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Pushback tractors use a low profile design to fit under the aircraft nose. For sufficient traction, the tractor must be heavy, and most models can have extra ballast added. A typical tractor for large aircraft weighs up to 54 t (120,000 lb) and has a drawbar pull of 334 kN (75,000 lbf).[1] Often, the driver's cabin can be raised for increased visibility when reversing, and lowered to fit under aircraft.

There are two types of pushback tractors: (a) Conventional (b) Towbarless (TBL).

Conventional tugs use tow bars to connect to the nose wheel of the aircraft. The tow bar can be connected at the front or the rear of the tractor, depending on whether the aircraft will be pushed or pulled. The towbar has a shear pin. The shear pin prevents the aircraft from being mishandled by the tug—when overstressed the shear pin will snap, disconnecting the bar from the nose gear to prevent damage to the aircraft and tug.

Towbars are used to connect the tractor to the aircraft. Towbarless tractors do not use a towbar. They scoop up the nose wheel and lift it off the ground, allowing the tug to manoeuvre the aircraft. This allows better control of the aircraft, higher speeds, without anyone in the cockpit.

The main advantage of a towbarless tug is simplicity. By eliminating the towbar, operators are alleviated from maintaining many towbars. Also, the physical action and coordination required by the tug operator to move an aircraft with a TBL tug is simpler and easier to learn than with a towbar. By connecting the tug directly to the aircraft's landing gear - instead of through a towbar - tug operators have better control and responsiveness when maneuvering. This is most advantageous in general aviation settings, where operators are often required to move more aircraft (and a wider variety of aircraft) into smaller, more confined spaces than their airline counterparts.

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