We certainly don't blame Toyota for trying to take advantage of the current towing standards situation, but we're calling foul on this one. After reading a recent Toyota press release that rightly gloats about receiving the Texas Auto Writers Association's Distinguished Service Award for its early adoption of the Society of Automotive Engineering's voluntary J2807 towing standards, there seems to be some confusion about the point of the standards.
In the release, Toyota asks whether pickup truck buyers know "how much they can safely tow?" The implication is that the SAE standards somehow let truck owners know exactly how much they can safely tow, suggesting that without the use of these standards there is no way for drivers to know. That's not exactly true. The point of the J2807 standards is for each pickup manufacturer to stand behind the published numbers their engineers have identified as that chassis' capability rating.
It is no more technically safer for a consumer to know that a manufacturer adheres to the J2807 standards than it is for a consumer to know what the maximum horsepower or torque ratings are for a given engine. Following J2807 standards means that the truck maker followed a certain set of testing procedures, not whether higher or lower numbers are more or less safe.
SAE standards are not about safety, per se, as much as they are designed to get all pickup truck manufacturers on the same page when calculating, certifying and reporting tow rating numbers so consumers can compare and contrast models and configurations, apples to apples.
Granted, being the first truck maker to adopt the SAE standards definitely means that Toyota deserves credit, and we're glad TAWA took the opportunity to recognize it for doing so. But for Toyota to imply that its pickups and SUVs are somehow safer for customers that tow than other pickup or SUV brands is not only illogical, it's flat-out incorrect.
Here's some advice: To make pickups and SUVs safer for towing, make sure they have an integrated trailer brake controller that uses all the available computer data from the antilock braking system, trailer-sway control and engine management algorithms. Then, make sure the trailer has a good set of brakes and tires. Finally, make sure the tongue weight is calculated properly and that there is a good backup camera that provides sufficient all-around visibility. That will make towing safer for those who tow, as well as the drivers who must share the road with them.
The SAE towing standards are about giving consumers a chance to compare apples to apples when choosing between different pickups. Right now that's not possible because several manufacturers are dragging their feet about adopting the standards because they have certain models (most of which are heavy-duty versions) that will show a considerable drop in maximum tow ratings when compared to previous models. Toyota doesn't have any HD models, so it was able to absorb the procedural changes with just a few small drops in the Tundra's maximum towing capacity on select configurations. Ford, GM and Ram potentially have more to lose, and that likely may explain their resistance to fully follow all the J2807 standards.