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Truck Body Type Help

Truck Body Type Help

Although this seems self explanatory even the simplest box body is not straightforward. We explain some of the complexities behind truck bodies.

Many of the body types are self explanatory, although even the simplest box body is not straightforward. We try to cover, in layman’s terms some of the issues.  Firstly there is some ancillary equipment that is common to many body types – tail lifts, aerodynamic devices, whilst others such as cranes will usually be fitted to flat, dropside or tipper trucks.

Buying a box body truck

Box Body Dimensions

Firstly consider the dimensions of the box body – there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ box body – these bodies were built for their first life to do a specific job, so it is in your interest to find one as close as possible to the size you will need. Bigger is not always better – buy a box body that is too long and is will be harder to manoeuvre and the body will weigh more – giving you a reduced payload. It should go without saying that you need to make sure that it is high enough to cater for the maximum height load you will be carrying. Typical lengths of a box van depends on the weight category of the truck.  A 7.5 tonner will usually have a maximum length of 18 to 20 feet, unless the cargo is particularly lightweight, whilst the maximum length for an 18 or 26 tonner will be 26 to 28 feet. Extra low bodies, used for heavy weight applications exist – they keep the weight of the body down and reduce wind resistance. The same holds true for extra high bodies – if you want to transport lightweight plastics then it will be worth the fuel penalty gained from the larger frontal area.

Materials of Box Bodies Trucks

Typical used box-bodied truck from Chris Hodge Commercials (note the roof deflector to save fuel)

Not all box bodies are made from the same materials – although the majority are made from Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP). What is the floor made of? Is it wood or metal? Metal will add to durability, but a chequer plate metal floor will also add to the weight. A compromise is to have a wooden floor with metal strips. Look at the quality of the manufacture – is the roof likely to leak any time soon? Is the structure rigid still? There are better manufacturers and those building bodies to a price. Try and get a ‘branded’ body, as replacement parts will be more readily available to replace any damaged parts.

Aerodynamic Box Bodies

Recent times have seen new wind tunnel technology move from cars to trucks and their bodies. Starting with trailers, the manufacturers have attempted to improve the airflow over the body to save fuel and reduce CO2.

DAF’s own Aerodynamic rigid

The result is a teardrop shaped box body – like the ones from Midlands manufacturer Bevan Truck makers like DAF have seen the opportunity for aerodynamic rigids as part of their ready-bodied range. Launched back in 2012, their factory fitted PACCAR Aero body is available on the LF at 7.5 to 12 tonnes GVW. With an integrated, moulded roof fairing and cab collars, the front part of the body is curved and there is a rear tailgate air diffuser over the rear frame. DAF believe savings should be in the region of up to 8% “at cruising speed” compared to a similar capacity conventional ‘square’ box body with a simple roof fairing. In the used markets these types of bodies are as rare as hens teeth, as the operators will keep them on the fleet longer to get payback on the higher capital investment that they represent. If you can find one and you are doing long distance, motorway work, snap it up, as fuel saving should outweight the extra cost paid in the used market.

Buying a Curtainsided Truck

Curtainsided trucks are used when the speed of loading with a forklift is important, as the whole of the side of the vehicle can be opened up for access. As far as security is concerned, these trucks are less likely to be used for high value loads, such as cigarettes and electrical equipment, although anti-slash curtains can now be specified to improve the security of the load.

Good looking used Scania Curtainsider from Law Exports

Thanks to their flexibility, curtainsided trucks are often used for general haulage – they have replaced the flat body, where the load is ‘roped and sheeted’ with tarpaulin – a familiar sight on UK roads as recently as the 1980s, now confined to vintage truck enthusiast rallies.

If you look hard enough, you could find a curtainsider fitted with a tail lift, as this will help the unloading at sites where there is no forklift present. This will be a rare beast – if you need one and can find one – we suggest you snap it up there and then.

As with a box-bodied truck (see above), dimensions are all-important for curtainsiders – too long or too high and you will suffer from a reduced and fuel consumption from the increased frontal area. Again, make sure that aerodynamic devices are fitted to the roof and sides where possible to the sides as well.

Curtainsided bodies have no solid sides to make them structurally sound. When looking at a second hand curtainsider, make sure that the body is still at right angles and is watertight. Curtains can be repaired or replaced quite easily, but structural work to the body is more complicated.

If the curtains look tired, try and strike a deal with the supplying dealer to fit a new set, they should have access to suppliers that can do this at reasonable cost. Remember that the old curtains are also worth something – there is a company in Switzerland that will buy them from you to recycle into £150 handbags!

Buying a Dropside or Flat Truck

Addlestone Commercials' Cage-sided Volvo

A flat bed truck is about the most basic truck you can buy. Assuming the vehicle itself is in good condition, and the dimensions are right for the job in hand, take a look at the floor – is it a straightforward wooden floor or made of a more ‘modern’ material?  Are the tie-down points in good condition?

A dropside truck is not much more sophisticated than a flatbed. Make sure that all of the sides go up and down easily and that all the fixing clips are in place. When all the sides are in place are they in a nice straight line, or do they rattle and flap all over the place? What are the sides made from? Steel is strong for heavy-duty applications, but bears a weight penalty, wood is lighter, but not very strong, whereas aluminium dropsides are both light and strong, but more difficult to repair. Many truck will have ‘cage-sides’. This means that the dropsides are made from metal mesh and are therefore strong and lightweight – not great for carrying sand though!

Buying a truck-Mounted Crane Truck

Many flat or dropside trucks are used alongside truck-mounted cranes – although they are fitted to tippers too. There are many different types of cranes, suitable for different applications. The way the output of a crane is measured is in tonne metres – this is how many tonnes it can lift when extended by a number of metres – try holding your arms out straight and you will discover that it is harder to lift an object than when closer to your body.

Serie 51800 E ASC Plus from Cormach

Truck cranes can be mounted just behind the cab for a builder’s merchant-type operation, where the truck is a tipper as well, in the middle of the body, for a brick carrying operation (usually you will see these called ‘brick grabs’) and at the rear for heavy lifting of machines, (the crane itself is too heavy to situate near to the front axle.)

The Who’s Who of Truck-Mounted Cranes

Cormach Cranes

An unlikely sounding Italian manufacturer, Cormach cranes are imported into the UK by Ernest Doe. Their cranes are designed using slew bearings, rather than the rack and pinion system. The result is a quality crane at a more premium price.


Fassi was formed in Italy in 1965 and is one of the world’s largest truck loader crane manufacturers, producing over 9500 cranes each year. Fassi UK Ltd was set up in 1979. Since then the company has grown steadily and is now well established with a national network of approved Main Dealers and Service Points.


Inventors of the lorry mounted crane, Hiab – the ‘Hoover’ of the truck mounted crane industry used to take over 90% of the UK market until the new entrants arrived from Austria and Italy. Part of the huge Cargotec group, the company has acquired many businesses in the load handling industries, including UK tail lift manufacturer, Del Equipment.


Another Italian crane manufacturer, Maxlift has been focuses on the lighter end of the crane spectrum from 0.5 to 5 tonnes metres since 1989.


Unlike in the tail lift market where Austrian company Palfinger operates through Ratcliff Palfinger – a subsidiary that was acquired by Palfinger in 2006, Palfinger markets their cranes in the UK through a distributor – TH White.  A major player in the UK crane market.


PM cranes started life back in the late fifties in Modena, the home of Ferrari and balsamic vinegar. The company claim to be the fourth largest crane manufacturer in the world producing up to 5000 cranes per year. Imported into the UK since the eighties, PM has become one of the most popular cranes in the UK with a range of 45 different models ranging from two – 100 tonne metres.