"I have a 41 foot 5th wheel being pulled with a three-quarter-ton diesel and have no problems so far. Love it."
Statements similar to the one above occur every day on various social media forums. Unfortunately, these statements are not helpful and could very well lead someone to purchase a trailer much too big for their tow vehicle. I know this first hand because I learned this costly lesson in 2009.
For individuals sharing those statements, there is no doubt that their three-quarter ton truck can tow a large trailer like that "just fine" or with "no problem.” Although the truck may appear to be towing it with "no problem," only time will tell if that remains true. I certainly didn’t have any problem towing my new Heartland Cyclone with my new 2008 three-quarter-ton Ram truck. (pictured above)
When it comes to comparing the engine and transmission between most three-quarter ton and one-ton diesel trucks, there's very little to no difference. The common differences are most likely the axles, springs, tires, rims, and gear ratio. Sometimes, the brakes could be different, but it appears to be a rare occurrence for late model trucks.
Occasionally, on various social media forums, someone will ask if his or her engine of a particular size is strong enough to tow a certain large travel trailer. Unfortunately, this is not the best question to be asking.
The reality is, just about any size vehicle with an adapted towing apparatus connecting to a large and heavy object on wheels will be able to tow it. Heck, my wife and I watched an old F150 flatbed truck tow my 17,800-pound trailer up a steep slope at the 49er RV Ranch in Columbia, CA, and then backed it into an RV space that was also on a short rise. Because of the space restrictions, I could not have accomplished that with my dually without causing damage to my truck and trailer.
For example, a Toyota Tundra towed the Space Shuttle... (Contrary to some skeptics, the Shuttle trailer was not powered during the tow.)
And this VW Touareg towed a 747 jumbo jet.
Therefore, as you see with the two vehicles above, towing any large and oversize vehicle is never the problem.
Simply, the answer may be an individual's lack of concern for towing safety and vehicle longevity.
Anytime that a vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or the gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is exceeded, there are safety concerns, and over time, excessive wear will contribute to premature failure of vehicle components. Some vehicle manufacturers state that the warranty may be invalidated if the weight safety ratings are exceeded. Driving an overweight rig may develop into costly liability issues if involved in a serious accident involving other property or people.
GVWR is primarily specified by the weakest link in the load bearing components such as the frame, axle assemblies, springs, tires, rims, and brakes. I have studied the vehicle safety pages at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) website. It is clear that NHTSA is very concerned about braking capacity. NHTSA requires that all fully loaded vehicles will safely stop. The brakes must stop the vehicle within a specified distance when the vehicle is at the maximum GVWR. Exceeding the GVWR can result in failure to stop within a safe distance resulting in serious injury or death.
The trailer's braking capacity is never included in the tow vehicle's GVWR or GCWR. Trailer brakes are only required to stop the trailer at its GVWR, not the towing combination. Therefore, if the trailer's kingpin or tongue weight causes the tow vehicle's GVWR to be exceeded, there is a potential braking hazard. When both vehicles are under the GVWR, they should stop at the normal distance with the combined brakes.
There are many people who think that since most late model three-quarter ton and one-ton trucks have the same brake assemblies installed, the braking ability may not be an issue with a three-quarter ton. In this article, 2010 HD Brake Tests, it was proven that six tires on the ground will stop sooner than four tires on the ground. (One ton of cargo weight was carried in truck beds for the laden tests.)
Another important factor that many people overlook is the tires. Most three-quarter ton and one-ton trucks tires are load range E and the load limit is 3,085 pounds each for single rear wheel configuration, giving a total rear axle capacity of only 6,170 pounds. The dry pin weight of several fifth wheel trailers plus the truck rear axle weight will exceed the tire ratings driving off the dealer's lot. One thing I learned from a 40-year experienced tire engineer is that once a tire is used while overloaded or under inflated, damage to the tire has begun. The damaged tire’s process to failure does not stop after the overload or under-inflation is eliminated. Over a period of time, the damage will grow, and the tire may fail prematurely.
The GCWR is assigned by manufacturers and includes the powertrain's capabilities such as the engine, transmission, driveshaft, axle assembly, and the gear ratio. Any of the powertrain's components, or combinations thereof, may create the weakest link in the powertrain.
Mechanically, the differential gear ratio is not necessarily a weak link, but rather a ratio of power reduction or increase to the wheels depending on the ratio. When considering same brand trucks having the same engine and transmission combination, a differential ratio such as 3.42:1 will cause the engine and transmission to work harder than if the ratio was 4.10:1 with the same amount of weight hauled or towed. The tow vehicle will still move the weight regardless of the differential gear ratio. However, a lower transmission gear may have to be used to move the weight with a lower gear ratio, therefore increasing engine RPM, and fuel cost and may increase additional stress on the engine and/or transmission, therefore increasing the risk of premature wear and breakdowns.
When viewing some tow rating charts, you may note that identical vehicles with the only mechanical difference being the gear ratio will have different GCWRs and maximum trailer weight ratings (TWR). The Ram trailer towing charts provide a good example of this.
The important thing to remember when someone states that his or her truck tows it just fine with no problems is to be cautious of that statement. Just because someone is towing it, that is no proof that the tow vehicle is not exceeding weight safety ratings, nor does it prove another family of different size can do the same. Just like a finger print is different for every person, not all towing situations are the same for every individual or family.
A good example would be if two families purchased identical tow vehicles. Family A consists of two adults only, while family B consists of two adults, three children ages 8 to 16 and one German Shepherd. Obviously, the total weight of Family B's truck will weigh significantly more. The heavier weight of Family B's truck decreases the available payload, therefore reduces the amount left for tongue or pin weight. Total gross vehicle weight (GVW) directly affects the towing capacity. Every auto manufacturer warns owners to subtract the additional vehicle weight above the curb weight from the published max trailer weight ratings.
If a person could transfer as much weight from the tow vehicle to the conventional trailer without exceeding its GVWR; the towing capacity will improve. If Family A were able to move 120 pounds to the trailer, that would allow them to tow the max capacity of 12,000 pounds. If Family B were able to move 200 pounds to the trailer, that would give them an extra 1,667 pounds of towing capacity.
To calculate what a tow vehicle can realistically tow, all the right questions must be asked and answered.
Fortunately, there is a tool available to help everyone purchasing a new tow vehicle or trailer that will ensure his or her towing combination will be matched safely by assisting buyers or owners from exceeding the weight safety ratings. That tool is the RV Tow Check app, and it is accessible at RVtowCheck.com or from the menu above.
Do you currently own a three-quarter ton truck and are you towing a fifth-wheel trailer that has a GVWR more than 10,000 pounds? If you do, and you have not done so, I strongly encourage you to weigh your rig. There is a simplified, easy to follow, four-step weight safety plan available above at the menu button. It appears that the primary issue that reduces the realistic vehicle towing capacity for three-quarter ton trucks is the gear ratio, springs, and tires.
Additionally, for those who currently own a three-quarter-ton vehicle and desire to tow heavier trailers may consider this, the Automated Safety Hitch System.
The statistics provided by the RV Safety and Education Foundation (http://rvsafety.com) states that 60% of all tow vehicles exceed at least one weight safety rating. Only you can ensure you are not one of the owners of an overloaded rig. If you find that you are, consider the options on how to eliminate the overloaded condition.
Three months after I purchased my new trailer, I traded in my Ram 2500 for a new Ram one-ton dually. That cost me an extra $15,000 I had not planned on. I became well aware of the potential unsafe towing conditions after I weighed my rig and crunched the numbers. The hard realities grew as I discovered that by the time I loaded my toy hauler for full-time traveling, the 2500's weight safety ratings would be exceeded by a significant margin.
If you have any concern about towing safely, one of the best actions you can perform is weighing your rig to ensure you are not exceeding the weight safety ratings. The 4-Step Weight Safety Plan located in the menu above will walk you through the process. Moreover, if it has been more than a year since you last weighed, or if you added some new stuff without getting rid of old stuff, it is time to weigh again. I do not know about you, but I am married to a Tacy (Lucille Ball) clone in the movie, The Long, Long Trailer.
Author: David W. Gray
Date Published: July 14, 2016
Categories: Recreational Vehicle, RV Safety, Vehicle Towing Capacity
To learn more about what makes up the powertrain, read this article: A Lesson on Gross Combination Weight Rating.
Note: Fifth Wheel Street., nor any associated entities, nor its founder have any vested interest in the Automated Safety Hitch, Inc.
Do you want to get the quick run down on the 2017 trucks? Visit the following three pages.
Half-ton Truck Realistic Towing Capacity
Three-quarter Ton Truck Realistic Towing Capacity
One Ton Truck Realistic Towing Capacity