Why Do 18-Wheelers Have 18 Wheels? and Other Automotive Oddities

18 wheeler semi truck

Have you ever wondered why large semi-trucks have so many wheels, or how rockets are transported from place to place? Vehicles come in many sizes and stitch the fabric of our society together with their diverse functions and oddities.

Why do 18-wheelers have 18 wheels?

Moving goods was very labor intensive until standardization took place in the mid 20th century, when the shipping containers we’re familiar with came into play. These containers could be transferred from ship to train to truck, and they could each carry up to 80,000 pounds.

Because the U.S. Department of Transportation specifies a maximum axle weight (the amount of weight each set of wheels can carry) of 20,000 at most, a semi truck needs many axles to carry the weight of the container. This prevents damage to roadways. Even with the distribution of weight on the truck axles, however, the extra pressure of the cargo can sometimes cause truck tires to blow, sometimes causing catastrophic accidents. Though this is not common, it should be watched for on the road.

Crawlers that can carry rockets

rocket crawler vehicle
Image source: Gizmodo

Not all heavy transporters are semi-trucks. Special vehicles must be designed in order to accommodate heavy or delicate loads. The crawler-transporter is one such vehicle. Designed to delicately transport NASA rockets to their launch pads, the crawler-transporter is the largest self-guiding vehicle in the world. It runs on eight ten-foot-tall tracks, similar to a tank. It can carry loads of up to 18 million pounds, carefully adjusting its carrying service so it is always level, avoiding any accidents with a rocket on its back.

The world’s smallest car

peel car
Image source: Car Buzz

Vehicles come in all sizes and shapes, and the Peel P50 is the opposite of the crawler-transporter. The Peel P50 was a car manufactured in the UK and was designed for being a perfect city car. It could only hold one person and bag. At only about 130 pounds, this car could reach speeds of up to 38 miles per hour. Originally produced in the 1960’s, this car was again produced in the 2010’s and is completely road legal.

The PIT maneuver

The PIT maneuver is a last-ditch attempt police officers will often take to stop cars in a high-speed pursuit. This maneuver was developed by police after observing this tactic in stock car racing. It works when a high-speed pursuer simply taps the bumper of the leading car. The leading car spins out of control, or is forced to slow down. This is a highly dangerous technique, however, and is known to cause multi-car crashes in racing.

Wartime car production

first Jeep
Image source: JK Forum

Only 139 cars were produced in America during World War II. The rest of the production efforts went to making things like airplanes and warships. Before the war, millions of cars had already been produced. This is, however, when the Jeep was first produced. It was initially used as a military vehicle which could transport heavy weight over rugged terrains.



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