June 18

How to Calculate Dump Truck Capacity

Last Updated on June 14, 2023

The next time you need to move granular materials such as rocks, soil, sand, or mulch, consider dump trucks the ideal solution. These trucks come equipped with dump beds, which carry a lot of material. Even better, their dump function is is convenient for unloading. But before dumping anything, you have to know how to calculate dump truck capacity.

And before that, you have to determine how much material you need to move (in cubic yards and tons).

Dump trucks are limited in the amount they carry based on two immediate factors: the amount (size) and weight of the material. The dimensions of their dump sections limits how much material (size) can be transported. The axle configuration, engine power, dump size, and other factors that contribute to its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), all limit load weight also.

How many tons can a dump truck haul

In order to determine the maximum load weight, you have to know your truck’s GVWR and its gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Dump truck payload calculation infographic

The truck’s GVW is how much the truck weighs with all equipment and people onboard but no load. The GVWR determines how much a truck can safely transport. When subtracting the GVW from the GVWR, the remainder is the payload, and the payload is the maximum load weight the truck can safely transport.

Material may be heavier than believed. Here are the weight ranges (in pounds) for common materials moved by dump trucks.

Dump truck capacity: weight of different materials.
  1. Concrete                      3,900-4,100 
  2. Rock (2-6 inches)        3,000-3,400 
  3. Sand                            2,600-3,000 
  4. Asphalt                        2,500-2,900 
  5. Gravel                         2,400-2,900 
  6. Clay                             2,100-2,500 
  7. Salt                              2,100-2,500 
  8. Soil                              2,000-2,700 
  9. Water                           1,600-1,800 
  10. Snow                           1,200-1,500 

These weight ranges assume the material is dry. If materials absorb any moisture, they become much heavier. The weight of soil can increase by up to 1,000 pounds per cubic yard when saturated. 

How many cubic yards are in a dump truck

Calculate dump truck capacity in cubic yards infographic

Dump trucks are available in different sizes and configurations, allowing users to choose a model optimal for the job. 

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There are 11 different types of dump trucks, but only a few of them are rear dump. Trailer dumps, as well as side dump and bottom dump versions of rear dump trucks will not be addressed in this article. Neither will trucks designed for niche applications, such as large mining operations or snow and ice management operations. 

The three rear dump trucks are the standard dump truck, the superdump truck and the articulated dump truck (ADT).

Hauling as much as you possibly can

The largest class of rear dump trucks is the ADT, and the largest ADT is the Volvo Construction Equipment A60H. This vehicle can haul 60 tons / 43.9 cubic yards of material.  

Most manufacturers serving the North American market produce ADTs in the 25-to-45-ton range. Doosan produces a 31-ton / 22-cubic-yard truck and a 45-ton / 31.9-cubic-yard truck. John Deere manufactures four models in the 26-to-46-ton range with the smallest dump truck capacity of 19.6 cubic yards. Their largest dump truck holds a capacity of 32.9 cubic yards. Caterpillar offers seven models (with dump bodies) that range from 26 tons / 19.6 cubic yards to 45.2 tons / 32.7 cubic yards. 

Hydrema is an ADT manufacturer that specializes in smaller trucks; although there is a place for them in North America, they are more popular in countries that don’t have the same robust construction budgets as the US. They manufacture three models that range from seven tons / 4.6 cubic yards to 20 tons / 15.7 cubic yards. 

Dump truck sizes

The standard dump truck and the superdump truck can be driven on highways and city streets. The only difference between the two types are size. A superdump is built on a larger chassis, has more axles, and higher horsepower.

In North America, the chassis is manufactured by one of seven on-highway truck manufacturers (Mack Trucks, Volvo Trucks, Peterbilt, Kenworth, Freightliner, Western Star, and Navistar International Corporation). The chassis determines the dump body options. The dump body is manufactured by a truck body manufacturer, but there are too many manufacturers operating in North America to list them all.

Dump features that affect dump truck capacity

Construction material, body length, and three types of body construction contribute to how many tons can a dump truck haul. 

Dump bodies can range in length in order to match the length of the chassis. The Maverick heavy-duty series of dump bodies manufactured by Ox Bodies, for example, offers lengths between 10 and 22 feet. With a side height between 18 and 72 inches, these offer capacities between 3.9 cubic yards and 34.6 cubic yards. 

Dump bodies are comprised of either steel or aluminum. Steel is heavier and tends to be thicker, which decreases the material capacity of the beds. Aluminum is lighter and thinner, which decreases the weight capacity of dump beds. 

Body construction is the final factor influencing capacity. The traditional dump body is rectangular in shape with a flat bottom, so it can carry the most material of the three body construction types. A rounded bottom allows for cleaner dumps (less material sticks to the dump bed), but carries less material. The semi-elliptical dump body combines elements of both the traditional and rounded beds, so it carries more than rounded beds but less than traditional dumps. 

Dump truck capacity contributors infographic

Calculating dump truck capacity

Are you without a dump truck? Begin your search today.

Once you have a vehicle, find out its payload in the user manual or by measuring and calculating. Measure (in feet) the length, width and height of the bed, multiply the three measurements together, and then divide by 27 to find out the capacity in cubic yards. 

After you make those calculations you’ll be well on your way to transporting those much needed materials. Before you know, calculating dump truck capacity will become second-nature.


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