Terminal Tractor: East Coaster Today

It may seem strange to showcase this humble piece of machinery. If you’ve ever watched a terminal tractor zipping around the dockyard next to Point Pleasant Park at the entrance to Halifax Harbour, tugging a cargo container, you may understand our desire to salute this hard worker.



The terminal tractor is the unsung hero of the yard. The scrappy single-cab truck has many different names in the industry. Yard dog, mule, spotter truck, shunt truck and our personal favourite – yard goat.

Several manufacturers around the world specialize in this type of truck since the late 1950s. It appears they began in Finland but a large U.S. manufacturer, Kalmar, based in Ottawa, Kansas, now seems to rule the industy. Kalmar Global has even built the first ever test track for these vehicles. The spotter trucks are used primarily to shunt shipping containers around a terminal.

The terminal tractor, or spotter truck, usually has a single-person cab offset to the engine, a full-height sliding rear door so the driver can easily access the trailer connectors and a short wheelbase to give it maneuvrability in tight spaces and a super-low turning radius.



The engine is usually diesel but electric versions now exist. The cab sides and floor are made from high-strength steel to handle the abusive or dangerous environment in which it works. Since most of them aren’t registered for real-road driving, they are designed to be driven in low gear and most have a top speed of only 40 km/h.

Go, Yard Goat, go!


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