There are many types of loose materials that are sold in cubic yards, or “yards,” for short. Topsoil, mulch, and gravel are just a few of the commonly used products that are sold by this volume metric.

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It isn’t just landscapers and contractors who need to have knowledge of cubic yards. If you’re going to transport any of the materials mentioned above in a dump truck, for example, it’s essential to know exactly how much the truck can carry. In the following guide, we’ll discuss how you determine a dump truck’s capacity in cubic yards.

Dump Truck Cubic Yardage - The Basics

While there is room for variance, most full-size dump trucks have a capacity of between 10 and 16 cubic yards. These types of vehicles often have their capacity listed in the owner’s manual.

Smaller dump trucks, often those mounted on a pickup frame, will have comparably less capacity, sometimes as little as 1 ½ cubic yards.

If you can’t find your dump truck’s capacity in the owner’s manual, don’t worry. It’s relatively simple to determine using a tape measure and a calculator.

Measure the width of the truck bed, from the inside of one wall to the other. Write down this number in feet to make the calculations simpler. So let’s say your truck bed is 63 inches wide, you would write it down as 5.25 feet.Measure the length of the bed in the same fashion and document the figure in feet.Measure the height of the bed, starting from the bottom and extending to the top of the tailgate or the sides (whichever is lower).At this point, you should have three figures listed for the width, length, and height of your bed. Multiply them all together to determine the capacity. For a truck bed that’s 14 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 5 feet high, you would calculate 14 x 6 x 5 = 420. This figure is the capacity of your truck bed in cubic feet.There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard, so to find your cubic yardage, you need to divide the previous number by 27. Using the example above for our 420 cubic foot truck, we would calculate 420 ÷ 27 = 15.56 cubic yards.

Dump Truck Capacity - More Than Just Yardage

A cubic yard represents a block of material that measures three feet on each side. In theory, the material itself can be anything, from water to stone to mulch. For this reason, yardage alone is an imperfect measurement of a dump truck’s overall capacity. Perhaps more important is the truck’s weight rating.

The weight rating will depend on a variety of factors, including the truck’s chassis and suspension. Smaller dump trucks on pickup frames can have a weight limit as low as half a ton, whereas larger dump trucks can carry as much as 15 tons (30,000 pounds) of material. That’s quite the broad range!

When hauling most materials, the weight of your load will be the limiting factor. For example, sand can weigh upwards of 3,000 pounds per cubic yard, meaning that in a massive, 30,000-pound dump truck, you could carry a maximum of 10 cubic yards. In a dump truck on a half-ton pickup frame, you could only carry a third of a yard of sand.

Mulch, in particular, can be challenging to account for, largely because it depends on how wet it is. Dry mulch can weigh as little as 700 pounds per yard, whereas wet, compost-like mulch can tip the scales at 1,500 pounds per yard.

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Larger dump trucks can carry approximately 10 to 16 cubic yards of material. However, the total volume is not usually the limiting factor. In most cases, the vehicle’s weight limit will determine how much material you are ultimately able to safely transport.