How Many Wheels?

How Many Wheels?

How Many Wheels?

The other day, I was studying the phrase “18-wheeler” which means in American English ‘a very large truck with nine wheels on each side’ and I wondered what other kinds of trucks there are, how many wheels each has, and what other wheelers are listed in dictionaries?

I did a little research and these are my findings here.

Let us begin with –wheelers. From different sources at my disposal, I came up with these different words ending in –wheelers:

The ones indicating how many wheels the vehicle has include two-wheeler, three-wheeler, four-wheeler (=4-wheeler), six-wheeler, ten-wheeler, and eighteen-wheeler (=18-wheeler). These are the vehicles whose name is comprised of a number and the suffix –wheeler.

However, apart from these above, I came across a number of other words which end in the suffix –wheeler:

  • side-wheeler

(Am.) a steamboat with paddle wheels on either side

  • stern-wheeler

a steamboat driven by a single paddle wheel at the stern

  • paddle wheeler

a steamer propelled by a paddle wheel

  • high wheeler

a car which uses large diameter wheels that are similar to those used by horse-drawn vehicles

The second part of the research was the types of trucks or lorries. The three main classifications for road trucks by weight are light trucks, medium trucks, and heavy trucks. Above this there are specialized ‘very heavy trucks’ and ‘transporters’ such as heavy haulers for moving oversized loads, and off-road heavy haul trucks used in mining which are too large for highway use without escorts and special permits.

In the UK, trucks (=lorries) are defined by the driving licence required. Heavy Goods Vehicles is a term normally applied to vehicles greater than 7½ tonnes. Drivers who passed their car test before 1997 can drive vehicles up to 7½ tonnes (8¼ tonnes combined with trailer), whereas car drivers who passed their test on or after 1 January 1997 are limited by EU Directive 91/439/EEC to “Category B” vehicles (having a Maximum Authorised Mass of 3½ tonnes).

Now, let us go further back and classify all land vehicles by number of wheels:



unicycle (=single-wheeled vehicle)

self-balancing unicycle (=electric unicycle)

monowheel (=a one-wheeled single-track vehicle similar to a unicycle)



dicycle (=diwheel; a vehicle with two parallel wheels, side by side)

bicycle (=cycle/bike)

motorized/electric/recumbent/safety/freight bicycle

motorcycle (=motorbike)



motorcycle with sidecar

tricycle (=trike)

motorized/steam tricycle

whike (=a recumbent tricycle with a sail)

three-wheeler (=a vehicle with three wheels)

tilting three-wheeler



Quadricycle (=a vehicle with four wheels)

quadracycle (=four-wheeled bicycle)

four-wheeler (=all-terrain vehicle/ATV/quadricycle)


  • FIVE WHEELS or more

Pentacycle (=a five-wheeled vehicle)

6×6 (=six-wheel drive)

8×8 (=eight-wheel drive(

12×12 (=twelve-wheel drive)