Chevy and GMC Duramax Diesel Forum banner
  • Hey Everyone! Enter your ride HERE to be a part of this months Ride of the Month Challenge!
1 - 20 of 47 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
@Melonhead1102 asked that I create a post addressing this subject, since it comes up so often.

This post addresses the legalities and physical limitations applicable to vehicle (and combination) weights. I will attempt to clarify the differences in enforcement practices between commercial and personal use vehicles with regard to vehicle weight restrictions and licensing requirements. What I will not attempt to do is address the likelihood of civil liability in any given scenario, as there’s just too much variability and too few data points from which to make inference. However, I am not aware of a single instance in which an individual was found liable specifically for exceeding vehicle capacities, and I am also not aware of any instance in which an insurance company denied liability coverage due specifically to such circumstances. We all can/will be sued for any and all reasons at any given time, so use your judgment.

Let’s establish some definitions first.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (as specified by the manufacturer on the door sticker). Legally enforceable.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating. For enforcement purposes, if this value is not listed on the vehicle’s door sticker, it is the sum of all units’ (truck and trailer(s)) GVWRs. This is regardless of what's found in the vehicle owner's manual, marketing brochure, or the manufacturer's "towing guide." Legally enforceable.

FGAWR/RGAWR: Front/Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating. GAWRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tire load ratings (x2), regardless of the axles' true physical capabilities. Legally enforceable.

TLR: Tire Load Rating (in pounds, not the load range or number of plies). Note that this number is for a fully inflated (at rest) tire; some tire manufacturers may provide tables associating tire capacities with a range of inflation pressures. Legally enforceable.

WLR: Wheel Load Rating (in pounds). Enforceability is debatable but in practice probably impossible due to the number not being visible anywhere. Note that WLRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tires, regardless of the wheels' true physical capacities.

Payload: A manufacturer’s recommendation for single-unit vehicle loading, predicated on the weight being distributed optimally. Definitions may vary from one manufacturer to another. NOT legally enforceable.

Towing Capacity: Legacy towing capacities were determined somewhat arbitrarily by manufacturers; modern ones are determined by SAE J2807. NOT legally enforceable.

CDL-A/B: Class A/B Commercial Driver’s License.

CMV: Commercial Motor Vehicle.

TT: (bumper pull) Travel Trailer.

FW: Fifth Wheel.

GN: Gooseneck.

ITG: Internet Towing Grandpa. You know, the ones who say things like, "You're 10 pounds over your towing capacity? Well I'm going to call my attorney and we're going to follow you around until you screw up, and then we'll sue you for every dime you've ever made and/or lost. Don't you care about your family's safety?" Meanwhile, they're over their TLRs, WLRs, and GAWRs as they lecture everyone about subtracting pin weights from payloads and all other sorts of total towing nonsense. If you take these clowns' logic to its rational conclusions we'd all wind up buying Kenworths to pull jet ski trailers.

And now, to get on with it:

Licensing requirements for CMVs are pretty consistent across jurisdictions. However, the definition of a “commercial vehicle” is somewhat nebulous and beyond the scope of this post. The FMCSA website has definitions and numerous examples of vehicles that may be considered CMVs (or not) depending on the particular use case. The only definitive statement I will make on this is that a vehicle/combination being used solely for recreational purposes (i.e. not hauling vehicles/equipment to be used in a competition for which large monetary prizes are awarded, or any other quasi-commercial activity) is not a CMV. This includes any and all personal-use vehicles pulling campers (regardless of the hitch type -- TT, FW, GN, etc.) as well as motorhomes. It is important to note that, generally speaking, only CMV operators are subject to CDL licensing requirements. The implication is that two identical vehicles, one being used commercially and the other recreationally, will have different licensing requirements. Whether this is a feature or a bug is debatable, but it is a fact regardless.

It is important to understand that while personal-use vehicles do not require CDLs for operation, their weight ratings are technically still enforceable (GVWR/GCWR, GAWRs, and TLRs). However, they are not required to stop at weigh stations, and the likelihood of weight rating enforcement for personal-use vehicles is extremely small. For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate from my definitions above that there is no legal concept of payload or towing capacity and hence there are no government entities who enforce adherence to these numbers. Generally speaking, if the actual number is not clearly visible on a door sticker, tire, or registration document, it can’t/won’t be enforced.

Manufacturers will typically cap the RGAWR at the sum of the OEM rear tires’ load capacities. The result is that some trucks’ axles actually have physical capacities far greater than what’s specified on the door sticker. An example is the 2017-2019 HD SRW pickups which have the same rear axle as the DRW but a much lower RGAWR. Nevertheless, legally speaking, these vehicles are still bound by the door sticker RGAWR even if the truck is equipped with heavier-duty wheels and tires. In this scenario it seems that the laws of physics may be more permissive than the laws of man, but you ignore the laws of man at your own legal risk. Make sure you consider the likelihood and consequences of enforcement (i.e. CMV versus personal use) before doing so.

There is no legal concept of individual-unit (truck and trailer separately) GVWR for combination vehicles because the gross weight of any unit in the combination cannot be determined without separating it from the combination (due to tongue/pin weight applied to the towing vehicle). The enforceable number for combinations is the GCWR, which is the GCWR printed on the door sticker of the towing vehicle or the sum of individual unit GVWRs if no GCWR is present on the door sticker, or if the sum of the individual unit GVWRs is less than the printed GCWR. However, some states require vehicles to be registered for a combination weight that limits the permissible gross weight of the vehicle and its trailer(s). This generally applies to CMVs only; consult your individual state’s regulations for details. Furthermore, some states have the concept of a “non-commercial” class A license, and there is surely a large amount of state-to-state variation in enforcement practices.

Note that the only way to answer the question, "Can my truck handle trailer X?" is to hook up trailer X and go directly to a CAT scale, or other certified truck scale, and verify that you're not exceeding any of the relevant limits/capacities. As a general guideline, 3/4- and 1-ton SRW trucks have about 2500 and 3500 pounds of rear axle capacity to spare for trailer and any other loads (hitch, auxiliary fuel tank, etc.). These numbers are based on the trucks' RGAWRs (which, in turn, are typically based on the OEM TLRs). Note also that staying within the mechanical load limits of all your hardware is just one part of setting up a rig that is going to tow safely and predictably, and it is the only part of that process that lies within the scope of this post.

This post is not intended to cover the full scope of all possible state-specific licensing and operation requirements and individual driver discretion is, of course, encouraged. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions or suggestions to update this post.


References:

www.fmcsa.dot.gov

Regulations

Hot Topic - Gross Combination Weight Rating
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,331 Posts
JD, well done. Now if we can only get people to read the post. (y)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,398 Posts
JD, well done. Now if we can only get people to read the post. (y)
Well, I could make it a sticky. Anyone want to second the motion?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well, I could make it a sticky. Anyone want to second the motion?
Derek said he was going to make it a sticky. Otherwise it'll just get lost in the abyss.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,331 Posts
My vote would also be yes.
 

·
Registered
2003 GMC 2500HD 4x4 Banks Super Scoop, Banks Rear Dif Cover, Mechman 320A alternator, S&B fuel tank
Joined
·
120 Posts
Great post!
Follow up question, door stickers are mentioned a lot.
Currently my door sticker's status is "missing, presumed having a good time". Is there a way to get a replacement? And, absent one, how would Officer Friendly know what my rating is?
I'm strictly non-commercial, so probably not that big a deal.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Great post!
Follow up question, door stickers are mentioned a lot.
Currently my door sticker's status is "missing, presumed having a good time". Is there a way to get a replacement? And, absent one, how would Officer Friendly know what my rating is?
I'm strictly non-commercial, so probably not that big a deal.
Ha, well, I'm honestly unsure. There's some information on the FMCSA website about enforcement in the case of a vehicle not having a door sticker, and I suspect that state DOTs probably inherit a good portion of their practices from the feds. So my assumption is they can/will pretty much crush your nuts on the side of the highway if they so choose, but as you pointed out, non-CMVs probably aren't going to be targeted anyway.

From Regulations Section:
"
Question 3: If a vehicle’s GVWR plate and/or VIN number are missing but its actual gross weight is 10,001 pounds or more, may an enforcement officer use the latter instead of GVWR to determine the applicability of the FMCSRs?

Guidance:


Yes. The only apparent reason to remove the manufacturer’s GVWR plate or VIN number is to make it impossible for roadside enforcement officers to determine the applicability of the FMCSRs, which have a GVWR threshold of 10,001 pounds. In order to frustrate willful evasion of safety regulations, an officer may therefore presume that a vehicle which does not have a manufacturer’s GVWR plate and/or does not have a VIN number has a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more if: (1) It has a size and configuration normally associated with vehicles that have a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more; and (2) It has an actual gross weight of 10,001 pounds or more.

A motor carrier or driver may rebut the presumption by providing the enforcement officer the GVWR plate, the VIN number or other information of comparable reliability which demonstrates, or allows the officer to determine, that the GVWR of the vehicle is below the jurisdictional weight threshold.

"
 

·
Registered
2003 GMC 2500HD 4x4 Banks Super Scoop, Banks Rear Dif Cover, Mechman 320A alternator, S&B fuel tank
Joined
·
120 Posts
Interesting, thank you.
I'd add that the other reason to remove the sticker was the truck was in an accident and repainted. The body shop didn't replace it and the owner (yours truly) didn't notice til he was several years and a thousand miles from the scene of the crime.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
215 Posts
Fabulous write up! And I’ll add… as with most things, just because you CAN (tow something legally) doesn’t always mean you SHOULD.

Safe and comfortable towing usually matches up with a truck’s capabilities, but not always. That doesn’t apply as much to this Duramax crowd, but the topic comes up repeatedly at the RV forum I help manage. (Such as Ecoboost F-150 owners who think their truck will handle a 35’ TT that weighs 11.5k effortlessly, because on paper the truck is supposed to be able to tow 12k. Then they find themselves white-knuckling the trip while the trailer sway pushes them all over the road.)

If you’re new to towing, or towing larger trailers, it will always pay to ask more experienced haulers—and to sincerely consider their advice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Interesting, thank you.
I'd add that the other reason to remove the sticker was the truck was in an accident and repainted. The body shop didn't replace it and the owner (yours truly) didn't notice til he was several years and a thousand miles from the scene of the crime.
If you know the values and it's only for personal use, I can tell you that I personally wouldn't worry about it. I'd still try to get a replacement sticker from GM just to eliminate any potential issues if/when you sell/trade it, though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Fabulous write up! And I’ll add… as with most things, just because you CAN (tow something legally) doesn’t always mean you SHOULD.

Safe and comfortable towing usually matches up with a truck’s capabilities, but not always. That doesn’t apply as much to this Duramax crowd, but the topic comes up repeatedly at the RV forum I help manage. (Such as Ecoboost F-150 owners who think their truck will handle a 35’ TT that weighs 11.5k effortlessly, because on paper the truck is supposed to be able to tow 12k. Then they find themselves white-knuckling the trip while the trailer sway pushes them all over the road.)

If you’re new to towing, or towing larger trailers, it will always pay to ask more experienced haulers—and to sincerely consider their advice.
I agree completely. I didn't want to go down that rabbit hole though because the post was already pretty long. I might add a paragraph about frontal/side cross-sectional areas and susceptibility to sway and so forth, but most of the "can my truck handle..." posts are about FW/TTs anyway so that's already part of the equation.
 

·
Super Moderator
2017 GMC Denali 2500HD, 3.5" Rough Country Lift, 305/55R20 Yokohama Geolandar A/T
Joined
·
2,879 Posts
I've been MIA for the last 5 days; sorry to be so late to the party that I invited JD to.

@jdwarren thank you very much for your time and effort on this. Even though it's a sticky, folks won't read it, but now I can close their threads and link to this one instead.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
895 Posts
It is important to understand that while personal-use vehicles do not require CDLs for operation, their weight ratings are technically still enforceable (GVWR/GCWR, GAWRs, and TLRs). However, they are not required to stop at weigh stations, and the likelihood of weight rating enforcement for personal-use vehicles is extremely small.
In my ridealong with a W&M qualified trooper we saw a guy in a 3/4 pulling a triple axle GN with no DOT stickers. We didnt pull him but if we did and his truck isnt farm tagged it would make for an interesting conversation :)

@jdwarren very thorough write-up. This will certainly help a LOT of folks and potentially save some a ticket... and just maybe someone's life. nice job.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
In my ridealong with a W&M qualified trooper we saw a guy in a 3/4 pulling a triple axle GN with no DOT stickers. We didnt pull him but if we did and his truck isnt farm tagged it would make for an interesting conversation :)

@jdwarren very thorough write-up. This will certainly help a LOT of folks and potentially save some a ticket... and just maybe someone's life. nice job.
Yup, appearances matter in this game. A truck pulling a GN flatbed sure looks like it might be a commercial application, so if you get pulled over, you could very well be weighed right there on the side of the road and even if it's not a CMV you could still be ticketed. Now if it's a FW camper behind that same truck, I think the likelihood of being pulled over is much lower. Folks should know what's enforceable so they can decide what (if any) laws of man to stretch, and the risks they're exposed to by doing so. Also, I get a little bit of enjoyment out of smacking down the folks I call "Internet Towing Grandpas" who will spew all kinds of bile at people who are a few pounds over their trucks' (non-legally enforceable, and only dubiously tied to any physical component limitations) towing capacities, while at the same time are actually over their own trucks' tire load ratings and GAWRs, which are legally enforceable and, at least in the case of TLRs, related to actual physical limitations. The hypocrisy of a guy pulling a 14k fifth wheel with a 2500 that's "within its towing capacity" but on 22" Gucci rims and low profile tires that are dangerously overloaded who condemns someone using language like "I guess you don't care about your family's safety" is just too much to bear.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Updated the "definitions" section to include ITGs. How did I forget???
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
70 Posts
@Melonhead1102 asked that I create a post addressing this subject, since it comes up so often.

This post addresses the legalities and physical limitations applicable to vehicle (and combination) weights. I will attempt to clarify the differences in enforcement practices between commercial and personal use vehicles with regard to vehicle weight restrictions and licensing requirements. What I will not attempt to do is address the likelihood of civil liability in any given scenario, as there’s just too much variability and too few data points from which to make inference. However, I am not aware of a single instance in which an individual was found liable specifically for exceeding vehicle capacities, and I am also not aware of any instance in which an insurance company denied liability coverage due specifically to such circumstances. We all can/will be sued for any and all reasons at any given time, so use your judgment.

Let’s establish some definitions first.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (as specified by the manufacturer on the door sticker). Legally enforceable.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating. For enforcement purposes, if this value is not listed on the vehicle’s door sticker, it is the sum of all units’ (truck and trailer(s)) GVWRs. This is regardless of what's found in the vehicle owner's manual, marketing brochure, or the manufacturer's "towing guide." Legally enforceable.

FGAWR/RGAWR: Front/Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating. GAWRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tire load ratings (x2), regardless of the axles' true physical capabilities. Legally enforceable.

TLR: Tire Load Rating (in pounds, not the load range or number of plies). Note that this number is for a fully inflated (at rest) tire; some tire manufacturers may provide tables associating tire capacities with a range of inflation pressures. Legally enforceable.

WLR: Wheel Load Rating (in pounds). Enforceability is debatable but in practice probably impossible due to the number not being visible anywhere. Note that WLRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tires, regardless of the wheels' true physical capacities.

Payload: A manufacturer’s recommendation for single-unit vehicle loading, predicated on the weight being distributed optimally. Definitions may vary from one manufacturer to another. NOT legally enforceable.

Towing Capacity: Legacy towing capacities were determined somewhat arbitrarily by manufacturers; modern ones are determined by SAE J2807. NOT legally enforceable.

CDL-A/B: Class A/B Commercial Driver’s License.

CMV: Commercial Motor Vehicle.

TT: (bumper pull) Travel Trailer.

FW: Fifth Wheel.

GN: Gooseneck.

ITG: Internet Towing Grandpa. You know, the ones who say things like, "You're 10 pounds over your towing capacity? Well I'm going to call my attorney and we're going to follow you around until you screw up, and then we'll sue you for every dime you've ever made and/or lost. Don't you care about your family's safety?" Meanwhile, they're over their TLRs, WLRs, and GAWRs as they lecture everyone about subtracting pin weights from payloads and all other sorts of total towing nonsense. If you take these clowns' logic to its rational conclusions we'd all wind up buying Kenworths to pull jet ski trailers.

And now, to get on with it:

Licensing requirements for CMVs are pretty consistent across jurisdictions. However, the definition of a “commercial vehicle” is somewhat nebulous and beyond the scope of this post. The FMCSA website has definitions and numerous examples of vehicles that may be considered CMVs (or not) depending on the particular use case. The only definitive statement I will make on this is that a vehicle/combination being used solely for recreational purposes (i.e. not hauling vehicles/equipment to be used in a competition for which large monetary prizes are awarded, or any other quasi-commercial activity) is not a CMV. This includes any and all personal-use vehicles pulling campers (regardless of the hitch type -- TT, FW, GN, etc.) as well as motorhomes. It is important to note that, generally speaking, only CMV operators are subject to CDL licensing requirements. The implication is that two identical vehicles, one being used commercially and the other recreationally, will have different licensing requirements. Whether this is a feature or a bug is debatable, but it is a fact regardless.

It is important to understand that while personal-use vehicles do not require CDLs for operation, their weight ratings are technically still enforceable (GVWR/GCWR, GAWRs, and TLRs). However, they are not required to stop at weigh stations, and the likelihood of weight rating enforcement for personal-use vehicles is extremely small. For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate from my definitions above that there is no legal concept of payload or towing capacity and hence there are no government entities who enforce adherence to these numbers. Generally speaking, if the actual number is not clearly visible on a door sticker, tire, or registration document, it can’t/won’t be enforced.

Manufacturers will typically cap the RGAWR at the sum of the OEM rear tires’ load capacities. The result is that some trucks’ axles actually have physical capacities far greater than what’s specified on the door sticker. An example is the 2017-2019 HD SRW pickups which have the same rear axle as the DRW but a much lower RGAWR. Nevertheless, legally speaking, these vehicles are still bound by the door sticker RGAWR even if the truck is equipped with heavier-duty wheels and tires. In this scenario it seems that the laws of physics may be more permissive than the laws of man, but you ignore the laws of man at your own legal risk. Make sure you consider the likelihood and consequences of enforcement (i.e. CMV versus personal use) before doing so.

There is no legal concept of individual-unit (truck and trailer separately) GVWR for combination vehicles because the gross weight of any unit in the combination cannot be determined without separating it from the combination (due to tongue/pin weight applied to the towing vehicle). The enforceable number for combinations is the GCWR, which is the GCWR printed on the door sticker of the towing vehicle or the sum of individual unit GVWRs if no GCWR is present on the door sticker, or if the sum of the individual unit GVWRs is less than the printed GCWR. However, some states require vehicles to be registered for a combination weight that limits the permissible gross weight of the vehicle and its trailer(s). This generally applies to CMVs only; consult your individual state’s regulations for details. Furthermore, some states have the concept of a “non-commercial” class A license, and there is surely a large amount of state-to-state variation in enforcement practices.

Note that the only way to answer the question, "Can my truck handle trailer X?" is to hook up trailer X and go directly to a CAT scale, or other certified truck scale, and verify that you're not exceeding any of the relevant limits/capacities. As a general guideline, 3/4- and 1-ton SRW trucks have about 2500 and 3500 pounds of rear axle capacity to spare for trailer and any other loads (hitch, auxiliary fuel tank, etc.). These numbers are based on the trucks' RGAWRs (which, in turn, are typically based on the OEM TLRs). Note also that staying within the mechanical load limits of all your hardware is just one part of setting up a rig that is going to tow safely and predictably, and it is the only part of that process that lies within the scope of this post.

This post is not intended to cover the full scope of all possible state-specific licensing and operation requirements and individual driver discretion is, of course, encouraged. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions or suggestions to update this post.


References:

www.fmcsa.dot.gov

Regulations

Hot Topic - Gross Combination Weight Rating
FGAWR/RGAWR: Front/Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating. GAWRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tire load ratings (x2), regardless of the axles' true physical capabilities. Legally enforceable.

This is so important when we're talking about SRW 2500/3500 trucks. The axle rating is the OEM tire rating at the recommended front or rear tire pressure. The AAM 11.5 rear axle is rated at 10,000 pounds AAM 11.50 Rear Differential/Axle Specs & Information


So SRW make sure you're not over your rear tire ratings
 
1 - 20 of 47 Posts
Top