There's plenty of talk surrounding American and European trucks and trucking in general. The main question that kind of lingers on is what is the difference between the two trucking endeavors? Both American and European truck manufacturers work closely together these days, yet both the trucks and truck transport are different on two continents.
But why is that so? The main reason is that there's a difference in the market itself, as well as the difference in types of load, policies, rules, and regulations, roads, and so on and so forth. Different needs require different approaches and both the US and Europe have their own unique needs. That being said, here are a few main differences between European and American truck transport.
Limitations to driving hours
The US laws regarding the number of driving hours aren't as strict as in Europe. American truck drivers can spend 11 consecutive driving hours per day over the course of a 14-hour shift. In Europe, truck drivers aren't allowed to spend more than 9 hours behind the wheel and they must take mandatory 30-minute breaks every three hours.
Therefore, American truck drivers can work 60 hours per week, while European truck drivers can have a 56-hour workweek. This doesn't seem like much of a difference but there's more to it than it meets the eye.
As a matter of fact, American truck drivers can start a new work week after a 34-hour rest period, whereas in Europe, truck drivers cannot exceed 90 driving hours over the course of two weeks. In addition, European countries can impose further restrictions on truck traffic. A good example is banning truck traffic on Sundays or during holidays and bad extreme weather.
The difference in freight transport
The main difference between American and European trucks originates from the difference in freight transport on these two continents. American trucks are larger in dimensions, they are allowed to go faster and they can carry heavier loads compared to European trucks.
The main reason is that the majority of American freight transport is conducted via rail, whereas Europe relies mostly on truck transport. This might be difficult to believe but 57.3% of all freight transport in the US is shipped via rail, compared to only 16% in Europe.
Therefore, Europe has more strict regulations regarding which type of truck can transport specific types of goods. That said, when it comes to van transport, Germany, for instance, has specific policies regarding the shipping of goods in and out of their country.
In other words, truck drivers must remain compliant with individual policies for each European country they pass through, while American truckers abide by the same general rules for all, with a few exceptions, of course.
Difference between transport routes
Although the US is generally larger, geographically speaking, and has a higher population than Europe, it's still less densely populated than Europe. That's another reason why the trucks are different, as well. On both continents, truck driving jobs are in high demand.
That said, American truck drivers, especially the ones who transport goods coast-to-coast spend much more time on the road without any towns or cities along the way for miles on end. Their trucks with conventional cabs are more comfortable for such trips and are easier to repair by truckers themselves.
On the other hand, Europe's densely populated areas keep truckers on high alert due to traffic. Their cab-over truck can be towed to the nearest repair shop wherever you may be. European trucks are designed to navigate narrow streets and drivers must be qualified for such types of maneuvering. American drivers, need to be in good general health and be 21 years of age or more to qualify for this job.
Difference in legislations
Europe has more truck traffic on the highways compared to the US. Because of that, there are more accidents involving trucks and European countries have strict legislation regarding truck transport compared to the US.
For example, trucks in Europe are equipped with onboard recorders to keep track of hours spent on the road. They are also equipped with speed monitoring devices to ensure drivers respect the rules. Last but not least, general regulations regarding safety are strict to discourage drivers from breaking the laws.
In America, truck driver's paycheck is tied to the distance traveled and the amount of cargo carried, unlike in Europe. This is where European legislation ensures that drivers suffer less from fatigue and don't have to work long hours to get the incentive.
The fact of the matter is that both Europe and the US have different markets and different regulations regarding truck transport. That's where the main difference lies and that's why the trucks are designed differently.
Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.