We’re Talking Vehicle Classification and Applications

We’re Talking Vehicle Classification and Applications

Vehicle Classification

Motor vehicles are described by classification. In the graphic below, you can see that vehicles are classified into categories depending on whether the vehicle carries passengers or commodities and depending on their carrying load. Non-passenger vehicles are further subdivided by the number of axles and number of units, including both power and trailer units.


There are 13 classes of vehicles. For easy reference, we will break them into three segments. The automotive segment is comprised of classes 1 through 3; the medium duty segment covers vehicles in classes 4 through 6 and the heavy-duty segment is comprised of class 7 and above. While there are variations in different regions of the world, this provides a snapshot for the classifications.

Aluminum Wheels vs. Steel Wheels

Vehicles, no matter what their classification is, can be fitted with either steel wheels or aluminum wheels. It is important to understand the advantages of aluminum wheels. We cover the this topic in a previous Expert Insight post here.

Medium Duty Wheels – Products & Applications

Within the medium duty segment, Alcoa® Wheels primarily services carriers, commodities, trucks and van applications. Medium duty wheels are fitted on vehicles within classes 4 to 6. The weight rating of medium duty wheels is 14,000 to 26,000 pounds, and the range stretches from box trucks to large pick-up trucks and single-axle tractors. The Alcoa® wheels portfolio includes four different sizes of medium duty wheels at a wide range of hand hole styling and bolt hole patterns. 

Applications: Box Truck, Delivery Truck, Single Axe Tractor

Products and Fitments:

Learn more about truck classes 3 to 6 in our Let’s Talk Truck Classes 3 to 6! episode on our Behind the Wheels podcast.

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Heavy-Duty Wheels – Products & Applications

The heavy-Duty wheel market consists of vehicles in Class 7 & above. These are vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds. There are two sizes of wheels in this segment: 22.5- and 24.5-inch wheels. There are three major applications for heavy duty wheels: standard, severe and wide base applications. Each can be detailed separately.

The standard application represents most of the heavy-duty wheels that we manufacture. Standard applications include trailer tractors, trucks, vans and tankers.

Heavy-duty also includes Alcoa’s Severe Service® wheels, which are manufactured to handle severe conditions. From logging to mining, certain applications need stronger wheels to help accomplish the job. With one-piece forged aluminum strength that is five times stronger than steel, Alcoa® Severe Service® wheels deliver durability and additional payload in demanding applications. While severe condition wheels are highly beneficial for some applications, certain vehicles can use standard wheels as well. It is the application of the vehicle or operating environment that dictates our recommendation for which wheel to use.

The last category in heavy duty is comprised of the wide base wheels portfolio. As an industry leader, we invented the first forged aluminum wide based wheel in 1971. Since then, we continued to improve our initial wide base wheel design to equip manufacturers with a product that services their needs. Wide base wheels are extremely beneficial to companies that are weight sensitive and want to carry the maximum amount of goods on their trailers. Liquid tankers and dry bulk tankers are primarily the leading consumers of wide base wheels. The wide base wheel product, which takes the place of two standard wheels, is primarily sold in a size of 14 inches. It is important to note that 14” wide base wheels only work on a multiple axle vehicle and are put on the rear wheel assembly.  By converting to Alcoa 14” wide base wheels, fleet managers can save up to 1,400 lbs which can help with payload efficiency. The wide base portfolio also includes wide base wheels from 12.25” to 13” in width. Refuse collection, logging and mining are among the applications that benefit from the strength of these wheels as they offer up to 13,000 lbs in load rating.

Applications: Day Cab, Sleeper Cab, Liquid Carrier, Dump Truck, Logging

Products: 22.5” x 8.25”24.5” x 8.25”14”22.5” x 12.25” , 22.5” x 13”

Learn more about wide base wheels in our Why Wide Base Wheels episode on our Behind the Wheels podcast.

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