By G.R. Whale
Following the State Fair of Texas we had lots of questions about Ram’s then-unspecified numbers. What would “eye-popping” translate to in cold, hard digits? Would this be another 400- or 500-hundred-pound ratings creep to stay ahead in the advertising war? Would it match Ford's Super Duty and GM’s HDs?
Well, now we know: Up to 25,000 pounds gross combined weight rating and 18,350 pounds towing on the 2500 series and a 30,000-pound tow rating (37,500 GCWR) on the 3500. (Note: None of these make any reference to J2807-standard adherence yet.)
No, we didn’t see a number that huge coming either, and the implications will be considerable.
- Ford and GM have been served notice that Ram is playing hardball. But this level brings often pricier players into the mix like Freightliner, lightly used GMC TopKick/Chevy Kodiak and International trucks, plus those converters and upfitters (SportChassis, Mountain Master, etc.) that specialize in custom pullers for race teams, high-line fifth wheels and racing boats. It also might bump Ram’s credibility as a Class C motor home chassis supplier.
- Weight balancing will require even more attention. Twenty percent of 30,000 pounds puts three tons’ tongue weight on the hitch and rear axle. That means even with a 14,000 gross vehicle weight rating (anything more is a Class 4 truck) and 6,580-pound payload rating, a driver, big hitch hardware and a few tools won’t leave much wiggle room for anything else.
- These numbers may push the doctrines of adequate warning and strict liability to the forefront. When Jonathan Michaels, founding member of Michaels Law Group in Newport Beach, Calif., heard the number, he said “Wow, that’s huge.” Noting the potential for problems with ordinary citizens in a truck that capable, Michaels said prominent warnings should be in place from the manufacturer, dealer, distributor and upfitter. “Some fine print in the back of the owner's manual won’t be sufficient,” he said.
- This might become a key moment in pickup truck regulation. Remember when the once small and unnoticed diesel-tuning market grew into some “real numbers,” as politicians would say, and the aftermarket industry brought unwanted attention onto themselves. After decades of a hundred to a thousand pounds here and there, this 6,000-pound-plus jump might make the authorities notice some pickups are nearly half the weight of a tractor-trailer. We posed that question to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which promptly redirected us to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that's charged with “regulating heavy truck driver operation.”
- The federal rule requires states to issue a commercial driver's license in three classes: Class A, any combination of vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds; Class B, any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR; Class C, any single vehicle or combination that does not meet the definition of Class A or B, but is transporting material that has been designated as hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR Part 172 or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR Part 73. If this rule is used anywhere near the rating, the Ram will need a commercially licensed driver. In some states, the weight threshold is lower for a special but not commercial license; in California, for example, a 10,000 GVWR tow behind a 15,000 GVWR fifth-wheel or a livestock trailer 10K-15K GVWR operated within 150 miles of the home (farm) requires a noncommercial Class A.
Have the manufacturers pushed bragging rights and marketing hype ahead of common sense? Did they pass that barrier a decade ago? Do these numbers merely mean overloading at a higher level — we know drivers of any size pickup are notorious for it — or will people simply not want to tow or carry more than they do now? Does modern technology like stability and trailer sway control make this a more realistic proposition?
We sure would like to know, and you can bet Ford and GM would too.