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Old 07-11-2008, 11:11 PM   #1
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Towing numbers...not always what they seem

I noticed the following paragraph in Wikipedia. I've always suspected these trucks are rated at a fraction of their design capacity. The lawyers and marketing seem to have more to say about stated towing capacities than the engineers

"Ford states a properly equipped 2007 F-150 (Long Wheel Base, 2WD model only) can now tow up to 11,000 lb (5,000 kg) maximum and 1800-3050 lb maximum payload, though Ford has not indicated any design changes occurred to support the upgraded towing capacity numbers from the previous model years. The original tow rating of 9,900 lb (4,500 kg) was raised to 10,500 lb (4,800 kg) upon announcement of the new 2007 Chevrolet Silverado's 10,500 lb (4,800 kg) maximum towing capacity. Ford again raised the F-150's maximum towing capacity number to 11,000 lb (5,000 kg) upon announcement of the new 2007 Toyota Tundra's 10,800 lb (4,900 kg) maximum towing capacity. The 2004-2008 F-150 model years are mechanically identical, and no technical explanation has been offered by Ford regarding the increase in tow ratings."
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Old 07-11-2008, 11:54 PM   #2
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wayward, keep in mind wiki entries are not always accurate or reviewed for accuracy.

who or what wrote that paragraph?

what are the linked references?

and so on.

my understanding is there were changes in the 07-08 model.

and the only version in the 150 line up rated at the highest value does have differences from the other 150s...

although i agree the numbers aren't always as they seem, take the 'yota rating for example...

the hitch weight that would normally go along with 10,800 lbs would exceed or fully max out the payload rating...

still it would be interesting to read exactly how the ratings and capacities are established...


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Old 07-12-2008, 07:02 AM   #3
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good points 2air. So I compared the 2006 specs with the 2007 specs. Everything appears the same between the two model years same except in 2007 they added an option for a 4:10 rear axle ratio. The 4:10 gearing option would explain 1300lb bump in towing capacity.

- 9800lb towing capacity with 3.73 gears. 11,000lb towing capacity with 4:10 gears
- 15,000lb GCWR with 3.73 gears, 15,300lb GCWR with 4:10 gears
- Payload capacity unchanged at 3020lb for both years and gear options

So perhaps a bit of marketing to hold back on the 4:10 gear option before '07, but bumped up based on the designed-in capacities.

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Old 07-12-2008, 08:09 AM   #4
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I strongly suspect they increased their numbers due to the fact that Toyata Tundra is rated at 11000 pounds (or somewhere in that area) now....
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Old 07-12-2008, 09:23 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman View Post
the hitch weight that would normally go along with 10,800 lbs would exceed or fully max out the payload rating...
I agree 100%. All of which means they can tow with it but in practical terms we can't. They might as well come right and give the tow capacity as 20,000 pounds. Maybe towing at these weights will wear out trucks so fast that they'll start selling again.
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Old 07-12-2008, 11:09 AM   #6
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This is a touchy subject - one recent thread was closed because the mod didn't like the content in discussing such things and the manner by which some dealt with things they didn't know.

One of the first things to note is that the numbers are ratings and not capacities. Another is that you do not know the criteria by which they were established nor the assumptions involved (and, as we see in evidence here, sometimes even direct experience with these matters is challenged and disputed).

One result of these unknowns is that conclusions about them in these discussions often involve emotions and that leads to some rather interesting rationalizations and creativity in inventing modes of failure - or even downright denial in rational dealing with what the ratings mean.

For a thought experiment, consider the shock loads when you hit a pothole at speed. How is a rating to accommodate this? What size shock is within reason for a rating and what is not?

Then there are the catastrophic failure modes. What kind of load will it take to break something? What goes first and how? What are the failure mechanisms?

The last two facets to consider are those of handling and performance. I think if you run through the suggested thought experiment and consideration of failure modes, you'll conclude that these two facets are likely to be paramount and that supports the marketing and legal assertions.

Performance often involves the simple matter of dealing with inertia and wind resistance. The main factors here are horsepower, torque, and gears.

Handling is more complex and gets into center of gravity and other weight distribution issues, suspension matters, tire construction, hitches and rigging, and driver preferences.

It is also worth taking note that there are many examples of weight rating abuse at any level from mild to severe that have not resulted in any dire consequence. My rig, for example, is suggested by Airstream yet runs in excess of GAWR on the tow vehicle.

I would also suggest having a bit of faith in your fellows - no matter how hard that is, sometimes. Sometimes they may do things you think stupid or unwise but the facts show that they do get by with only rare exceptions. People try things and find out quite quickly if they don't work. Most RVers have been through the young adult stage typified by the college kid moving all his worldly possessions in an overloaded sub compact or some such. They have to maturity and experience to make good decisions about weight ratings and have the confidence to do what is needed for their needs.
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Old 07-13-2008, 07:24 AM   #7
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The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is working on a set of towing specifications that were supposed to be in place for the 2009 model year. It'll be interesting to see which company's advertising consists of blowing smoke or being conservative in their ratings when they finally do come about. It will also be interesting to see if Consumer's Union sets up some towing parameters for the truck tests.
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Old 08-06-2008, 11:46 AM   #8
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I imagine tow rating numbers are established by engineers concerned about safety, attorneys concerned about liability and marketing people concerned about sales. I think of a GCWR as the maximum combined weight of a fully loaded tow vehicle and a fully loaded trailer under normal operating conditions. I think many people feel more comfortable staying below the GCWR because 1) they feel safer; 2) they probably are safer in abnormal operating conditions.

The challenge is that there are numerous variables that go well beyond a simple numercial rating for a tow capacity. Every trailer handles differently. Every tow vehicle has its own operating characteristics. People driving the legal speed limit in a perfectly legal vehicle can have a fatal accident. People driving recklessly can "dance between the rain drops." I believe everyone has a legal obligation to operate a motor vehicle within the law... and that includes loading that complies with the published GCWR. I imagine that if an accident happened and a vehicle/trailer were over the GCWR, the driver would face some unpleasant surprises insofar as legal liability and the responsibility of his/her insurance carrier.

As with any rating, a number will never be an adequate substitute for experience or good judgment. There are situations where even a very competent driver towing a legal load would be well advised to take a nap rather than pull.
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Old 08-06-2008, 12:07 PM   #9
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Scientifically based towing, and , the more important weight specifications, are sorely needed.
Nothing is worse than some yahoo's personal testimonial about how much over the manufacturers specs he comfortably hauls.
Next, I'd like the SAE to throw some of these tow combinations into real life driving crisis situations and rate survivability.
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Old 08-06-2008, 12:17 PM   #10
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I believe everyone has a legal obligation to operate a motor vehicle within the law... and that includes loading that complies with the published GCWR.
The problem is that, as far as I have been able to determine, "the law" does not require this. I don't think it a good idea to be putting more into laws than really exist.

Imagination about what might happen is never as good as experience related to what actually has happened. I have yet to find any case of "unpleasant surprises" or "legal liability" for an RV being "over the GVWR" that will stand even a cursory scrutiny.

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As with any rating, a number will never be an adequate substitute for experience or good judgment.
A basis in reality, not imagination, is needed for that judgment and experience to be effective and useful IMHO.

The advocacy is not for folks to overload their RV's but rather to use solid knowledge, a good understanding of phenomena, and proper driving for conditions and equipment. The advocacy is for an emphasis on what we can measure and what really exists over what we imagine might be; for letting rational thinking and reality take precedence over emotions in making decisions about our rigs and driving.

Now this makes me think of the tensions in Star Trek with Mr. Spock, Capt Kirk, and the rest ...
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Old 08-06-2008, 01:25 PM   #11
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I don't want to quibble, Bryan, or have a discussion that results in a moderator finding our conversation less than congenial. I just want to amplify my points without seeming disagreeable.

Let's start with the law. In Maryland, it is the Annotated Code. In particular, the section on vehicle registration (24-101) states, "A person may not drive on any publicly maintained highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross weight that exceeds: (1) The maximum registered weight limit for which the vehicle."

I checked my vehicle registration which has a GWR but not a GCWR. As I read the statute, if I violate the GWR, I am breaking the law.

In my "day job," I work with local law enforcement. Our municipality, like most in the Old Line State, gives broad authority to police officers when it comes to unsafe vehicles. It's generally a judgment call and in my experience, local judges defer to law enforcement on these sorts of calls.

As for legal liability, I called an attorney who is also a good friend. His considered advice is to avoid any situation where one's operation of a motor vehicle and/or trailer might be deemed by police (or a jury) as "unsafe." If you would like, I can dig around to find some cases where violations of GWR or GCWR have been a factor... but I would rather not risk it myself. I do, however, put some stock in the advice of a practicing attorney.

As for unpleasant surprises, I believe if you read the owners manual or warranty information for most RVs, you will find language stating that if you exceed the GAWR, GVWR or GCWR, your warranty may be void. As a general rule, I consider anytime I find out my warranty is not in effect when I think it ought to be an "unpleasant surprise." By the way, exceeding the weight ratings can void the warranty for the vehicle as well as the trailer. As for insurance carriers, I can call my insurance company. Based on what I have read in other policies, I believe that violating the manufacturer's recommendations for weight allows an insurance company to void the contract and not pay a claim.
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Old 08-06-2008, 02:25 PM   #12
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re "I don't want to quibble" - me neither, but that is where it often goes. If it isn't quibbling then there should be all sorts of cases, crash statistics, traffic citations, and other such things to show. But, as even you note, you'd have to look hard, depend upon unqualified opinion, or look at only a section of the lawbook without reference to context or the particular nature of definitions of terms in statutes.

Speculation and imagination and quibbles still should not take away from the big picture and actual real world experience. Keep in mind that insurance covers for the misdeeds of drunk drivers. You are not likely to find policies (I haven't seen any) that have exceptions citing RV weight ratings. RV's are not required to be weighed on the roads nor are they stopped by law enforcement to be weighed as a routine thing. You'll have to look long and hard to find exceeding a GVWR or even a GAWR to be cited as a factor in any RV crash statistics (I use the NV crash reports as an example).

Rather than just "believe" I suggest read your policy. Carefully. It is a good idea to know your insurance coverage and its limitations. Ditto for warranty policies. If you are still worried about things not said and your agent doesn't explain things sensibly, then consult with a lawyer who has the proper expertise on a particular question where you have paid for the opinion.

This topic also could lead towards the recent problems some manufacturer's have had with negative CCC numbers, load distribution problems, and other hassles that probably stimulated the SAE effort mentioned above.

Note that I am in the context of non commercial RV's, especially travel trailers, with an abuse of weight ratings such as might be found commonly on the roads - say 10% or less. I am also thinking mostly of GCWR with GVWR and GAWR sometimes but tire and wheel ratings seldom.

My feeling is that we do need less "belief", "imagination", anecdote, quibble, and fear mongering and more about just what weight ratings mean, how they are formed, what they tell us, and what we can do to compensate under various conditions.
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Old 08-06-2008, 03:52 PM   #13
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I want to agree with you, Bryan, but you seem to be moving the bar. You say you are not aware of any laws. I cite a law. You then claim there should be "all sorts of cases, crash statistics, traffic citations." That is a rather obtuse response. The number of citations has nothing to do with whether or not a given action is legal. I think a perfectly rationale explanation is 1) violations are rare; 2) violations are difficult to detect (as compared to speeding, drunk driving); 3) weight violations are not a high priority for law enforcement. My point was (and is) that people should obey the law even if they can violate weight limits with impunity. I stop at stop signs... even in the middle of nowhere.

I agree that a good thing for everyone, including the motoring public, would be better science and engineering on towing. Unfortunately, better information is unlikely to change human behavior. We put warning labels on cigarettes and people still smoke. There are seat belts in every automobile and people still don't buckle up... even though it is statistically proven that wearing a seat belts increases your odds of survival in a crash. This is why we have "click it or ticket" laws in many states. I expect that if there were an increase in fatalities related to RVs, there would be a legislative push to enact laws more closely regulating RVs. For better or worse, however, I don't think there is a public perception that RVs (towed or driven) are unduly unsafe.

Returning to the point, I don't see where a cordial discussion on towing capacity has anything to do with "fear mongering." I consider the advice of my attorney "qualified," particularly since he is the one who would defend me in a trial or in a dispute over a warranty or an insurance claim. Warranties and insurance policies are not matters of physics. They are legal contracts, the enforcement of which is a very messy and unscientific business. I agree with you that everyone should read a contract carefully. I also know, through years of experience, that a contract saying "2+2=4" is subject to dispute.

People who don't work with the law (or write it), often think of it as black and white. The law, as I am fond of saying, whatever the judge wants it to be on any given day. I've been in court many times, though entirely for business, not personal matters. Having seen what I have, it is my inclination to put myself in the most defensible position possible... and this includes abidding by the manufacturer's recommendations and legal limits on towing capacity.

In the absence of the science you advocate, Bryan, I think it only reasonable to encourage more prudence, caution and diligence.
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:31 PM   #14
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I did not get a chance to read all the postings, but saying a 04 mdel and a 08 model are identical is a huge error. Take some time and go to a dealer showroom and you will see what they have done over the past 3-5 years to suspension, cooling, frames, braking, and much more. Add that to the 5.4 modifications and it is truly a different truck indeed. When I leased our 08 in october, the commercial leasing rep felt the line are getting blurred with repsect to 150 and 250 series regarding towing and gas engines.

That being said, the pressure is on from the toyotas and nissans, so they have no choice but to improve, or die.
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:48 PM   #15
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I want to agree with you, Bryan, but you seem to be moving the bar. You say you are not aware of any laws. I cite a law
Sorry. My intent was to avoid unnecessary conflict and quibbling. To me, bringing in one section of a law without any context and without the definitions of terms that go with it does not "cite" a law. You should see how Nevada defines vehicle "gross weight" in statutes for example. But I'll take the absolute I used as an error on my part and change it to a generality based on your assertion. The lesson for me is that you gotta' be really really careful in threads like this about how you spout generalities as it can get worse than a lawyer picking apart a contract if somebody doesn't like it.

The citation of statute and case law in discussions like this is problematic. In order to interpret them properly takes a significant amount of care. I find that even the LEO giving me a traffic citation and the assistant DA prosecuting the ticket are not often aware of what the law actually says. Like everyone else, they see what they want to and not much more if they can help it.

As noted, the law can be "whatever the judge wants it to be on any given day" which is why case law and enforcement behavior are indeed relevant as they help define the importance of what is in the statutes relative to everything else of concern.

re " I don't see where a cordial discussion on towing capacity has anything to do with "fear mongering."" - My point is that we should stick to facts and reality on issues like this and avoid beliefs and imaginings. That is why I listed a number of common facts that I think illustrate the normal circumstances as a contrast to 'what if' or 'what might be' or the attempt to use a single data point to refute a generality.

I agree that insurance policies and warranties are contracts. That is why they should be read carefully. I agree that we live in a litigious society which is why it is ever more important to pay attention to the words in contracts and agreements. Where the messy part comes in is when someone tries to assert that something is written when it really isn't, when they believe something that isn't really so. The legal process, thankfully, does tend to go by the words written down most of the time.

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I think it only reasonable to encourage more prudence, caution and diligence
I mean, how can anyone disagree with this?

The fact of the matter, though, is that you take a risk in everything you do. You balance the risk with the benefits and make a decision. The choice to drive an RV is often more expensive and much more of a safety risk than taking an airplane flight, for instance. But we do it anyway. The evidence points towards the fact that exceeding a GCWR or even a GVWR is usually a negligible risk for the typical RVer.

IMHO, we shouldn't be making a mountain out of a molehill but rather keep our attention on issues that do involve significant risk. As the title of the thread indicates, towing numbers are not always what they seem. We shouldn't put too much weight in them at the expense of issues that will have more impact on how we can enjoy our RV safely. Your best defensible position is to take care of the most important factors first and not let the little stuff hobble you.
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Old 08-06-2008, 09:56 PM   #16
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With all due respect, Bryan, you seem to be moving around again. I could quote the entire Transportation Article of Annotated Code of Maryland. The simple fact is that it is a violation of the law to exceed the GWR printed on a vehicle's registration. The reality is that this law is rarely (if ever) enforced with respect to noncommercial vehicles. As Vonnegut would say, "So it goes."

In real life, I am a city administrator. Part of my work is writing (and enforcing) local laws. Like every jurisdiction, we have laws on the books that are rarely (if ever) enforced. A law that is only enforced once a decade is no more or less binding than a law that is enforced once a day. Trust me on this.

You assert that "exceeding a GCWR or even a GVWR is usually a negligible risk for the typical RVer." What you use as evidence is actually a lack of information, e.g. an alleged lack of accidents, an alleged lack of legal cases, an alleged lack of citations, etc. This feels rather thin to me, a bit like "I couldn't find any information that suggests overloading is a problem, ergo it must not be a problem."

Maybe; maybe not. So where doth responsibility lie? We all take risks, but how and where we take them matters. Race a vintage sports car around a private track and I think you should have fun. Race a vintage sports car on a public road and I think you should be arrested. I trust the difference is obvious.

You see, Bryan, I'm not recommending caution simply because there is a lack of really good information on towing capacities. I'm suggesting caution because driving an overloaded vehicle or pulling an overloaded trailer on a public road means an RVer is so confident that the risk is negligible he is willing to bet not only his life on it, but mine as well.

By the way, I think this is my last post in this thread. I love the Airstream forums and this is beginning to feel a bit like quibbling. I don't want to get in hot water with the moderators or develop a reputuation as cranky fellow. You are welcome to respond however you wish... I simply hope this exchange has given you an understanding of an alternative perspective. I wish you well.
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Old 08-07-2008, 09:27 AM   #17
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I think a QED for my first post in this thread is in order. I give a point despite reservations and it was still not enough. The words of contracts are not enough. The enforcement on the highways is not enough. The complete lack of any evidence for the concerns is not enough. Begging for a proper perspective is not enough. No, there is an obsessive fear about something that seldom or never occurs and the argument devolves to posts that characterize the person and not the subject, appeal to authority, presume of ignorance, make negative assumptions about other RVers, and, finally, end with threats.

There is no consideration for how ratings are constructed and the precision and accuracy they may contain and how that may differ depending upon which one is being used. There is no consideration for why the numbers differ in different countries or why they change suddenly from one model year to the next. There is no consideration for what exceeding a weight rating actually does to a rig or how its effects can be ameliorated.

What is it about this topic that drives such irrational fears?
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