Anytime you see a fire truck blitzing down the street, you’re in awe of the astonishing size of the vehicle. With an average length of 40 feet, fire trucks are often among the most dominant vehicles on the street as they race to a fire. Yet how much does one of these vehicles weigh?
Fire trucks weigh 19 to 30 tons, which is approximately 38,000 to 60,000 pounds. Even when empty, a fire truck still weighs around 11,500 to 14,500 pounds. Only vehicles like garbage trucks or tractor-trailers are heavier.
If you want to learn even more about the average weight of a fire truck, including empty versus full, you’ve got to keep reading. In this article, we’ll also compare a fully loaded fire truck to other common vehicles to determine which is the heaviest!
Let’s get started.
How Much Does a Fire Truck Weigh?
As we touched on in the intro, the average dimensions of a fire truck are 40 feet long, 12 feet tall, and 10 feet wide. Even somewhat “smaller” fire trucks are 35 feet long, nine feet tall, nine feet wide.
How much does a vehicle of that size weigh? According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or PennDOT, the average fire truck weighs 19 to 30 tons. When converted into pounds, that’s 38,000 to 60,000 pounds. We’re assuming the fire truck is full, as it’s a lot lighter when empty, as we’ll talk about.
Why are fire trucks so weighty? They have to carry a lot of water. Most fire trucks can transport at least 500 gallons of water at a time. Besides this heavy load, fire trucks also must have cargo space for an elevating ladder, special rescue equipment, other ladders, and hoses.
Using the data from PennDOT, let’s explore some vehicles that fire trucks outweigh as well as vice-versa.
Vehicles That Fire Trucks Outweigh
This should come as no surprise. A standard car weighs 1.5 tons, PennDOT notes. That’s approximately 3,000 pounds. If a fire truck is only 30,000 pounds, then it weighs 10 times more. Fire trucks that are 60,000 pounds are 20 times heavier than a car!
A standard truck, not a heavy-duty pickup, is hardly heavier than most cars on the road. The average weight is 3 tons or 6,000 pounds. That makes a 60,000-pound fire truck 10 times heavier than the truck that might be parked in your driveway right now.
Both fire trucks and ambulances are considered emergency vehicles, but one is a lot lighter than the other. An average ambulance only clocks in at 5 tons, which is 10,000 pounds. That makes an ambulance 20,000 pounds short compared to a 30,000-pound fire truck and 50,000 pounds deficient when stacked against a 60,000-pound fire truck.
No, we’re not talking about the UberEats or DoorDash delivery truck, but the kinds of trucks that your local UPS or FedEx delivery person drives. PennDOT says these trucks are 6 tons on average or approximately 12,000 pounds. That’s still 18,000 pounds less than a 30,000-pound fire truck.
When a school bus is loaded with kids, the big yellow vehicle weighs 17 tons. This is a lot more comparable to a fire truck, as the bus clocks in at 34,000 pounds. Most fire trucks are 38,000 pounds as a starting weight and can weigh almost double that at 60,000 pounds, so the fire truck is still heavier.
A full charter bus is comparable in weight to a fire truck. Charter buses may have as many as 60 seats, and they transport adult passengers more often than school buses. That explains why a charter bus is 20 tons when full, which is 40,000 pounds.
Vehicles That Outweigh Fire Trucks
Fire trucks might be heavy behemoths, but they’re not the weightiest vehicles on the road. Here are several other vehicles that outweigh a fire truck.
When the garbage truck comes down your street once a week to collect trash, pay attention. This is a hulking vehicle that weighs 25 tons when loaded, says PennDOT. That converts to 50,000 pounds. Some fire trucks are heavier, but not all.
Heavy-duty vehicles such as loaded plow trucks are also huge, weighing 56,000 pounds or 28 tons. Again, a 60,000-pound fire truck would weigh more than a plow truck, but only by a mere 4,000 pounds.
A full cement truck weighs 33 tons, which is 66,000 pounds. That makes it the first vehicle that would outweigh even a 60,000-pound fire truck. Since cement weighs 116 pounds a cubic foot, you can see why these trucks are so heavy when they’re full!
Before a dump truck stops off at the dumpster, it weighs around 36 tons, and that’s 72,000 pounds. One of these trucks outweighs even the heaviest fire trucks by 8,000 pounds.
PennDOT says the heaviest vehicles on the road are loaded tractor trailers. They may weigh as much as 40 tons or 80,000 pounds. That’s a firm 20,000-pound advantage over bigger fire trucks.
How Much Does an Empty Fire Truck Weigh?
Remember, the 38,000-pound to 60,000-pound weight range assumes that the fire truck is full of water and equipment. What if it’s empty, though? Then how much does it weigh?
That’s a good question! According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, an empty fire truck weighs 11,500 to 14,500 pounds. This is still heavier than so many other vehicles that are also empty. Here’s the breakdown of empty vehicle weights:
- Cars – 2,400 to 5,000 pounds
- Pickup trucks, minivans, or SUVs – 3,200 to 4,500 pounds
- Standard pick-up trucks or large SUVs – 4,500 to 6,000 pounds
- Step vans or minibuses – 7,650 to 8,750 pounds
Plenty of other vehicles outweigh fire trucks, even when empty. Those include:
- Concrete and refuse trucks – 20,000 pounds
- Tractor trailers – 20,000 to 26,000 pounds
Do Fire Trucks Have to Stop at Weigh Stations?
Fire trucks aren’t only on the road during emergencies. After putting out a blaze, they have to get back to the fire station, and this is done at a pace commensurate with local speed limits.
At some point, a fire truck might pass a weigh station. These highway checkpoints are for weighing heavy-duty vehicles such as construction and fleet vehicles. At a weigh station is a truck scale that the vehicle must drive over to be weighed.
If the vehicle weight is within the approvable range, then the driver can be right on their way. Yet if the vehicle requires further inspection, then the driver must pull over.
Overweight vehicles are not safe for the driver or other motorists, and they often break state laws, so they cannot be allowed back on the road. The driver will have to reduce their load per axle to be able to pass.
Knowing all that, if you’re driving a fire truck and you approach a weigh station, do you have to stop and measure your vehicle or are you allowed to continue on your way?
Many states require that commercial vehicles weighing at least 10,000 pounds must successfully pass a check at a weigh station according to vehicle resource Your Mechanic. Does a fire truck classify as a commercial vehicle?
As a matter of fact, it does not. Thus, fire truck drivers are exempt from using weigh stations even though these trucks when full will easily exceed 10,000 pounds.
What Is It Like Driving a Heavy Fire Truck?
Now that you’re aware of how much fire trucks weigh, if your job as a firefighter requires you to drive one of these giant red trucks, you’ll have a much greater appreciation for them. Most drivers of fire trucks are referred to as engineers or apparatus operators (AO for short). No fire department should put you behind the wheel of a fire truck without the proper training first.
If you have prior experience driving a heavy-duty vehicle such as a garbage truck or a fleet truck, then the transition into commandeering a fire truck is easier. Yet if all you’ve driven to this point are pickup trucks or SUVs, your prior driving record will not prepare you for what’s to come.
Fire trucks are large, lengthy vehicles. When you turn the truck, you have to accommodate the long back end. Every maneuver you attempt will require you to plan. If you don’t have enough leeway to make a turn, for example, then you could crash into a curb or even other motorists.
Steering can be difficult and gaining speed with so much weight to your firetruck doesn’t come easily either. Yet fire trucks have to reach a destination quickly, so you must work on building and maintaining speed.
Fire trucks are not lightweight vehicles by any stretch of the imagination, as they weigh several tons. In pounds, they’re between 38,000 and 60,000 pounds, which means fire trucks outweigh even school buses and charter buses. When empty, a fire truck is still around 14,000 pounds.