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What is a lorry called in Australia?

A lorry is a large motor vehicle used for transporting goods, also known as a truck in North America and Australia. However, while Australians use the term “truck” commonly, there are some slight differences in terminology for larger lorries or trucks between British English and Australian English.

In this article, we will look at what Australians call the various types and sizes of goods vehicles that would be called “lorries” in British English. We will examine the specific Australian terms used for larger articulated trucks, rigid trucks, vans, utilities and more. Understanding the nuances between British and Australian English terminology for large vehicles can be helpful for anyone transporting goods or travelling between the UK and Australia.

Articulated Trucks

One of the most common types of lorries in the UK is the articulated lorry, known for its tractor unit towing a detachable trailer. In Australia, articulated lorries are most commonly referred to as:

Semi-trailer trucks – This is the most common Australian term for what would be called an “articulated lorry” in British English. The tractor unit is referred to as a “prime mover”, while the detachable trailer is called a “semi-trailer”.

B-doubles – These are larger articulated trucks consisting of a prime mover towing two semi-trailers linked by a fifth wheel coupling. This allows for heavier haulage than a regular semi-trailer truck.

Road trains – Road trains are the largest articulated trucks, made up of a prime mover and two or more trailers stretching well over 50 metres in length. They are used extensively for transporting goods across large distances in rural Australia.

So in summary, “articulated lorry” in British English corresponds most closely to “semi-trailer truck” in Australian English. B-doubles and road trains refer to larger articulated trucks.

Rigid Trucks

In contrast to articulated lorries, rigid lorries have the cab and body integrated on one chassis. Common types in Australia include:

Truck – In general “truck” refers to a rigid style lorry in Australia. Different sizes include heavy rigid trucks, medium rigid trucks, and light rigid trucks.

Tip truck – Designed for transporting loads like gravel or other loose material. The back tips up to unload the materials.

Tanker – Tankers are rigid style trucks designed for transporting liquids like fuel, water or chemicals.

Refrigerated truck – Refrigerated rigid trucks transport perishable goods like food or medical supplies. The back is refrigerated.

Car carrier – This rigid style truck is used for transporting multiple vehicles at once via ramps.

So in most cases, a “rigid lorry” in British English would simply be called a “truck” or referred to by it’s specific purpose like tanker or refrigerated truck in Australia.

Vans and Utilities

Smaller rigid goods vehicles in Australia include:

Van – The term van refers to a smaller enclosed goods vehicle up to around 3.5 tonnes. Larger versions are called Maxi Vans.

Ute – Utes or utility vehicles are goods vehicles with an open back or tray. The passenger area is enclosed with a rear cargo area.

Pickup truck – Similar to a ute but generally referring to imported American style open tray trucks with higher ground clearance.

So while the British term “van” matches the Australian use, Australians differentiate smaller pickup style vehicles as “utes” rather than calling them small lorries.

Vehicle Weights and Licences

Trucks and lorries over certain weights require an appropriate driver’s licence in both Australia and the UK:

Vehicle Weight UK Licence Australian Licence
Up to 3.5 tonnes Category B Car licence
3.5 – 7.5 tonnes Category C1 Light Rigid (LR)
7.5 – 24 tonnes Category C Medium Rigid (MR)
Over 24 tonnes Category C+E Heavy Rigid (HR)

So while the vehicle categories and weight limits don’t match up precisely between the UK and Australian licensing systems, a British Category C or C+E licence would qualify you to drive the largest trucks and road trains in Australia.

Importing Lorries between Britain and Australia

If you are importing a British lorry or Australian truck between countries, it’s important to be aware of:

– Steering wheel location – British vehicles have right-hand drive while Australian models are left-hand drive.

– Number plate location – Plates in the UK are at the front and rear while Australia only requires rear plates.

– Electrical systems – Different voltages are used in Britain (230V) compared to Australia (240V).

– Compliance with Australian Design Rules for new vehicles imported.

– Obtaining a Car Import Approval from the Department of Infrastructure if importing a used vehicle.

– Potential modifications like headlight angle and turn signal operation to comply with local regulations.

So while the vehicle makes and terminology differ, following the appropriate importation processes will enable use of your lorry or truck on the other side of the world.


While Australians generally refer to any larger goods vehicle as a “truck”, common British “lorry” types like articulated, rigid and vans have their own specific names in Australia. Understanding how the terminology differs between British English and Australian English can help avoid confusion transporting goods or driving heavy vehicles in either country. But most importantly, if you are asking an Australian what that large vehicle transporting goods over there is – the answer will most likely be “It’s a truck, mate!”