Steel or Aluminum? How to Select a Dump Truck Body

Excavator loading dumper truck with dirt at construction site

People commonly see a dump truck with a phrase or quote at the back. Sometimes it says “Don’t Want Trouble” or “Living the Dream” and others put comic relief to lighten the day. But whatever sticker dump trucks put on their back, it doesn’t alter the fact that these trucks have become an essential part of our economy. The current market revenue of the dump truck industry is around $19.1 billion and it is expected to grow steadily as construction rises in the United States.

Dump trucks are a profitable investment. They are very in demand in construction sites and mining areas. They are also used to haul loose materials like asphalt, gravel, and sand. But in order to make money from a dump truck, it is important to choose the right bed or body type you will need. They may either be aluminum or steel. To make the right decision, here is a guide on how to select a dump truck body.

What is a Dump Truck Body?

A dump truck body is a semi-permanent frame attached to a cab to haul and store cargo and materials. These cargos and materials can eventually be disposed of using gravity. Most people imagine dump trucks with a body lifted by hydraulics to unload whatever it hauls.

A dump truck body is a permanent fixture on a dump truck. They are different from dump trailers, which use removable frames. They are connected to a truck via the fifth wheel and have two axles on their landing gear. A dump truck body cannot be removed from the truck. It also does not have an axle.

Typically, there are 2 metal options for a dump truck body. These are aluminum and steel. Deciding the type of material you will have for your dump truck body is the first and most important decision you will need to make. They can make or break the success of your dump truck business. To help you choose the right material wisely, here’s a guide.

Pros and Cons of an Aluminum Dump Truck Body

Aluminum is a lightweight metal under the boron group (Group 13) of the periodic table. It is silvery-white and has a lower density than other metals. Its density is only a third of that of steel. But aluminum never occurs in metallic form by nature. Instead, they are found in compounds that are present in animals, rocks, and vegetation.

An aluminum dump truck body weighs lighter than that of steel. It means less spending on fuel. Such fuel savings are very hard to beat when it comes to contractors who often need to do long drives between counties and states. The lighter weight of an aluminum dump truck also allows extra payload weight. It allows fleets to haul more volume in an efficient manner. It is also cheaper and easier to maintain since aluminum has a natural protective oxide layer. The protective layer fends off rust and resists corrosion. Lastly, aluminum dump trucks have a higher resale value than steel.

However, a significant downside of an aluminum dump truck body is its hefty cost. Their price is typically 30 percent higher than that of steel. Moreover, since aluminum is a soft metal, it also has less resistance to cracking and denting. In general, an aluminum dump body is perfect for hauling non-abrasive materials like dirt and gravel.

Pros and Cons of a Steel Dump Truck Body

Steel is an alloy of carbon and iron. It is the world’s most important construction material. It is used in every aspect of our daily lives. Steel makes up cars, cargo ships, construction products, refrigerators, surgical scalpels, washing machines, etc. One good quality of steel is its ability to be recycled without losing its heavy-duty property. 

Steel is a great economical investment. That said, a steel dump truck body costs less than that of the aluminum type. It is also cheaper to repair and since it is thicker than aluminum, it is less likely to bend or lose. It can withstand abrasive materials and tough cargo. A steel dump truck is ideal for heavy-duty hauling and the best option for hauling boulders and rocks. It is also ideal for use in off-road mining sites.

However, since steel weighs heavier than aluminum, they consume more fuel. The fuel cost can negate the savings you’ve got from buying a steel dump truck. They also give more strain to the tires. So, expect that you will need to replace them more often compared to having an aluminum dump truck. Frequent repainting is also needed. Since they don’t have a natural protective layer, steel is prone to corrosion and rust.

The Bottom Line

The choice between an aluminum dump truck body and a steel dump truck body boils down to your budget and needs. An aluminum dump truck body is generally more expensive but it can be covered by its fuel efficiency. It is the most recommended when hauling non-abrasive materials like dirt and gravel. 

On the other hand, a steel dump truck body may be cheaper but the savings you’ve got will eventually build up as extra fuel costs. Nevertheless, it is still the perfect option when hauling heavy loads like boulders and rocks. 

When it comes to maintenance, aluminum is cheaper to maintain as steel needs constant repainting. Thus, over the past few years, there has been a big shift to buying aluminum dump truck bodies over steel dump trucks.

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