2012 PICKUP TOW RATINGS
Apr 1, 12 | by: Bruce W. Smith
Know what you can tow; SAE changes in trailering capacity testing procedures reflected in manufacturer’s max load numbers
With company owners’ growing concerns of costly liability exposure, contractors, DOT, utilities, municipalities and other trades that use pickups for towing trailers are paying much closer attention to the vehicle manufacturer’s tow ratings.
Multi-million-dollar liability lawsuits stemming from pickups not being “properly equipped” for the weight of trailer being pulled (per the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines) are a real threat to any corporate entity.
Lawyers facing your company on the other side of the litigation table don’t care what the driver’s excuse was for towing a trailer behind a pickup that wasn’t setup correctly for the trailered weight.
In a court of law, towing beyond a vehicle’s maximum trailered weight, as set by the manufacturer, is still driver negligence.
The reason is simple: The vehicle’s owner’s manual and the vehicle manufacturer’s trailering guides spell out, in detail, how a truck has to be equipped to tow loads safely.
Accordingly, both driver and the company the driver is employed by will take the blame and financial fall should someone be hurt or killed in a towing-related accident.
It’s important to understand hitches and tow ratings if you want your company to remain protected from such liability exposure.
There are two types of towing capacities listed in the owner’s manual and trailering guides: “Conventional” and 5th wheel/gooseneck.
However, in reality there are actually two towing capacities for a pickup – within the conventional towing mode: Weight-carrying and weight-distributing (or weight-equalizing).
Weight-carrying capacity refers to using the factory receiver-type hitch that comes on the truck. These are typically a 2-inch Class III/IV or 2-1/2-inch Class IV/V hitch. In jobsite parlance, this mode is “towing on-the-ball.”
Weight-distributing capacity is using the factory hitch, but replacing the standard ball/shank with a special weight-distributing hitch-head assembly. The W-D head utilizes “spring bars” to help equalize the tongue weight between tow vehicle and trailer.
Gooseneck/5th wheel hitches connect the trailer to special setups mounted in the bed that attach to the truck’s frame rails. These hitches place the tongue (pin) weight of the trailer evenly between the front and rear axles, and in doing so, provides the “maximum” towing capacity advertised by the vehicle manufacturers.
Weight-carrying limits are usually thousands of pounds less than weight-distributing capacities, which are typically several thousand pounds less than those of the gooseneck/5th wheel capacity.
For example, the weight-carrying capacity of most ½-ton pickups is limited to 5,000 pounds, while weight-distributing limits are closer to 9,000 pounds.
That weight capacity difference between weight-carrying mode and weight-distributing mode gets even wider in the heavy-duty pickups.
Towing on-the-ball with a new heavy-duty diesel pickup is limited to less than 8,500 pounds on Super Duties, 5,000 pounds on Ram HDs, and around 13,000 pounds for many GM models.