Big rigs, dry van trailers, and other types of large trucks carry a lot of weight around the country. Flatbed trailers alone can hold up to 48,000 pounds of cargo. However, every vehicle must pay attention to its payload capacity or it could result in problems down the line.
The truck could break down if it carries too much weight or tip over. Tire life will decrease if they’re overburdened. You may also end up causing damage to the items you’re transporting.
Here are five things you need to know about payload capacity and why it matters.
1. What is Payload Capacity?
Most people think vehicles are built to carry a lot of weight. However, they’re actually created to withstand a specific kind of weight.
For example, the average car for normal transportation can hold about 850 pounds. The manufacturers assume that will be the average weight of five average-sized passengers. Loading more than that amount of weight can lead to wear and tear.
Meanwhile, a container truck can carry anywhere from 10,000 to 44,000 pounds. There are also federal limits on how much a vehicle using the Interstate System can weigh overall.
Your vehicle’s payload capacity is the amount it can carry before running into problems. In many cases, carrying weight in the bed of a truck is considered hauling. Carrying weight in a trailer is considered towing.
Drivers can assume that their car or sedan has a carry weight limit of roughly 500 pounds. In order to find out how much your truck can carry, you’ll need to do some calculations.
2. How to Calculate Payload Capacity
Your vehicle’s payload is how much weight it can safely carry, including the fuel it uses, the people sitting inside of it, and anything else in the cab or bed. To calculate this capacity, you need to know its GVWR.
GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating, is the maximum amount of weight your truck can handle. This number includes both your payload capacity as well as your vehicle’s curb weight.
The payload capacity is the number you want to find. The curb weight is how much the vehicle weighs before it carries anything extra. This number includes the weight of the fuel in your gas tank and any necessary equipment, such as a spare tire.
You’ll want to take the GVWR and subtract the curb weight from it to calculate your payload capacity. Some newer trucks also have automatic sensors that can do the math for you, which helps if the amount of equipment or passengers you carry changes often.
3. Payload Capacity vs Towing Capacity
Another thing to keep in mind is that payload capacity and towing capacity are different. They’re easily confused with one another, as both involve how much weight your vehicle can transport. However, that number changes depending on how exactly your truck carries the weight.
Payload capacity is used in reference to weight sitting directly on top of your vehicle’s frame. Towing capacity refers specifically to the weight sitting in a trailer or something attached to your hitch. One accounts for weight carried, while the other accounts for weight pulled.
The capacity for towing is higher than payload capacity because it’s easier on the vehicle. It’s the same reason you can pull weight behind you easier than it would be to hold it upright in your arms.
Additionally, towing capacity is calculated using your GCVWR, or gross combined vehicle weight rating. The GCVWR is the maximum weight of your truck plus how much it can tow.
4. What Happens When You Exceed It
Exceeding your vehicle’s payload capacity doesn’t always mean that it’s going to break down on the road or fail to move. However, it will lead to extensive damage to your tires, suspension, brakes, and more. In a worst-case scenario, it could also lead to physical harm on your part.
Every component of your vehicle is designed around its intended weight rating. Going past that rating can make your vehicle more difficult to control. Your brakes and transmission may overheat and fail on you.
In addition, your car insurance may not pay for any damages sustained from exceeding your payload capacity. This also goes for any accidents caused by an unstable vehicle resulting from a heavy load.
Another factor to consider is that heavier loads equal more gas consumption. If you want to save gas while driving, lightening your load will help.
5. Getting the Most Out of Your Capacity
In order to get the most out of your payload capacity, you’ll first need to break down everything affecting your vehicle’s weight.
First, limit how much additional equipment you load up on your vehicle. See if you can have another driver take on some extra weight if they’re carrying or towing a lighter load.
You can also switch your tires to a smaller diameter option to lower your weight. Remove any bumpers, winches, or hitches if you’re not using them.
Most importantly, never exceed your payload capacity. Even if you think you’re fine to inch closer to the maximum weight, always try to leave some space. The more weight your truck carries, the more likely you’ll get into a rollover accident or strain your vehicle.
Follow your loading guidelines and you won’t have to replace your damaged tires sooner rather than later.
Take Some Weight Off of Your Tires
Payload capacity is one of the most important metrics to keep track of when operating any kind of vehicle. Exceeding that capacity can put immense strain on your trucks and their tires. Even hauling heavy loads under that capacity will lead to some level of wear and tear.
If you’ve noticed that your tires need more attention than normal, try out Treads. We’re a monthly subscription designed for servicing your tires. Our plans range from affordable options for civilian drivers to more extensive plans for professionals.
Contact us to learn more about our services and subscription plans.