Yard spotters are quickly revolutionizing the trucking industry. These vehicles are powerhouses, delivering unparalleled performance, efficiency and safety that standard semi-trucks can’t match. Unsurprisingly, industry experts project the terminal tractor market will reach more than $1.04 billion by 2030, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 4.23%.

But what does a yard spotter do, and why has this equipment become a staple in the trucking and heavy equipment industry? We compiled this complete guide to yard spotters to answer these questions. Learn all you need to know about yard trucks, then browse Gregory Poole’s selection to experience these benefits for yourself!

What Is a Yard Spotter?

Yard spotters — aka terminal tractors, yard trucks, yard jockeys or spotter trucks — are semi-tractors designed to move full or empty cargo containers and trailers. Imagine a switcher locomotive positioning and moving cars around a rail yard.

These vehicles use a fifth hydraulic lifting wheel. This feature lets the operator move, lower and position the trailer without leaving the cab or activating the landing gear.

Typically, a yard spotter can move three units in the same time it takes a conventional tractor to move one. Just like standard tractors, terminal tractors rely on various moving parts for smooth operation, including the engine, transmission and axle.

“Yard spotter” also refers to a profession in the trucking industry. This team member assumes the following responsibilities:

  • Driving spotter vehicles, semi-trucks or tractor-trailers
  • Loading and unloading trailers and freight containers
  • Moving trailers to and from loading bays
  • Directing drivers in safely entering and exiting the yard
  • Keeping the rail yard free of trailers to ease traffic flow
  • Moving cargo around warehouses with a forklift
  • Performing general cleaning and maintenance duties in the rail yard or warehouse

Where Are Yard Spotters Used?

Terminal trucks are incredibly versatile and efficient, so you can find yard spotters in multiple settings, including:

  • Cargo yards
  • Farms
  • Intermodal facilities
  • Ports
  • Rail yards
  • Warehouses and distribution centers

What Are the Benefits of Yard Spotters?

A yard truck is a practical investment for anyone looking to make their operations safer, easier and more efficient. You can reap these benefits by adding a terminal tractor to your fleet.

1. Improved Productivity

Are you looking to save time and money? Investing in a yard truck is a step in the right direction. Here are some ways a yard spotter can make your workflow more efficient.

  • Ability to transport large loads: Yard trucks can move heavy loads more effectively than other vehicles — without compromising fuel savings. Many terminal tractors can haul loads of around 100,000 pounds.
  • Superior maneuverability: Unlike a standard semi-truck, a yard spotter can seamlessly maneuver and position containers in tight, compact spaces. Yard spotters have a tighter turning radius, a shorter wheelbase and a solid-mounted rear axle. This design allows it to navigate close quarters deftly, resulting in more efficient operations. These features are beneficial for managing product flow in warehouses and distribution centers.
  • Quick hooking and unhooking: A spotter truck driver can generally hook and unhook containers and trailers in under a minute. Conversely, over-the-road truckers usually take a few minutes to complete this task.
  • Enhanced visibility: The yard truck’s 360-degree view minimizes blind spots, providing optimal operator visibility.

2. Increased Safety

Between cranking the landing gear and getting in and out of the cab, it’s no wonder traditional semi-truck drivers are prone to repetitive strain injuries. Jumping out of the cab instead of climbing down compounds the likelihood of injuries.

Yard trucks improve operator safety and minimize the risk of injuries by:

  • Reducing the number of times the operator enters and exits the cab.
  • Providing advanced visibility to lower the risk of collisions.
  • Lowering and lifting the trailer — activating the hydraulic fifth wheel is as easy as pulling a lever.
  • Minimizing the repetitive motion of cranking the landing gear.

3. Cost Savings

Unlike over-the-road semi-trucks, yard spotters don’t typically venture onto open roads for long-distance drives. They’re primarily for transporting trailers around rail yards and similar environments.

Since yard trucks encounter smoother roads and less challenging driving conditions, they often have fewer maintenance and repair requirements. As a result, they can save money for your business in the long run.

4. Simplified Operation

As we mentioned, the driver doesn’t have to exit the cab to operate a yard spotter. Federal regulations don’t require operators to have a commercial driver’s license unless they drive the vehicle on a public road. Of course, many businesses expect yard spotter operators to have CDLs anyway, so it ultimately depends on the company’s policies.

Remember — yard truck drivers must meet the same criteria as over-the-road drivers on public roads. Therefore, they should receive professional training before operating yard spotters on public roadways. Businesses should consistently update their terminal tractor operators on new safety policies, as they would with their over-the-road drivers.

Regardless of on-road or private yard applications, yard spotter operators should receive additional training specifically for these vehicles. These training programs should cover:

  • Primary controls like braking, steering and transmission gear operation.
  • Secondary controls like mirrors, lights, wipers, horns, defrosters, cab-tilt systems and hydraulic fifth wheels.
  • Vehicle instruments like speedometers, odometers, fuel gauges, air pressure gauges, coolant gauges and warnings.

Find TICO Terminal Tractors at Gregory Poole

Are you thinking of investing in a yard spotter? We have an entire fleet of on- and off-road models for sale at Gregory Poole Equipment Company. We also offer rental options for short-term terminal tractor needs.

Our yard trucks come from Terminal Investment Corporation, a manufacturer known for its unmatched durability and simple maintenance. TICO’s Pro-Spotter terminal tractors can tackle even the most demanding conditions with incredible precision and performance.

Gregory Poole is a proud TICO dealer, delivering the most reliable and robust yard spotters to your fleet. TICO terminal tractors come with innovative features and technology to streamline your operations, including:

  • Detachable cabs for easy maintenance
  • Automatic open-close rear doors
  • Exterior walk surfaces with high-visual orange paint
  • High-mounted air intake systems for cleaner engines

We also carry an extensive selection of parts and accessories from leading brands like Yale and Hyster if you require replacement components. Our technicians will ensure your yard spotter is well-serviced and cared for long after your purchase.

Experience unmatched productivity, efficiency, safety and simplicity with a TICO yard spotter. Browse our line of Pro-Spotter terminal tractors and request a quote, or contact us with questions about finding the right product for your fleet!

Gregory Poole Lift Systems

2620 Discovery Drive
Raleigh, NC 27616
(919) 468-9033