you: a large and very powerful vehicle that can cause major injuries. Our truck accident attorneys know how to handle these cases and pursue compensation on your behalf.

What is Torque and Why Does It Matter?

Torque is an indicator of a truck’s towing power. It is the rotational force of the truck’s engine that measures how much force exists when the engine works. The engine’s pistons move up and down the crankshaft, and the engine’s torque is the force that maintains the constant rotation at certain speeds. That torque power is shifted to the vehicle’s wheels by the transmission and drivetrain.

Torque is generated by the pressure load of expanding gases within the engine. It is measured by the pressure load of any expanding gases atop the piston times the stroke. The stroke refers to how far the piston moves. This means that torque is stronger at the lower part of the engine’s operating range, or lower gears. Horsepower is higher at the higher end of the gears of the engine.

How is Torque Measured?

Torque is measured in lb.-ft. increments, which is also a newton-meter in the metric system. This is a unit of vector measured and torque created by one pound of force that acts on a one-foot lever. A lb.-ft is different that a ft.-lb., and these two are commonly mixed up when people speak. A ft.-lb. is a measure of work and not a measure of torque.

Torque is measured by the following formula:

Torque = force (N) x lever arm (m)

What Leads to Differences in Torque?

Large trucks require a great deal of torque to handle their heavy loads. Not every truck will be the same and its engine will decide the level of torque it has. Torque is influenced by the amount of air that flows through the engine. This means that larger engines tend to produce more torque because they are able to pump more air as part of the combustion process.

Piston length will also cause differences in torque. For example, diesel engines used in most 18-wheelers create greater torque because their pistons move farther. This results in longer strokes and higher torque.

How Much Torque Do 18-Wheelers Have?

An 18-wheeler has a great deal of torque. This is because a semi-truck is designed to haul extremely heavy loads. For example, the cab itself can weigh on average between 17,000 and 22,000 pounds even without a trailer. When connected to an empty trailer, the vehicle can now weigh approximately 35,000 lbs. When the trailer is fully loaded, federal standards limit the total weight to 80,000 lbs., or 40 tons.

This requires a lot of torque to pull these heavy loads. On average, an 18-wheeler has 1,000 to 2,000 pounds-feet of torque. As a comparison, a typical four-door sedan car usually has 100 to 200 pounds-feet of torque. This large difference is because these vehicles have very different jobs and work requirements.

Which Semi-Truck Has the Most Torque?

There are many truck engine companies, and the race to have a better engine is always competitive. Manufacturers in the United States create different engines to meet different needs, but some of the most powerful engines with high torque capacity include:

  • Freightliner: The Freightliner brand has 13L, 15L, and 16L engines available for truck cabs. These engines can produce up to 600 hp and 2,050 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • PACCAR: PACCAR engines are commonly found in Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. These often include fuel-conscious diesel options that can still create high torque ratings. They typically create up to 500 hp and around 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • Navistar: Navistar engines are powerful and used for Class 5 and Class 6 trucks in lighter applications. In heavier applications, such as Class 8 trucks, Navistar uses the Cummins ISX which can produce between 400 to 600 hp and up to 2,050 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • Volvo: Volvo engines are popular across the world and come in 13L and 16L engines. These engines can create around 600 hp and up to 2,050 lb.-ft. of torque.

There are countless types of trucks and truck engines. Many will create less torque, but even lower-tier truck engines far outstrip other types of vehicles on the road, such as cars. This is why truck accident cases are so serious. These vehicles can carry heavy weights and do incredible damage in a collision.

Types of Truck Accidents in Indiana

Due to the high power and torque of semi-trucks, these accidents can cause major damage to you and your loved ones. Truck accidents in Indiana are often the result of driver negligence or the wrongdoing of other parties. Common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Rear-end Accidents: Trucks are heavy and hard to stop. When a driver fails to stop in time, they can slam into the back of another vehicle.
  • Overloaded Trucks: Trucks are limited to 80,000 lbs. by federal law, but not every truck can even handle these types of loads. If a trucking company overloads the truck to a dangerous or illegal level, this can cause an accident.
  • Unbalanced Loads: Tractor-trailers must be carefully loaded and balanced. Failure to do so can cause tipping and jackknifing, which can lead to deadly truck accidents.
  • Violations of Sleep Rules: Truck drivers are required to comply with sleep requirements imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Violations can cause drivers to fall asleep at the wheel or drive while groggy, both of which are dangerous.
  • Blind Spot Accidents: Trucks have large blind spots. When a driver is negligent, they may fail to check these blind spots when they can and account for them when they cannot see in their blind spot.

Why Choose Us?

At Stephenson Rife, LLP, we understand how to pursue and prove truck accident cases. Our clients know firsthand the experience and skill our attorneys bring to the table. We have collected millions of dollars in compensation for people injured in truck accidents. We are driven to work tirelessly on your behalf to help you win compensation from a negligent truck driver or another party.

We encourage you to reach out and speak with us about your truck accident lawsuit. Contact us at (317) 680-2350 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, just to name a few. Mike is a proven advocate and trial attorney. He has served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and has handled litigation in 18 states. [ Attorney Bio ]

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