Top 7 Fastest Semi-Trucks in the World

Updated on February 21, 2020
Savio Dawson profile image

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast are his passion, and he writes about them on many sites.

What Is a Semi-Truck?

Let’s clarify the terminology to be sure of the type of vehicle we are discussing here in this article. The semi-truck has several similar names: tractor-trailer, lorry, eighteen-wheeler, heavy-trailer, lorry-trailer, semi, and many more.

The vehicle is a combination of a motorized engine unit with high power and torque and the load unit that it pulls. The load unit could be one or more containers, or smaller cargoes loaded together for transportation from one location to another.

Here are pictures of a few semis.

Source

In this article, we will be talking specifically about the motorized unit without the load. That would be the basis for our comparison.

It is evident that Semis are powerful vehicles to pull loads, but will they be fast? That is what we will soon find out.

List of Fastest Semi Trucks

Semi
Top Speed
Shockwave
376 mph [ 605.4 kmph]
Super Shockwave
333 mph [ 536.1 kmph]
The Original Jet Truck
234.6 mph [ 377.7 kmph]
Volvo Iron Knight
171 mph [ 275.3 kmph]
Volvo Mean Green
147 mph [236.7 kmph]
Volvo Wild Viking
103.6 mph [166.7 kmph]
Tesla Semi
100 mph [161 kmph]

1. Shockwave

Source

Shockwave is the fastest semi on the planet at the moment. It is so fast that it can put the fastest car, the fastest bike, the fastest SUV and the fastest pick-up truck to shame. How can a vehicle which is supposed to be heavy be faster than a far smaller and nimbler competition? Well, the answer lies in its power generator.

Shockwave, unlike conventional semis, is powered by three jet engines. These powerful jet engines are the reason for the semi to be one of the fastest; in fact, it is built for speed and not for hauling loads. Take a look at its stats:

  • Vehicle: Shockwave
  • Country: America
  • Produced by / Owner: Chris Darnell
  • Engine: 3 Westinghouse J34-48 jets
  • Power: 36,000 hp
  • Top Speed: 376 mph [ 605.4 kmph]
  • Torque: Not Available
  • Hauling Capacity: Not Applicable
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph]: ~ 2 seconds
  • Quarter Mile: 218 kmph in 6.63 seconds

The Shockwave was one of three semis powered by jet engines. We will see the other two shortly. Here is a small video showing the Shockwave in action.

Considering the fact that the truck can actually smoke (literally) cars and other vehicles in its wake, it is powered up and run in controlled environments. The vehicle is so fast that it requires parachutes to slow it down effectively before the brakes are applied. The last we heard of that kind of deceleration was for supersonic cars creating records on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

2. Super Shockwave

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The Super Shockwave is built from the 1957 Chevy cab which was a pick-up truck in its original form. However, we have classified it under the semi-category for the modification in dimensions to make it appear more semi than a pick-up. The other fact being that the Super Shockwave was classified as one of three American jet-powered semis. Which were the other two? Shockwave and The Original Jet Truck (next on the list) were the other two semis.

  • Vehicle: Super Shockwave
  • Country: America
  • Produced by / Owner: Les Shockley
  • Engine: 2 Westinghouse J34 jet engines
  • Power: 25,000 hp
  • Top Speed: 333 mph [ 536.1 kmph]
  • Torque / Thrust: 12,000 lbs of Thrust
  • Hauling Capacity: Not Applicable
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph]: < 2 seconds
  • Quarter Mile: 246 kmph in 5.38 seconds

Dimension-wise, the Super Shockwave is smaller than the Shockwave, and that makes it nimbler. Here is a video of the jet semi in action.

Though the Shockwave is faster in the top speed segment, the Super Shockwave gets off the grid faster. The lighter weight plays to the Super Shockwave’s advantage. Take a look at one of the few drag races ever allowed between jet-powered semis.

Note: The Shockwave is on the right side while the Super Shockwave is on the left side in the direction of the race.

Also, Super Shockwave is the most recent of the jet-powered semis. It is the youngest in the family, so to say. That’s where the difference ends, and every other aspect is fast and furious like the Shockwave.

3. The Original Jet Truck

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True to its name, this is the first one of the jet-powered trucks and raced as early as the 1980s. It had a lot of firsts until the Shockwave came by and rewrote a few of the records. However, The Original Jet is still the quickest to a quarter-mile. Have a look at its stats:

  • Vehicle: The Original Jet Truck
  • Country: America
  • Produced by / Owner: Bob Motz
  • Engine: J79 General Electric from a B-58 Bomber
  • Power: Not Available
  • Top Speed: 234.6 mph [ 377.7 kmph]
  • Torque / Thrust: 17,500 lbs of Thrust
  • Hauling Capacity: Not Applicable
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph]: < 2 seconds
  • Quarter Mile: 377 kmph in 6.34 seconds

We did mention that “The Original Jet” was the quickest to the quarter-mile and still held the record, so it was obvious that fans would have expected a race between the Shockwave and The Original Jet Truck.

Well, they were in luck. Here is the race.

The race was the first and last time these two jet-powered behemoths raced side-by-side. Bob Motz’s beast came out in front and put the question on the quickest semi to rest.

The technical difficulty of holding such races, like the parachute getting tangled with the other semi or the vehicles skidding and crashing into each other, were many of the reasons that such competitions were not encouraged. Also, insurance would not cover such races. The only time the insurance covered the two trucks was the only time they raced. So, we may not see any more of such drag races in the near future.

But we won’t give up on getting lucky. Let’s hope we get to see more of these beasts drag racing each other.

Each of the Semis discussed in this article are at least 4.5 tonnes in weight.

So, the speed that we see demonstrated is actually against air, road and weight resistance.

4. The Volvo Iron Knight

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With the Iron Knight, we move into the conventional semi-trucks' realm; meaning, these are road-legal trucks. The Iron Knight can haul heavy loads with its 6000 Nm torque as much as give sleepless nights to supercars. It is one superfast truck which can start from standstill and smoke all other trucks. It is, in fact, faster than the fastest pick-up truck. That means that the Knight is faster than a vehicle lesser than one-third its weight.

  • Vehicle: The Iron Knight
  • Country: Sweden
  • Produced by / Owner: Volvo
  • Engine: 13-liter D13 Diesel Engine
  • Power: 2,400 hp
  • Top Speed: 171 mph [ 275.3 kmph]
  • Torque / Thrust: 4,425 pound-feet [6,000.3 Nm]
  • Towing Capacity: 325 tons [I-Shift Transmission with Crawler Gears]
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph]: 4.6 seconds

The Iron Knight had witnessed slight modification from the production-ready model. Volvo wanted to showcase the cutting-edge technology and the transmission to make a monster race like a car. And it does race and even beats a car.

Take a look:

The Iron Knight beating a Volvo S60 in a drag race? Who would have thought?

The Iron Knight is the holder of two records for trucks – one is the fastest to 500-meter and the second is the fastest to 1000-meter. Iron Knight did the 500-meter run at an average of 13.71 seconds while the 1000-meter dash was at an average of 21.29 seconds. Adding spice to the elaborate record platter is the fact that the Iron Knight is also the top speed record holder at 171 mph [275.3 kmph] for semis.

Here is the record run:

Interestingly, Iron Knight is just one of the many innovative and fast semis of Volvo. We will see more of the Volvo record breakers on this list.

5. The Volvo Mean Green

Source

Here is another truck from the Volvo stable. The Mean Green was a semi in a hybrid form built by Volvo to test the speed limits as much as electric powertrains. Now we know that it worked well as the truck set up a speed record which was previously unseen and remained unmatched for a long time. Of course, it was Volvo’s Iron Knight which eventually broke the Mean Green’s mean record.

  • Vehicle: The Mean Green
  • Country: Sweden
  • Produced by / Owner: Volvo
  • Engine: D16 Diesel inline-six Engine + Electric Motor
  • Power: 2,100 hp [Diesel Engine = 1900 hp + Electric = 200 hp]
  • Top Speed [2012]: 147 mph [236.7 kmph]
  • Top Speed [2011]: 135.9 mph [218.8 kmph]
  • Torque / Thrust: 5,000 pound-feet [6,780 Nm]
  • Hauling Capacity: Not planned for production
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph]: 5.2 seconds

Boije Ovebrink drove the semi, the same driver who piloted the Iron Knight to glory. He had driven three Volvo trucks into the record books. These trucks were, the Iron Knight, the Mean Green and the Wild Wiking (also on the list).

Much like the Iron Knight, the Mean Green was not frightened to take on a car, and it competed with a Ferrari. Well, what do you say to that?

Without wasting much time, let’s look at the race:

Note: Race starts from 1:15 minutes.

The Mean Green was a highly modified version of the production model, unlike the Iron Knight. At that time, Volvo just wanted to showcase how Hybrid technology could work for semis, and it could still be fast.

We have to admit that Volvo was successful in showcasing both aspects.

6. The Volvo Wild Viking

Source

Here is the record holder before the Mean Green – the Wild Viking. It was driven into the record books by Boije Ovebrink. The Wild Viking did the run in two different years and on both occasions bettered the prevailing record.

  • Vehicle: The Wild Viking
  • Country: Sweden
  • Produced by / Owner: Volvo
  • Engine: NH - D16 Diesel Engine
  • Power: 1,600 hp [2007] and 1800 hp [2010]
  • Top Speed [2010]: 103.6 mph [166.7 kmph]
  • Top Speed [2007]: 98.6 mph [158.8 kmph]
  • Torque / Thrust: 4,056 pound-feet [5,500 Nm]
  • Hauling Capacity: 80 tons
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph]: 4 seconds

Note: Watch from 1:25 minutes to see the record runs. There are multiple runs.

When Volvo set out to break the record in 2007, the then-current speed record was 155 kmph. The Wild Viking bettered it by doing a 158.8 kmph. Of course, in one direction the Wild Viking did achieve 240 kmph over the 1 km distance run.

By 2010, the Viking set up a record of 166.7 kmph. This speed is what the Mean Green broke in 2011 to go up in the record charts. Amazing to know that Volvo dominated the top speed record for so long.

7. Tesla Semi Truck

Source

While we saw the jet semi, the diesel semi and the hybrid semi, there was something clearly missing; what about electric semis? A pertinent question, more so, that the Volvo had already created the hybrid semi in 2011.

Now, Tesla had brought forth the electric car, SUV, pick-up, and sportscar, so it was just a matter of time before they got the electric semi too. As if on cue, by 2018, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, announced the electric semi which would enter limited production by 2020 end. Here are some stats:

  • Vehicle: Tesla Semi
  • Country: United States of America
  • Produced by / Owner: Tesla
  • Engine: 4 Independent Motors on Rear Axle
  • Power: 1,200 hp [Estimated]
  • Top Speed [2007]: 100 mph [161 kmph] [Estimated]
  • Torque / Thrust: 2,200 pound-feet [2,983 Nm] [Estimated]
  • Hauling Capacity: 40 tons [Max permissible limit on US highways]
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph] <without load>: 5 seconds
  • 0-60 mph [0-100 kmph] <with full 40-ton load>: 20 seconds

The Tesla boasts of a drag coefficient of 0.36, which is better than the Bugatti Chiron’s 0.38. This means that the truck could move effortlessly with least possible air resistance. All these points add to the long hauling capability without charge, and Tesla semi has a range of 500 miles.

Though the Tesla is not a top speed challenger like the other semis on this list, it is definitely one to challenge the acceleration of the other trucks when loaded. While it is difficult to establish the acceleration of the semis, there are some videos which could give us some indication.

Take a look at this video.

In the video, you would notice that the semi takes a right turn at the 6-second mark, while the car with the camera turns by the 10-second mark. In the four seconds, the loaded semi has already gone beyond the ramp. How fast do you think that acceleration was? Cool, ain’t it?

Anyway, so that’s it. That completes our list of fastest semis in the world!

Back to the Garage

I am sure readers would have found it interesting that semis could do the kind of speed that we discussed in this article. But that’s what they can do. In all the semis, the Volvo makes are the most impressive to know. Why? Because not only do they make innovative machinery but also find creative ways of introducing them to the world.

Take a look at one of the gems involving Van Damme.

See that? And there are many more videos of Volvo advertising their innovative products. Anyway, all of these trucks will soon have competition from their electric peers. Tesla is one of them and we can expect many more.

For the moment, these are the fastest semis in the world!!

Which Semi Impressed You the Most?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Savio Koman

    Comments

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      • Savio Dawson profile imageAUTHOR

        Savio Koman 

        13 days ago from Mumbai, India

        Viking is a good choice. I like anything that is Volvo when it comes to semis and buses. On second thoughts, I wouldnt mind the Iron Knight either.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        13 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Got back to it. I am definitely choosing the Viking. How cool is that?! Yes a Peterbilt, 359, 18 wheels and 18 on the floor. What a blast.

      • Savio Dawson profile imageAUTHOR

        Savio Koman 

        2 weeks ago from Mumbai, India

        Hello Eric,

        You drove a semi? Wow, that would have been a cool experience!

        Yeah, my articles are a tad bit longer because they have to cover quite a lot of details. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I really like this but too long just to pick up and the quick. I drove a semi for a bit. COOL! piece.

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