What do you need to know about safely towing with your truck or SUV? It’s not as simple as checking the marketing brochure for your pickup truck. A little more research and digging is required in order to setup your towing vehicle and trailer for safe towing. All this and much more is described in the new book that TFLtruck and MrTruck.com co-wrote, called “Truck Nuts: The Fast Lane Truck’s Guide to Pickups“. You can get the book now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound. We always appreciate your support.
5. Know the Max Weight Ratings of the Truck and Trailer
Despite having the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) which is defined by the truck’s classification (midsize, half-ton, XD, or Heavy Duty), each truck configuration has its own max towing and max payload ratings. This most importantly depends on precise curb weight of the truck. Manufacturers specify all maximum weight ratings, including each Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR), but options of each individual truck determine its curb weight. The best way to find out the curb weight is to weigh the truck (and trailer) on a certified truck scale, which can be found at interstate truck stops or agricultural centers. This determines how much payload you have available (GVWR minus the curb weight), and maximum trailer weight you can move. Every trailer has its own GVWR, and this is generally determined by the trailer axle rating. Just like it’s a bad idea to overload the truck, it’s also a bad idea to overload the trailer. Axle bearing, spindle, or tires can fail if the vehicle is overloaded.
4. Towing Laws and Regulations
Heavy duty pickup trucks are getting so capable that all one-ton (3500 or Class 3) trucks are rated at over 26,000 lbs of Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). If your truck and trailer are rated at over 26,001 lbs when you combine their capacities, then a Commercial Driving License (CDL) may be required. However, this is a complicated topic as there are exemptions for RV haulers and some regulations vary at a State level. We discuss this topic in more detail in the book, but we recommend that you check with your local Department of Transportation office for state-specific requirement. Another example is the towing speed limit. For example, California limits all vehicles with trailers to 55 MPH. Most other states do not have a special speed limit for towing.
3. Know the Max Weight Ratings for the Hitch and Ball
You have already verified the max towing, payload, and trailer capacities. There are two more numbers to check. Every hitch and hitch ball also have their maximum weight ratings. The hitch and ball manufacturer usually stamps or posts these ratings on the parts themselves. Truck’s ratings continue to go up, but what about the actual connection point – the hitch? The 2017 Ford Super Duty is rated at conventional hitch maximum towing of 21,000 lbs. However, this requires a special 3-inch shank hitch to handle the maximum weight. It’s the same case with the gooseneck and 5th-wheel towing. The gooseneck ball or the 5th-wheel attachment have their own ratings to handle their maximums. Again, the 2017 Super Duty require a 3-inch gooseneck ball to carry trailers of over 30,000 lbs.
2. Weight Distributing Hitch (WDH)
Most manufacturers recommend (and some require) the use of a WDH for trailers that weigh over 5,000 lbs. There are several WDH solutions and brands, but they are all designed to distribute the weight among all truck and trailer axles. These hitches help prevent too much squat of the truck’s rear suspension, thus keeping the truck and trailer more level. This helps ensure proper brakes and headlight operation. Some weight distributing hitches also help fight against trailer sway.
1. Which Truck: Midsize, Half-ton, or Heavy Duty?
Which class of truck should I get to tow my trailer? This is not as easy as checking the max towing and payload ratings. The main goal for a great towing vehicle is confidence and stability when hitched up a trailer. You can start with a trailer and match the truck to it, or vise versa. However, consider the weight, length, and size of your trailer first. Although, the latest midsize pickup trucks are capable of higher towing capacities, the length and width of the trailer may require a larger pickup truck. In a case of a 25-foot Airstream trailer, which is 8.5 feet wide, a narrow and short midsize truck is not the best choice. You need to be able to see around the trailer and to have enough wheelbase and truck weight to handle strong cross winds on the highway and stay safe.