Matching the dump truck to the application is key to safety and efficiency.
Dump trucks are the unsung heroes of construction sites, facilitating the efficient movement of materials and debris. These workhorses use hydraulic rams to tilt the bed of the truck and dump the contents. To choose the right construction dump truck for your next project, consider the different types and sizes as well as the type of license required to operate them.
Dump truck uses
What are dump trucks used for? Construction dump trucks are commonly used to haul materials such as sand, gravel and dirt from suppliers to the construction site. In excavation projects, they move soil, rocks and other materials to designated dumping locations. They also move debris and waste off the jobsite.
Dump truck sizes and types
Construction dump trucks come in a variety of types and sizes for different tasks and loads.
Light-duty dump trucks, ideal for small construction sites and DIY jobs, average 9 feet long and can haul up to 12,000 pounds. Heavy-duty dump trucks such as this tandem axle dump truck are popular on commercial construction sites. They can be as long as 18 feet and transport 20,000 pounds or more. Monster-sized dump trucks used in mining applications can haul as much as 450 tons.
Here are the most common types of dump trucks:
Standard dump truck
Standard dump trucks, aka rigid dump trucks,have a rigid frame. The mounted bed uses a hydraulic lift mechanism in the front to raise the bed and dump the load. Given their rigid frame and low wheelbase, these trucks are best suited for driving on level asphalt or gravel surfaces and making short hauls on construction sites. Standard dump trucks have a load capacity of up to 30 tons.
Articulated dump truck (ATD)
Articulated dump trucks have a front chassis for the cab and a separate back chassis for the dumping component. The chassis are connected by a pivot point. This configuration provides stability on steep, uneven or muddy terrain. These heavy-duty trucks have two or three axles and are ideal for large construction projects and mining projects. ADTs can haul up to 50 tons.
Transfer dump truck
Also known as a slinger truck, a transfer dump truck has a rigid dump truck base and a separate trailer with its own dump box. It’s ideal for projects that require moving different types of materials and dumping them in multiple locations. When an operator arrives near the jobsite, he can detach the trailer and leave it behind while he drives the truck to the dump site and empties the load. Then he can return to the trailer, transfer that box’s materials into the truck’s dump box and deliver that load.
Transfer dump trucks can haul twice as much material as other trucks, up to 80 tons. They are ideal for paving and aggregate jobs.
End dump trailer
End dump trailers, also called semi-trailer end dump trucks, feature a tractor and a two-axle trailer with a mounted container. As in a standard dump truck, the container lifts into the air and dumps out of the rear. These trucks are used to haul loads of 22 tons or more over long distances and at higher speeds than other types of dump trucks.
Side dump trailer
Side dump trailers can tilt the entire container to either side, which provides more flexibility, faster release and better stability on uneven terrain than end dump trucks or trailers. They are commonly used in construction and roadwork projects and feature load capacities up to 20,000 pounds.
Flatbed dump truck
This truck has a hydraulic-powered flatbed that tips to dump materials. It’s used to transport tough or oddly shaped construction materials, landscaping supplies and scrap metal. Some models come with removable side panels to accommodate different size loads and secure materials. The load capacity varies with the size. This light-duty flatbed dump truck can haul up to 12,660 pounds.
How to choose the right dump truck
Matching the dump truck to the application increases safety and efficiency. Consider these factors when making your selection.
- Project requirements: Determine the type and weight of materials you'll be moving and the terrain of the site. Consider any attachments you may need, such as a plow.
- Load capacity: Choose a dump truck with enough load capacity for your needs. Overloading can be dangerous and damaging to the truck. Remember to account for any attachments you plan to use.
- Axle configuration: Axle configuration determines the truck’s load capacity and its ability to maneuver on rough terrain. The four basic axle types are dual rear, tridem, tandem and single.
- Fuel source: Trucks with gas engines have a lighter axle weight, cost less to maintain and emit fewer emissions than trucks with diesel engines. Diesel trucks are more durable, fuel efficient and powerful.
- Off-road capability: If your project involves rough or off-road terrain, consider a 4WD dump truck or an articulated dump truck for better stability. Rough terrain may require a truck with more horsepower.
- Safety features: Look for safety features such as backup cameras, alarms and blind-spot monitoring.
Driver’s license requirements
Operating a construction dump truck requires specific skills. Training is essential to learn the truck's controls, safety features and proper loading and unloading procedures.
Do you need a CDL to drive a dump truck? In most parts of the United States, the answer is yes. The class of CDL required (A, B or C) typically varies based on the truck's size and weight capacity.