What Happened to Cab-Over Trucks?



I live in Germany where most freight-hauling trucks are cab-overs. I’m visiting the States at the moment. After having been here for a couple of days I happened to notice, during a moment of random thought, that there were no cab-over trucks on the highway. Then, I made a point to look for them and didn’t see a single cab-over truck on the highways, in truck stops, ANYWHERE. Have they gone extinct? Why?


Interesting observation. The last semi tractor I remember that had the cab over engine design was made by White. I’ve seen straight trucks with the cab over engine used in cities, but have not seen semi trailers pulled with cab over engine tractors in a long time.


My guess is that they are less safe, less aerodynamic (so cost more to operate), and sitting over the axle would make the ride more uncomfortable.


Cabovers basically put your legs so that they’re the first to get hit in a wreck. Modern cabovers that you see back home in Germany are much safer due to better materials design.

But what killed the cabover in the US was the law. In the 70’s there were strict length-weight restriction laws in place in many states. A cabover reduces the length and weight of the tractor, which lets you haul more stuff in a longer trailer. Once those laws were repealed, the need for cabovers disappeared. Europe and Japan still have laws like that in place, and so the cabover is still in demand.


Aerodynamics vs fuel consumption.
Cab-overs are still used when the short wheel base is needed such as with mobile homes, local area delivery, and on some bob-tail ( long wheel base, cab and box on same chassis ) set ups.

Accident safety is probably another big one.

The long haul drivers like the ride of the conventional far and above the cab-over.

Then add those factors to the supply and demand market structure and
away goes the cab-over.


Class C motorhomes are still “cabovers”. Front engine access is a little difficult but the pod in the driver/passenger compartment can be removed to provide good access to the rear 3/4 of the engine.


‘Poof’ is right. I didn’t really think about it or notice any gradual decrease. When I left in '06, there seemed to be plenty. Now, there are none. I mean NONE. I haven’t seen a single cabover in the five days I’ve been here. And I’ve been looking. It makes sense that they’re still popular in Germany. I watched in amazement as a cab-over made a full u-turn across a three lane wide street with what looked like a 12-15 meter trailer. Thanks for the info, folks. Much appreciated.


Class C’s are van/truck-based and would not be considered cabovers. You might be thinking class-A pullers (as opposed to rear-engined pushers).


Excellent use of wikipedia. You probably would have found it easier to actually copy and paste, rather than typing the answer!


If you look at cabover trucks from the 1930s and 1940s you will see that they are anything but flat in front. Our Class C motorhome based on a Ford van chassis had the cab positioned over the front axle as described by Wiki although the front wheels were a little more forward than others.


I may be wrong here, but I was under the impression that over-the-road trucks in Europe are generally smaller and based more on what might be called a cube-van chassis over here (for example, the Isuzu NPR’s). There’s still plenty of those types of vehicles on the roads here, but they’re mostly used for short local runs and deliveries. I would imagine with higher road taxes and fuel taxes and shorter distances, having huge trucks with sleeper cabs probably makes less sense in Europe.

As an aside, a few of the times I’ve been to Yellowstone, there have been some seriously sweet high-riding 4x4 cab-over cube-van based RV’s there with European license plates.


Comfort, safety, serviceability and the built-in sleeper unit killed the cab-over…


Excuse me?

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m on a car forum. That should have given you the hint that I might actually be interested in and know something about vehicles independent of a wiki.

Thanks for playing, though.


How is this possible?

Comfort in what regard? Some cabovers had a suspension for the cab for more comfort in addition to the truck’s front wheel springs.

Safety in what regard? A cabover against a car is no contest.

Serviceability? With a forward tipping cab to fairly completely expose the engine, how could serviceability be not better than a non-cabover with its hood to open and large fenders to lean over?

Built-in sleeper? How is cabover related? The sleeper can be there in any case.

Enlighten me please. I have not worked on large trucks but am just going by what I see.


PS: Caddyman, I like your replies, short and to the point.


Even a suspended cabover is DIRECTLY over the front axle. bouncing straight up and down , not being rocked between front and rear.
The generally shorter wheel base gives a choppier ride than the longer conventionals.

Safety ;
The occupants were the first thing through the widshield when a cabover encountered the lava rocks in Grants NM back in the early 80s.
A conventional cab has much more crush zone in front for the big wrecks. Most convetional cab accidents have little to no injuries. Even in a simple wind-over the cabover has the driver staring down the rocks and prarie dogs face to face.

Serviceability ;
You really have to batten down the hatches come service time. The entire cab must be jacked forward. And if that cab has a decent size sleeper, what a bear !


Parking spaces roads and size are at a premium in Europe, It is more convenient there to have the most cargo space for the smallest footprint, thus the cab over trucks. Uhaul trucks are still cab over. In the US we are not so much in need of the smallest footprint for a truck and a straight box truck would in my estimation be cheaper to build. I have seen the occasional wind deflector over the cab to increase mileage. That brings into play the cost difference for gas of US vs overseas also.

I think it boils down to they are more practical overseas and less needed here, thus the difference in popularity. (IMHO of course no facts)


Comfort in what regard? Some cabovers had a suspension for the cab…so, that does not mean its more comfortable that a conventional. Its still bouncing around on the top of the axle and that axle is bouncing around also.

Safety in what regard? A cabover against a car is no contest…you do realize road tractors collide with other road tractors and the rear of semi trailers and buildings and stone cliffs? Cars are no contest but the others are.

Serviceability? With a forward tipping cab to fairly completely expose the engine, how could serviceability be not better than a non-cabover with its hood to open and large fenders to lean over?..its still a pain in the butt and its still in the way. When I was working on them the cab did not tilt to a 90 so if a cherry picker was needed to pull something the cab was in the way. Also, when the hood is up on a conv. the fenders are up to, its one piece. Older trucks had a butterfly hood and fenders the tilted up or swung out.


When things change it is due to a number of reasons, some of which are listed above.

First, the last cabover made was the Frieghtliner Argosy and production stopped about 2007.

Second, in addition to the previous answers, as drivers got older they wanted/required more comfort and climbing into a conventional was easier on the body than getting into a cabover. Also husband and wife teams got popular and what loving husband would want their wife climbing up the side of a cabover?

Modern technology also made conventionals just as easy to maneuver in tight turns.

I am somewhat saddened by the demise of the coe since my first full time job was working for a company that had a fleet of International Harvester and Peterbilts coe’s. This was in the late 70’s early 80’s.

Things sure have come a long way. Todays trucks are just a computerized as a car but back then the IH with a Detroit Diesel would be started normally with a key but after that you could take the key out and pocket it. To shut it off one would pull a cable and that was it.

Again, there was a combination of reasons for the coe pulling off onto the shoulder and shutting it down.