What Happened to Cab-Over Trucks?

As a trucker, I lived through all the changes. No driver ever wanted a cabover, They rode and steered harder, were harder to work on and most were very cramped inside for large drivers. Most conventionals were also cramped inside to so the could sit very close to the trailer.

This was all caused by laws that limited the length of the tractor trailer combination.

Through intense lobbying by many parties to change the law, it changed to regulate the trailer length and allow enough additional length to accommodate the safer and cheaper conventional tractor even with a generous sized sleeper.

Part of this was trucking deregulation which killed most of the old unionized class 1 trucking companies who used no sleepers because they operated on a hub and spoke system and employed road drivers that only operated over set routes between terminals.

These drivers were either sleeping in terminal dorms or put in hotels.

With deregulation , most freight was hauled from anywhere to anywhere, many times by owner operators who often slept in their trucks at truck stops or at customers waiting to unload.

In 1985 through 89 I was hauling long doubles down the NY Thruway. The length law still on the books was a maximum 112 ft.and I had a R model Mack conventional and was 117 ft. long but the state police were under instructions not to enforce the 112 ft. rule so to allow the longer tractors.

The old unionized trucking companies cared nothing about driver comfort. They all thought we made too much money and should suffer for it. Consolidated Freightways even experimented with a cab under tractor that sat completely under the front of the trailer. As you can imagine, ride was terrible because of limited suspension travel and visibility and headroom were very limited.


I rented a 16 foot Penske truck a few years ago. It wasn’t cab over of course. But as I recall the 22 foot version at the time was cab-over. I just looked at the Penske truck rental website however and their current 22 foot version isn’t cab-over. I found renting the Penske truck for a state to state move was overall a pretty good experience. The only problem I had was forgetting how tall it was and knocking against tree limbs in parking lots.

There are still a few cab-overs around here; mostly in agricultural use. During harvest and wheat hauling time those things are on the road 7 days a week. The ones I’ve seen have been old White Freightliners with one Peterbilt mixed in.

I drove by a lot today with a bunch of garbage trucks parked in it and they were all cab overs. Then I went by a lot with a cab over school bus for sale. Must be a length reason or something but I think all the garbage trucks are cab over. I always liked their looks so maybe they live on.

Hm… how interesting to see a recent flurry of activity on my original post. Since posing the question, I have retired from the military and now work as a, guess what? A truck driver. When I started with my current company, I was a “bench driver” and drove whatever truck was available; first come, first served. There was a mix of COEs and conventionals. The smart guys showed up early and dispatched a conventional. The late-comers ended up with the cabovers. I was late a couple of times and drove a cabover. It sucked. The pre-operation inspection took twice as long. The ride was crap. We draw our tractor at the dispatch center, then drive about ten miles to the distro center to pick up our trailers. The nickname “bobtail” is apropos. Now that I have my own route, I drive a conventional. The difference is night and day. Conventionals are comfy. Cabovers suck.

Thanks for all the input, gents.

1 Like

My experience in tractor trailers is very limited but cabovers are infinitely better on city streets compared to conventionals. And DOT regulations for trucking were drastically changed in the '80s. There are acres of trailers parked across the country looking for homes because length and width limits were stretched.

Anybody besides me remember the Jeep FC 150? The FC stood for Forward Control. To me, the Jeep FC 150 is a cab over engine pickup truck. I don’t think the driver of the Jeep FC 150 sat any higher than many of today’s pickup trucks.

I remember it but I can not recall the last time I saw one.

I tryed to find about how many was & what year’s they was built but could not come up with any thing so must not be very many. Might be like a 1994 Dodge daravan I had with a 4 speed manual transmission was only about 300 built with a manual trans.

@Renegade. I think the Jeep FC150 was sold sometime from the mid to late 1950s through the early 1960s. I remember seeing one on the streets in my hometown in East Central Indiana in 1959.
The Corvair Rampside pickup looks like a cab over engine pickup, but the engine was in the rear behind the cab. However, I think there was a Ford Econoline pickup truck that would count as a cab over engine design.

1 Like

Those Econolines were more like ‘cab around engine’:

1 Like

I have never seen a cab over School Bus. Are you perhaps talking about a bus they call a pusher? They have the engine in the rear and a flat front. the advantage of a pusher is that it can hold more passengers in the same length and wheelbase. Nobody wants to make school buses longer because of where they have ti go and the space it takes to park a bunch of them. We had runs where we had to make 3 point turns on residential dead end streets.

Pushers cost more than conventionals so if you don’t need the extra capacity for your runs, you don’t buy them.

Blue Bird buses have the driver’s seat over the engine.