Looking for the best semi-truck for your fleet-based business? Want to learn all you can about the options available before making a purchase? You’ve come to the right place.
Semi-trucks are still a big part of many fleets thanks to their durability, comfort, handling, and hauling capacity. When it comes down to it, there’s just no better way to get a large amount of freight from point A to point B.
But which truck is right for your fleet?
In this article, we discuss what manufacturers have to offer so you can choose the best semi-truck for your business.
Best Semi-Trucks For Fleets
1) Western Star
Since the 1990s, Western Star has established itself as a premier vocational and over-the-road heavy truck manufacturer, thanks in large part to revolutionary product innovations, like the Star Light Sleeper.
Their lineup consists of various sizes of one of the best semi-trucks on the market, including:
- XD Offroad
Each size provides its own unique features, but Western Star offers a long list of customizations, including, for example, a choice of six engines for all jobs and purposes (Detroit DD16, Detroit DD15, Detroit DD13, Cumminx X15, Cummins X12, or Cummins L9).
In addition, Western Star incorporates three specifically engineered Detroit components — engine, transmission, and axle — in such a way that they work together to create a system of efficiency, performance, and reliability that is unrivaled in the industry.
The business itself remains a fairly small company, and there aren’t a lot of dedicated Western Star dealers out there. But, because it’s owned by Freightliner’s parent company, you can typically get service at Freightliner dealerships and repair shops.
Western Star trucks also include the Westinghouse Air Brake Company (WABCO) Onguard collision mitigation system that detects moving or stationary objects in front of the truck, alerts the driver, and applies active braking if the driver doesn’t take action.
Interesting Fact: Western Star trucks are popular in Australia, where they regularly pull some of the longest road trains.
Like Western Star, Peterbilt semi-trucks got their start in the logging industry. Now, Peterbilt still offers trucks designed and built to operate efficiently and stay on the road longer, delivering a lower total cost of operation as well as exceptional performance and value.
Their lineup consists of various on-highway, vocational, medium-duty, and electric vehicles, including:
- Model 579
- Model 389
- Model 567
- Model 520
- Model 367
- Model 365
Peterbilt offers Collision Mitigation Technology on heavy and medium-duty semi-trucks. The system delivers an added layer of protection in challenging driving conditions through advanced radar technology, camera technology, software logic, and powertrain integration.
Peterbilt’s over-the-road trucks also include innovations that are built for the long-haul, such as the integrated PACCAR Powertrain that delivers up to 510 horsepower and 1,850 foot-pounds of torque.
Couple that with their Epiq package of technological and aerodynamic features that provides up to 4% increased fuel efficiency, and it’s easy to see why Peterbilt vehicles are still among the best semi-trucks on the road today.
In recent years, Peterbilt has added three electric trucks — the 579EV, 520EV, and 220EV — to its lineup to satisfy diverse customer needs and provide fleets with zero-emission, high-performance options.
Interesting Fact: The Peterbilt model 579 has the largest mattress of any truck in the industry.
Kenworth is known as one of the best semi trucks in the industry. Today, Kenworth is the second-largest truck brand in the United States and offers the following models:
- T680 Next Gen
Within those models, Kenworth offers a variety of features, including driver-assistance technologies, such as adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, lane departure warning, side object detection, and driver performance assistant.
Driver assistance is also improved with the addition of the new Digital Mirror System that reduces the size of the outside mirrors (improving fuel economy by 1.5% while enhancing driver visibility by providing a clearer and wider view around the truck).
The Digital Mirror System and large high-definition interior displays put the mirror view image in an easier-to-see position, keeping the driver’s eyes closer to the road.
Under the hood, Kenworth trucks are engineered to go the distance thanks to the PACCAR engine, transmission, and axles. These components work together to guarantee a smooth operating, high-performance powertrain of unmatched capability.
For medium- and heavy-duty applications, Kenworth are some of the best semi trucks available.
Interesting Fact: Kenworth trucks are more expensive than other brands but have lower operating and maintenance costs.
Currently, Freightliner is the best-selling semi-truck brand in North America, selling more than 70,000 heavy-duty (Class 8) trucks annually and holding just under a 40% market share.
Freightliner’s semi-truck line is called the Cascadia and offers a choice of engines that produce between 350 and 605 horsepower and up to 2,050 foot-pounds of torque. Freightliner also offers an electric vehicle called the eCascadia.
The eCascadia has a 250-mile range and can charge 80% in 90 minutes. The limited range means that the eCascadia isn’t viable as a long-haul vehicle but is an excellent option for short hauls.
For all its on-highway trucks, Freightliner identified six main contributing factors that matter most to owners and drivers. Then, they went about improving the details on their vehicles to be more in line with customer wants and needs.
Those factors are:
- Fuel efficiency
- Driver experience
In conjunction with improving those factors on their trucks, Freightliner also produced a Real Cost of Ownership (RCO) guide with those variables in mind to help you control expenses within your fleet. That’s what makes Freightliner one of the best semi-truck brands in the country.
And, when you choose Freightliner for your semi-truck fleet, you get access to a robust dealer network of over 700 total service locations and their dedicated and reliable support staff.
That means that if anything goes wrong between point A and point B, there’s likely a dealer nearby that can get your truck back on the road.
Interesting Fact: Freightliners tend to have a lower resale value because there are so many on the market.
Mack is the oldest truck brand on our list with a whopping 122 years in continuous production. Mack offers three different highway models:
It also offers three cabover designs for short-haul situations — the LR, LR Electric, and TerraPro — and medium-duty options — the MD6, MD6 Low Profile, and MD7 — for a wide variety of applications and terrains.
In addition to functional design, tough construction, and reliable performance, Mack offers a unique service called GuardDog Connect.
GuardDog Connect continuously monitors the truck’s fault codes and alerts Mack’s support team if it detects a problem. From there, the Mack team can diagnose the issue and determine the best course of action — all while the truck is still on the road.
This feature helps drivers avoid unexpected downtime and helps the truck spend more time on the road.
And, thanks to Mack’s Body Builder Technical Support Group, you can design, spec, and upfit their trucks to fit your fleet and business needs.
Interesting Fact: During World War 2, Mack built 35,000 trucks for the United States military.
Despite smaller market share in the U.S., there are a large number of Volvo trucks on the road today because of their comfort and reliability.
The VNL line is Volvo’s Class 8 (heavy-duty, short- and long-haul) offering. Within the VNL line, Volvo produces five options:
- VNL 300
- VNL 400
- VNL 740
- VNL 760
- VNL 860
Each comes with its own unique set of features and amenities, but all rely on an engine and drivetrain that produce a maximum of 500 horsepower — good for any hauling situation.
In 2019, Volvo began building dynamic steering into its vehicles to provide additional torque to the steering column. This extra torque causes the steering wheel to return to a neutral position without as much driver effort.
Dynamic steering also prevents heavy crosswinds from moving the steering wheel (and, thus, the vehicle itself).
Interesting Fact: Some drivers prefer Volvo trucks because they’re generally lighter, smaller, and easier to drive.
International trucks were first built in 1909 under the name International Harvester Company. Since then, International has been manufacturing some of the best semi-truck designs on the market.
With plenty of options to choose from, the heavy-duty line of International trucks comes in five different models:
The Lonestar comes with a Cummins X15 engine that provides up to 2,050 foot-pounds of torque and up to 605 horsepower when paired with your choice of several manual or automated manual transmissions.
And, depending on where the job takes you, the Lonestar can be configured as either a day cab or a sleeper cab for maximum comfort and flexibility.
The LT is International’s flagship model and is equipped with the revolutionary International® S13 Integrated Powertrain which may produce up to a 15% gain in fuel economy over the first-generation International® A26.
The S13 Integrated Powertrain is an engine, transmission, and after-treatment system designed to work as one while being simple, easy to service, and delivering stellar performance with superior operating economy.
Like the Lonestar, the LT comes with several transmission options — including 10, 11, 12, 13, and 18-speed automated manual transmissions or 10, 13, and 18-speed manual transmissions.
The RH, HV, and HX are the more specialized International offerings that typically come in concrete, construction, municipal, or utility configurations.
Depending on your needs, you can mix and match the features to satisfy the unique needs of your business, including options such as:
- Cab design: Day cab, Extended cab, and Crew cab
- Transmission: Manual, Automated Manual, and Automatic
- Engine: Cummins B6.7, Cummins L9, International A26
- Wheelbase: 136” – 340”
- Axle configurations: 4×2, 4×4, 6×4, 6×6, and 8×6 Tridem
International trucks are built for life on the highway, so when you need to go the distance over and over again, the Lonestar, LT, RH, HV, and HX models can help you keep up.
Interesting fact: Nearly one-quarter of the Class 6 through Class 8 trucks on the road today and one-third of all the school buses in the United States are International.
Though they claim a smaller share of the U.S. market, Mercedes-Benz is still an important entry on our list of the best semi trucks for fleet-based small businesses.
As it is with their cars, the Mercedes-Benz brand is a synonym for first-class products, quality service, cost-effectiveness, reliability, and sustainability.
So whether you need a vehicle for long-haul, construction site, or distribution transportation, the Mercedes-Benz brand offers the right solution for the heavy-duty segment of the market.
For long-haul, over-the-road fleets, the Actros is the flagship model. It comes in several configurations, including the Actros L, Actros F, Actros, and Actros up to 250 tons.
The Actros line can be customized to fit your needs with a choice of four engines (each in a different displacement class), eight cab variants, three engine tunnel variants, and seven different axle/drive configurations.
If you need heavy-duty capabilities in a more local, construction-based platform, the Mercedes-Benz Arocs may be just what you’re looking for.
Whether you choose to use it as a semi-trailer tractor, flatbed vehicle, concrete mixer, or heavy dump truck, the road and all-wheel-drive variants of the Arocs offer a particularly robust and durable truck for practically every challenge.
Regardless of which you choose — the Actros or the Arocs — the Mercedes-Benz line of Class 8 trucks come with the innovative third-generation OM 471 engine that boasts torque and horsepower for any job while consuming up to 4% less fuel than its predecessor.
Interesting fact: Mercedes-Benz made the world’s first truck in London on October 1, 1896. It had a two-cylinder engine and could haul up to 1,500 pounds.
Whatever your needs — long-haul, distribution, or construction — and whether you want a rigid or a tractor unit with two, three, or four axles, DAF offers some of the best semi-trucks out there.
If long- or heavy-hauling is your bread and butter, the DAF XF, XG, and XG+ may be the solution you didn’t know you needed.
Significant innovations to the patented MX engine, TraXon automated transmission, and DAF rear axles contribute to a 10% gain in fuel efficiency over previous configurations.
Add to that low vehicle weight and excellent serviceability, and you’ve got class-leading payload and uptime in an attractive, aerodynamic, cab-over design.
If your business stays closer to home, the DAF XD line of heavy-duty trucks may be the perfect fit.
Designed for distribution and vocational applications, the XD offers:
- Flexible cab design (optional Day Cab, Sleeper Cab, or Sleeper High Cab)
- Full array of axle configurations (2, 3, or 4)
- Tractor or rigid setups
- Single or double drive
- Large, panoramic windows for busy urban areas
- Easy two-step entry for drivers climbing in and out of the cab multiple times a day
- Comfortable driving position with a bigger adjustment range than ever before
The result is a Class 8 truck that you and your drivers will love to operate.
And, with a variety of engines available — from the 220 foot-pound/299 horsepower XD 300 MX-11 to the 330 foot-pound/449 horsepower XD 450 MX-11 — you’ll be able to configure your DAF for maximum efficiency and flexibility.
Interesting fact: DAF offers a silent mode on many of its series that, when activated, reduces the noise the truck makes to below 71 decibels.
Scania is one of several European semi-truck brands that are slowly becoming more common on U.S. roadways.
Like the other entries on this list of best semi-trucks for small businesses, the Scania brand line comes in a variety of models, including the:
Each model offers specific capabilities for the job at hand.
For example, the L-series is designed for urban driving in congested conditions. As such, it includes a lower entry point for easy in and out, panoramic front and side windows for maximum visibility, a spacious interior for crew comfort, and a lightweight engine for better fuel efficiency.
The middle of the Scania model lineup belongs to the G-series that can be used for both over-the-road and in-town delivery applications.
The G-series trucks are highly adaptable with great drivability and visibility making them a well-balanced, flexible option for businesses that do a bit of everything.
At the other end of the spectrum, the S-series is designed and built with long-distance, over-the-road driving in mind.
The 13L engine is engineered to deliver superior fuel efficiency (up to 8% over previous generations) without compromising on engine performance.
Scania even offers other truck variations for your unique business needs, including:
- A crew cab design on its L-series line
- Electric powertrains
- Hybrid electric powertrains
- A gas-powered option
- An XT model for tough challenges
Interesting fact: Scania is a Swedish company that has been building heavy-duty trucks and buses since 1891.
Another European brand that is slowly making inroads on U.S. soil is German manufacturer MAN.
MAN’s three models — the TGX, TGS, and TGM — are designed for a variety of applications from cross-country treks to urban delivery to construction and off-road jobs.
For those runs from one end of the continent to the other (and everywhere in between), the MAN TGX offers:
- Flexible chassis configuration (from 4×2 to 8×4)
- Three different 6-cylinder engines that provide a range of torque and horsepower
- Cab designs for all applications
- Optional second bed
- A variety of media systems and connectivity and navigation tools
With sector-specific models, such as tanker and silo trucks, agricultural and forestry trucks, and construction vehicles and concrete mixers, the TGX may be the one-stop solution for all your fleet needs.
If something smaller is more in your wheelhouse, the TGS and TGM models are ideal for a variety of inter-urban and urban applications.
Powered by the optional MAN D26 engine, the TGS and TGM combine excellent fuel efficiency with performance figures from 430 horsepower up to 510 horsepower.
And, with a two-stage exhaust-gas recirculation, both the TGS and TGM provide outstanding environmental balance in a powerful package.
Like the TGX, the TGS and TGM can be configured as a municipal vehicle (e.g., plow or garbage truck), refrigerated goods vehicle, fire service and emergency vehicle, and many more.
Interesting fact: Rudolf Diesel partnered with MAN to design the first diesel engine in 1897, but the engine wasn’t introduced into MAN vehicles until 1924.
Ford stopped making heavy-duty trucks for the U.S. market some time ago, but they recently ventured back into the sector with the F-Max.
The F-Max was designed and tested by Ford Otosan, a Turkey-based manufacturer that is partially owned by Ford Motor Company.
Though it’s still more common to see a Ford F-Max on European roads, businesses are finding uses for the model here stateside.
Like the last few entries on this list of best semi-trucks for fleet-based businesses, the F-Max is a cabover design that makes it useful for both long-haul and urban transport.
The F-Max features a newly-redesigned engine and 12-speed ZF automated transmission that together produce 492 horsepower and 1843 foot-pounds of torque.
The F-Max also features Ford’s ConnecTruck remote diagnostics, telematics, and fleet management system as well as a variety of driver assistance systems and safety features, including:
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Predictive Cruise Control
- Advanced Emergency Brake System
- Hill Launch Assist
- Lane Departure Warning
- Adjustable Speed Limiter Device
- Electronic Stability Control
Interesting fact: The Ford F-Max was chosen as the International Truck of the Year in 2019.
Choose The Best Semi-Truck Fleet Management
Whichever vehicle is the best semi-truck for your business, you can manage your fleet more efficiently with Coast.
Coast provides controls and visibility that work for your business, as well as an online expense management platform that empowers you with real-time information related to your fleet.
For more information on how Coast can help you control fleet costs and streamline your fleet management program, visit CoastPay.com today.