Skip to the main content.
Warehouse Automation
Dock & Door Solutions

3 min read

What Are Yard Trucks and Why Are They Increasingly Popular?

What is a Yard Truck and Why Are They Increasingly Popular?

Yard trucks, also known as yard jockeys, spotter trucks and terminal tractors, are designed to move trailers and cargo containers. These trucks are commonplace in ports, cross-docking terminals, truck terminals and other cargo yards, but an increasing number of warehouse and distribution centers are starting to use them as well.

We asked some of our customers in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas why they use yard trucks instead of over-the-road trucks to move trailers and containers. Here’s what they said:

Top 5 Reasons to Buy a Yard Spotter Truck

A yard truck allows operators to move three to four times more trailers per hour while minimizing the chance for injuries and accidents. Revenue goes up, incidents go down. 

Yard trucks:

  1. Move More Cargo in Less Time
  2. Can Maneuver Trailers Into Tight Spaces
  3. Minimize Injuries and Collisions
  4. Don’t Require a CDL to Operate
  5. Have Lower Maintenance Costs

Here’s a little more detail on the reasons listed above.

#1 Move 3-4x More Cargo per Shift
Using a yard truck to move trailers is like using a forklift vs. a hand truck. Unloading a truck by hand takes longer and increases the chance for injury. A forklift minimizes manual effort (and the chance for injury). 

The same goes for a yard truck. Operators can move more cargo per shift because they’re not wasting time on manual efforts like raising and lowering the trailer stands or constantly getting in and out of the cab.

Yard trucks have a sliding back door with a catwalk, so the operator doesn’t have to dismount and walk around to hook up the trailer and air lines. They simply step out onto the platform, hook everything up, then step back inside the cabin.

An operator can move 3-4x more trailers per shift using a spotter truck versus an over-the-road truck. Watch this 30-second video to see a side-by-side comparison.


If your operators move 10 or more trailers per day, a yard truck will quickly pay for itself.   

  • It takes 3 minutes for an experienced over-the-road truck driver to hook or unhook (on a good day)
  • A spotter truck driver can hook or unhook in less than a minute (around 50 seconds)

Multiply that time savings over every shift for months, and you get a pretty fast ROI, plus you’ll spend 20 percent less on fuel. 

#2 Yard Trucks Can Put Trailers in Places Semi Trucks Can't
Drivers can maneuver trailers and containers into tight spaces because yard trucks have a short wheelbase, tight turning radius and a solid-mounted rear axle. 

#3 Minimize Crashes and Injuries
Over-the-road truck drivers are prone to shoulder, wrist, elbow and knee injuries. Cranking landing dollies and getting in and out of the cab takes its toll (especially when drivers jump out of the cab instead of climbing down).

Yard trucks eliminate most of the situations where drivers get injured because: 

  • The driver doesn’t have to get in and out of the cab
  • Drivers lift and lower the trailer by pulling a lever and activating the hydraulic 5th wheel
  • Yard trucks have superior visibility, which minimizes the chance of a collision

The Kalmar Ottawa spotter trucks we sell have a 360-degree view. Large, strategically-placed mirrors improve trailer placement, minimize collisions and eliminate blind spots.

#4 No CDL Required
Yard trucks are considered powered industrial trucks, and neither ANSI nor OSHA require operators to have a commercial driving license (CDL). 

#5 Lower Maintenance Costs
A terminal tractor is designed for the rugged environment of swapping trailers. An over-the-road truck is not. It’s designed for long hauls on relatively smooth roads.

Yard Spotter Trucks for Sale and Rental

The Lilly Company sells (and rents) the most popular and widely-used yard truck in the world: Kalmar Ottawa. We also sell used yard spotter trucks. Please contact us for more info.

Kalmar Ottawa’s diesel T2 terminal tractors (aka yard trucks) are some of the most popular and long-lasting yard trucks in the world. 

  • If your location has a lot of potholes or inclines, custom rear axle configurations are available. 
  • You can also choose where you want lights mounted, add LED markers, a radio and features to make operators more comfortable.

The new T2E electric yard spotter truck is designed to handle three shifts in a 24-hour period. An electric yard truck can shield your business from fluctuating fuel prices and protect your employees and products from fumes. 

How much do yard trucks cost?
The most popular models cost around $135k-145k depending on whether you get a street legal model or not. A high-capacity yard truck is about $175k-$180k and an electric yard truck can cost up to $400k.  

Are there any drawbacks?
Yard spotter trucks can go about 45 mph max and are designed to only travel short distances (a few miles or less).

Still have questions?  Our experienced and friendly material handling experts can answer any questions you may have about yard spotter trucks. We’ll take the time to learn about your business before making a thoughtful recommendation.

Contact us online or by phone 800-238-3006 with any questions you have, or come say hello at one of our 13 locations across the Mid-South.

Arkansas - Jonesboro
Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery
Mississippi - Tupelo and Richland
Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis

Further Reading:
Overview of T2 spotter truck features (13 min video) 
Product Review: Ottawa 4x2 DOT/EPA (1 of 3)
Product Review: Ottawa 4x2 Off-Road Yard Truck (2 of 3)
Product Review: Ottawa 6x4 EPA/DOT Yard Truck (3 of 3)

Yard Truck do it BETTER - Move 3-4x More Cargo Per Shift!