Why Do the British Call Trucks Lorries? Here’s More Info

It is rare to find Americans using the word Lorry. It is mainly a British term. It is not so clear where the word lorry originated from. Whether it originated from the Indians or British Army. But the word refers to a large automobile.

The word may have originated from North England from the phrase lurry (or laurie), motor lorry, meaning to drag or pull heavy goods. The prefix “motor” was only relevant when there were horse-drawn carriages, steam wagons, and motor vehicles.

But the prefix became redundant when horse-drawn carriages and steam wagons became obsolete and thus the word remained as “lorry.”

Why Do the British Call Trucks Lorries


The British use the words Lorry and Truck interchangeably. A truck in America mainly refers to vehicles specially engineered to carry goods and not passengers.

A lorry and a truck, therefore, more or less refer to the same thing, and one is a synonym word for the other. It is a matter of language differences.

Language Differences between Americans and Britons

Isn’t it fascinating how American and British English are quite different, yet they have more similarities than differences?

American and British English has many words that one party may not necessarily understand what the other is saying.

Also, what is interesting about American and British words is that most of the words with the same meaning are spelled slightly differently. For example, tyre in England is spelled as tire in American English.

In addition, the British and America have vocabulary differences. For example, the word caretaker has a different meaning in Britain and America. In America, it refers to someone taking care of a sick person while in British it relates to a cleaner and or a person who maintains a building.

Some words can be confusing like when the ground floor in British is referred to as the first floor in America.

You may love to read: How Many Miles Can A Truck Driver Drive In A Day?

Worth Noting

We also have many commonly used items with different words by the Americans and the British. For example in England, they say a jumper or pullover while in American they call the same item sweater. In England, American sneakers are called trainers. Also, in England, American fries are called chips. If you are American, expect a Briton to call your cookie a biscuit.

But when it comes to the word, Lorry and Truck, Britons use both words interchangeably, but Americans only use the word truck and rarely use the word lorry.

Differences In The Trucks Industry

Britain and America has different classifications of trucks.

American Trucks Industry

In the USA, Commercial motor vehicles(trucks), are classified based on their gross weight and are divided into nine classes. But most people use mainly three classes of classification for trucks operating on the highways. The major classifications used are Light Duty, Medium Duty, and Heavy Duty trucks.

Light Duty Trucks includes three classes, namely class 1, 2 and 3. Class 1, has a maximum of 2,722kgs, while Class 2 has between 2,722 to 4,536kgs and class 3 has a gross weight of between 4,536 to 6350.

Medium Duty Trucks also has three classes of vehicles, namely class 4, 5 and 6, with vehicles with a gross weight between 6,351kgs and 11,793kgs.

The Heavy Duty Trucks has only two classes of vehicles class 7 and class 8. Class 7 has vehicles of gross weights of between 11,794kgs and 14,969kgs. All vehicles that exceed 14,969kgs are classified in class 8.

There is also a special category of vehicles grouped in class 9. The weight exceeds 14,969kgs, but the vehicles are off-road and require a special permit and escort to be on public roads.

As A Matter Of Fact

In the USA, you don’t need a commercial driving license if your car falls within class 1 to class 6 of trucks.

The Department of Transportation regulates all vehicles weighing over 10,001 pounds(4,536kgs) which are commercial or belong to non-profit organizations.

Each of the vehicles is given a US DOT Number.

The driver has to adhere to the state regulations concerning hours of service and medical checkups. Also, the vehicle is required to stop for inspection at state weigh and inspection stations.

The UK Lorry Industry

Britons were under EU laws until the Brexit.

The classification of vehicles in the EU is a little bit complicated.

The vehicles are mainly classified according to the vehicle weight, the number of wheels the vehicle has, and the purpose of the vehicle.

Meaning whether the vehicle is used for carrying passengers, goods, agricultural produce or other purposes. The categories are over twenty.

Therefore, in the UK, lorries are classified by weight and number of axles. The type of lorry one has determines the weight of goods the lorry is allowed to carry legally.

Differences of Driving Trucks In The USA And UK

Apart from the differences in what a truck is referred to, there is a big difference between trucking in England and the US and how truck drivers earn their livelihood. The significant differences being regarding how they are paid.

In the UK, drivers are paid per hour (more of working hours), while in the US, they are paid according to how many miles they manage to cover.

Also, the operating hours are different in the USA and UK. In the USA a driver is limited to drive about 11 hours in a 21 hour period. The 11 hours includes pretrip breaks. Whereas in the UK, they are more limited and can only do about 9 hours.

In addition, in the UK, pullovers, driver detention and other road inconveniences are counted in a lorry driver’s working hours, but their counterparts Americans, are not paid, but only paid by how many miles one can cover.

Therefore lorry drivers in the UK are more relaxed than in the USA, because there is not much they can do to add to their 9hours of driving per day.

Also read: What Are Common Causes Of Water Leaking From Under A Car? And How to Fix Them

Driving Disparities Between The UK And USA

Not only is it challenging to communicate abroad because of varying differences in words, but it is also challenging to drive abroad. The main difference between driving in Britain and America is that in Britain drivers use the left side of the road while in America driving is on the right side.

Other differences include driving laws and road signs. As discussed above, there are also differences in licensing and classification of vehicles. In addition, there are more roundabouts in the UK than in the US.


The English language is spoken in many countries in the world. Though most of the words are the same in those countries, some words are different.

As we have already mentioned, there are many other differences to be noted between truck drivers in Britain and USA including how they are paid, state regulations, among others things.

4 thoughts on “Why Do the British Call Trucks Lorries? Here’s More Info”

  1. After reading this text, I dare ask the PM, whether it wouldn’t be better to be a member of the “dammed EU”. And being PM, you HAVE GOT RESPONSABILITY, not only for you, YOUR WIFE AND YOUR CHILD; but for the entire population of the UK, including Northern Ireland! Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha – do you know these names?
    I think, you finally understood, what I mean.
    When I came to GB in 1969 for the first time, I saw on tv “Dad’s army”. Sometimes I’ve got the impression, that nothing has changed.

  2. I find the first comment, above, rather confusing. Apparently, the British believed they’d be better off out of the EU. Do they now believe that not to be the case?

  3. There are so many differences between our languages. In the UK we say “car”. No one would ever say “automobile”. Our vehicles run on “petrol” – not “gasoline”. Cars have a “boot”. In America you have a “trunk”! When we turn right we switch on our “indicators”. I believe you have “blinkers”…

    Where does it stop?!


Leave a Comment