This really isn't a news flash, but it's getting attention like there's been a huge discovery. It's well known that truckmakers use existing rules and standards to their advantage when calculating and promoting their payload numbers. But other than bragging rights, we're not sure it buys them much. We suspect that many truck buyers don't even pay attention to claims of "biggest," "strongest," "fastest," "best-in-class" anymore.
In a series of articles, Automotive News reports that not all manufacturers calculate their base curb weights in exactly the same way; as a result, the actual maximum payloads for a certain model of a pickup truck could be off by as much as 100 or 150 pounds. Nowhere does Automotive News note or imply that one company is getting a significant advantage over the competition using these practices, but the practices could be considered shady.
If are a pickup truck enthusiast, you know that any maximum payload number promoted in print, radio or television ads always has an asterisk next to the claim noting that the maximum rating number was determined on a certain model. Most pickup aficionados understand that there are literally thousands of options and versions you can choose from when ordering a pickup. So each variation will have a slightly different maximum payload rating. Much of this variation is because of the standardized gross vehicle weight rating (the total weight the entire truck chassis can carry, as determined by the truckmaker, including occupants, cargo and all filled fluids).
The real question here is whether a group like the Society of Automotive Engineers needs to establish a set of payload calculation standards to make sure truck consumers can compare apples to apples like SAE did with the J2807 towing criteria. The simple answer, from our point of view, is no. Although there is always a safety component when discussing payload capacities, it is nothing like the safety issues involved when towing potentially heavy loads that may or may not be sanctioned by the truckmaker based on its calculations. Before J2807 each manufacturer relied on different processes for calculating maximum tow ratings. SAE's J2807 provides consistency and improved safety. Calculating payload, with the help of the factory-calculated GVWR, is about subtracting the actual curb weight of the truck from the truck's posted GVWR (we encourage all pickup truck owners to find out exactly how much their truck weighs with a full tank of fuel).
There's no question that marketing departments and ad agencies will still want to know if their product has the highest, fastest, quickest or strongest truck out there, mainly because that's the easiest way for them to create advertisements. But we think it's a better idea to invest energy into educating current and future pickup truck consumers so they know how to calculate the exact real-world payload of their specific vehicle.