2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge: How We Tested


By Mark Williams

Pickup trucks are important — not just to manufacturers and the U.S. economy, but to the lives of our readers. That's why we take testing pickups seriously. That's why we consider ourselves fortunate to conduct PickupTrucks.com Challenges. These apples-to-apples comparison tests allow us to bring readers as many objective and empirical numbers as possible, the latest of which is our 2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge. Just to make things interesting, we've thrown our opinions into the mix for your pleasure. You're welcome.

2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge

Results | Towing | How We Tested

For the 2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge, we invited each of the three heavy-duty pickup makers — Ford, Chevrolet and Ram — to send their best 2018 one-ton crew-cab, single-rear-wheel diesel pickup trucks with a factory gooseneck tow package (and accessories). We set a price ceiling of $75,000. What we got were three HD players very close in capability: the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 High Country, 2018 Ford Super Duty F-350 Lariat and 2018 Ram 3500 Laramie. The most significant difference among them was that the Chevy came equipped with a short box. For the full set of comparison specifications, see our What You Get chart.

We thought it was important to test how these one tons handle a significant towing load. So, they all towed three identical 4,900-pound Big Tex gooseneck dump beds from Big Tex Trailer World, along with a full payload of gravel totaling 8,100 pounds courtesy of Bedrock Sand and Gravel. Each gooseneck trailer's total weight was within 100 pounds of 13,000 pounds. Given that we'd be putting more than 1,000 miles on these heavy-duty diesel trucks by the end of our testing week, we thought this amount was a good round number and likely more load than most HD pickup owners will pull on a regular basis.

The Tests

Comparative empirical testing of each truck's capabilities is important (because we know you want to know). The winner of each test was given 100 points, while the remaining trucks were awarded a percentage of points based on their comparative finish. Each truck was tested and scored on 16 tests:

  • Zero-to-60-mph acceleration, empty and with trailer
  • Quarter-mile acceleration, empty and with trailer
  • 40-to-60-mph acceleration, empty and with trailer
  • 60-to-zero-mph braking (empty) and 40-to-zero-mph braking (with trailers)
  • Davis Dam 2.23-mile hill climb, towing
  • Davis Dam 40-to-60-mph hill climb from 4th gear, towing
  • Fuel economy (with and without trailer)
  • Calculated maximum payload
  • Calculated gooseneck maximum tow rating
  • Interior noise at idle and at 60 mph


Track Testing


All track testing was done on a closed runway at the Kingman Municipal Airport, which offered us more than a half-mile of smooth tarmac and plenty of visibility. Temperatures at the outset of our testing in late May hovered around the mid-90s, with a slight wind out of the south. During our acceleration runs, we ran all trucks with the windows up, air conditioning off and tires set at factory-recommended pressures. We also allowed for a slight bit of brake-torquing (left foot on brake while running the throttle up to about 2,000 rpm, then releasing brake while going wide-open throttle) at launch. Each powertrain had a slightly different wide-open-throttle launch feel, but we managed to get several strong takeoffs for each truck.

For our brake testing, we selected an even and smooth section of the runway to keep comparisons consistent. We gave ourselves plenty of distance to run each vehicle up to an indicated 60 mph with the windows up and in top gear before we stomped on the brakes, replicating a full-blown panic stop. It's worth noting that we regularly rotated the vehicles during these tests to allow the brakes, engine and transmission to cool down before each run. For our loaded brake testing, we thought it would be interesting to see how each truck handled 13,000 extra pounds without the benefit of trailer brakes. We disconnected each of the bed-mounted wiring harnesses, ran the truck and trailer up to 40 mph in top gear and then panic-stopped the brakes.

All timing instrumentation was conducted with a Racelogic Vbox II, which electronically identifies up to seven satellites to chart and record progress and course in real time. All track testing was done with official spotters with an on-site local paramedic team standing by.

Mileage Runs

Our fuel economy testing took place in and around the city of Kingman, Ariz., over a 94-mile loop that took us on flattish two-lane highways, graded dirt roads, a multilane interstate and winding mountain roads to almost 6,000 feet above sea level. Each of our test drivers were instructed to set the air conditioning to 72 degrees on "Auto," keeping all windows rolled up and to never let the vehicle idle when it could be shut off (for example, during driver swaps and fuel fill-ups). Temperatures hovered in the mid-to-high 90s with no wind. We obeyed posted speed limits.

Since we had three test vehicles and three judges for this comparison test, we rotated between vehicles twice (after a little more than 30 miles of driving) throughout our fuel economy route to allow each driver's quirks to impact each of the three vehicles equally.

We began and ended our fuel economy day at the same fuel station with all fill-ups done at the same pump with the same nozzle. Fill-ups were also conducted by a single person, in the same manner for each truck, to ensure the tanks were filled to the same level each time. Both the cost and quantity were recorded, with fuel economy numbers calculated by dividing miles driven by gallons used. Once we finished our first loop with empty trucks, we hitched up the 13,000-pound Big Tex gooseneck trailers and followed the exact same route and procedures. This allowed us to calculate fuel economy while towing.


Towing Tests

Much of our towing tests and judges' impressions were garnered from our time driving on the infamous Davis Dam grade, a portion of state Route 68 connecting Arizona's Golden Valley with a steep hill descent (or climb, depending on direction) into the Bullhead City/Laughlin area along the Colorado River. We've been testing on this grade for more than a decade. It has a bottom elevation around 500 feet above sea level, while the Union Pass summit sits just a touch more than 3,000 feet. The full length of the run, depending on exactly where you start and finish, is a little more than 11 miles long and can be quite taxing for heavy haulers in the desert heat, with portions of the highway offering a 7 percent grade, or about a 4-degree slope.

During our test runs, which covered the steepest 2-mile section of the climb, we took each truck and trailer (with one passenger for recording and verification purposes) from a dead stop to a wide-open-throttle run past our finish line some 11,775 feet later. Each truck was run with the windows rolled up, air conditioning off and very little traffic. Temperatures during our midday runs were in the upper 90s, with a 10-mph wind out of the west. Timing for each run was done from a designated start line near mile marker 6 and concluded at a finish line near mile marker 8.

The Judges' Scores

After we completed our 16 empirical tests, providing each pickup truck with a possible 1,600 points, we added our expert judges' scores from 10 pickup-specific categories. To weight the judges' scores with what we consider an appropriate amount of influence in our overall results, we multiplied the scores by two, for a possible total of 600 points. Those categories were:

  • Bed features and access
  • Interior layout
  • Interior quality
  • Interior storage
  • Overall comfort
  • How it drives empty
  • How it drives with a trailer
  • Visibility
  • Engine layout
  • Overall value

The empirical and judges' scores combined for a possible total score of 2,200 points per truck. We could weight categories and tests we think are more important than others, creating a complicated final equation, but we don't do that. Instead, we present the unweighted scores to our readers to allow them to weight those tests or categories they value, perhaps fuel economy or max trailering for instance. This allows readers to determine which truck is their own best choice. And we understand it may not be the same winner we've selected, but it will be the right truck for you.

In the name of transparency, we've detailed the processes, procedures and thinking behind our tests, and we've provided a chart below that details how the trucks performed in the empirical tests along with judges' scoring and final scores. Let us know what you think or ask questions in the comment section. We've got all the data and want to share as much of it as we can.

Cars.com photos by Chris Collard, Evan Sears





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@ Mark Williams

Kudos on this test format. Well thought out! I might suggest in the future adding a second, different style trailer to test. I wonder if adding a gooseneck travel trailer would have changed anything for example.

Great job overall! Big Surprise!

Interesting especially is the Judge's analysis.

If I read it correctly the RAM wins in the subjective rating, while coming in last place in the measured and more objective calculations.

Funny but that's my own take on it too. The RAM has a seat of the pants sense that puts it out front of the field.

Ask any of your friends who have a late model RAM full size truck and you'll get mostly praise. There are quicker trucks, and there are trucks that get better mileage, but when it comes to ride, comfort and the intangibles, RAM is alone at the top.

@OGG -- interesting idea. Would definitely add to logistical complexity of our test but could be quite informative.

@papajim -- Surprised a few of us too.

Interesting especially the short wb and short bed on the Chevy that was sent to go up against the long bed on the other two. smh.

That Ford go smoked so hard LMBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ford sucks!

They just did because of you GARBAGE MOTORS FAN GIRLYS always complaining about pickup trucks been a ford site so just sit and relax. TO ME GM STILL GARBAGE NO MATTER WHAT. GARBAGE IS GARBAGE AND YOU CANNOT CHANGE THAT.


@ Alex
Why are you complaining? I mean whining! Just because they picked the Chevy it's because they cheated with a short wb and short bed?? So by your statement the comparison was all about performance? In terms of performance, it was the same result last year. The Duramax won nearly every test with dually one tons and the Ford had a 4.10 rear axle...

They just did because of you GARBAGE MOTORS FAN GIRLYS always complaining about pickup trucks been a ford site so just sit and relax. TO ME GM STILL GARBAGE NO MATTER WHAT. GARBAGE IS GARBAGE AND YOU CANNOT CHANGE THAT.

Posted by: Chingon | Jul 30, 2018 11:33:12 AM

Shut your pie hole Chingon. You are nothing more than Ford GILRYGIRL sore loser. The BEST truck won...get over it!!

Let it be written....let it be DONE!!!

I'm assuming 15% pin weight was used for the gooseneck calculations, otherwise, the Ford would have been rated much lower. Still doesn't leave much margin once you throw a couple of big guys in the cab.

@PUTC: Is there a comparison test in the near future for mid-size trucks that will include a GM 2.8 Duramax?

At all the Garbage Motor Fan Girlys EAT THIS B===========================D 💦💦💦. CRY 😭 😢 BABIES!!!!!

The F-150 Eco-Boost can haul 3260 lbs

that's MORE that what you hauled it in heavy duty trucks

I hope in the near future they compare a half ton at their high limits to a HD/SD with a similar load to show the pros and cons. For the record, the 2018 F-150 Super Crew 4x4 with Ecoboost has a max payload of 2,620 lbs, minus the weight of any options. The higher payloads are only for 2wd regular cabs. Towing wise, it is rated at 13,000 conventional towing when properly equipped. While the half tons have grown in capabilities, they would struggle, especially when compared to a HD/SD.

I think similar axle ratios should be a must for a proper towing performance test. The results mirror the ratio differences of the 3 trucks.

Ecoboost is clueless, it shows in every comment he posts lol

@ redblood

Ford had a 4:10 last year, while gm had a 3:73 and the Duramax still out pulled it. Just pull up 2017 challenge. Same trucks basically! No excuses please!, just another win for the Duramax!

It's funny how the Ford won last year but still lost almost every performance test to the Duramax. The fan boys talk about how those tests don't matter, it's about the all around truck. Now the Ford loses the comparison and the performance tests and it's excuse after excuse about the performance tests..LOL

@redbloodedey- the GM and Ram only have one axle ratio available. The Ford has the deepest gearing, and the only other gear option (3.31 in the Ford) probably wouldn’t have made truck any faster or much more efficient. You have to remember that PUTC can only test whatever they’re handed from the press fleet.
All this performance testing really shows what we already knew: the two V8s are quicker than I6.

@NoQDRTundra -- We do have the midsize pickups on the schedule again, especially since we've got Ford and Jeep headed our way before the end of the year. Look for the test in early 2019.

@MrKnowitall -- As usual, you make some great points and ask good questions. We did not weigh exact hitch weight but did load them all the same and distribute the gravel weight. Ford probably was light.

I expected the Ram to perform a little better. I knew it would lose the 0-60 and 1/4 mile stuff. I'm a little disappointed that Ram hasn't done anything about the engine brake. They have known it's not as good as the GM or Ford setups for a while now. The Cummins is still the best option for the heavy towing. Gotta give the GM guys credit. They really turned their HD trucks around. Back in the mid-2000's they had a good engine and trans but the steering was bad and the chassis wasn't great. Now that they have a beefy chassis, beefy IFS and steering, the same heavy duty AAM rear axle that Ram uses, and the L5P+Allison combo, the truck is a real winner in my book. It's no wonder I've been seeing a lot of new Duramax trucks on the road lately. I'm keeping my Cummins but if I was going to get a new truck, I'd be looking at a new Duramax.

@Mark Williams
Sales of these in Australia are pretty tiny. Threatened by " what do you use them for?". Gen Y have not heard of RAM, F350, Silverado
When large 5th Wheelers were introduced into Australia, everyone went " Wow" . Sales were 700 a year 10yrs ago. Now for a vast range of factors they were 4 last year.
Pickup Sales will be 210,000 this year but US Pickups all HD sales close to 1200 all total.
US HD Pickups are not seen on building sites, Farms or rarely towing Horse Trailers

The F-150 Eco-Boost can haul 3260 lbs
that's MORE that what you hauled it in heavy duty trucks

Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Jul 30, 2018 2:37:50 PM

LOL....haul that much on a daily basis with a 1/2 ton truck and see how long it lasts! That's Ford Fairy Dust for you!

2020 Dodge will come with in house made diesel and automatic
Transmission. NOT!!!!!!!!

Dodge bought out twice by taxpayers GM bought out once.
Both walked away while we paid off there debt.
Way to go Ford only one of the big three that pays off their debt

@ W Quehl

Geezzz, get over it...

Yet, Ford is still getting government welfare loan ten years and counting.........

US HD Pickups are not seen on building sites, Farms or rarely towing Horse Trailers...Posted by: Robert Ryan | Jul 30, 2018

What are you paying for a liter of fuel there? Therein lies the answer.

Geez Ford has to back the loans

Ford has to pay back the loans

Dodge bought out twice by taxpayers GM bought out once.
Both walked away while we paid off there debt.
Way to go Ford only one of the big three that pays off their debt
Posted by: W Quehl | Jul 30, 2018 5:27:32 PM

You Ford guys are pathetic. 10 years later and all you can do is bring up the bankruptcy. Year after year after year, Ford trucks get outperformed. Suddenly all you guys seem to want to talk about is a bailout that happened over a decade ago. Sad. Sad and pathetic.

Your funny

Please enlighten us Robert. Price per liter for diesel and petrol. It will reveal a lot, but that might not be good for the point you're trying to make

papajim wins again.

It is like saying a price on fuel is a determinant whether I wear paisley ashirts or not. It has no relevance at all to what is used on farms. Businesses exectra. Reasons would require a website like Pickups Ttucks too explain. Same can be said why they HD and other US Pickups do not exist outside NA. Onviously ypu have very little idea why

So the Ford was virtually identical in all performance measures, even though it weighs more and is physically larger in every dimension.

Looks to me that the judges thought the GM was pretty crappy but it won because of tenths of a second here and there? Ford won this hands down.

TFL Truck Ike Gauntlet
Ford WON all classes in SUV, Heavy Duty and Light Duty Trucks

SUV Class: Ford Expedition WON
Heavy Duty Class: Ford Super Duty WON
Light Truck: Ford F-150 Eco-Boost WON

The TFL Truck Ike Gauntlet is a tougher test than PUTC had

psssst! Even the F-150 Eco-Boost had better numbers towing the same weight than the Ram Heavy Duty had

like I said before: everyone I know are getting rid or their heavy duty trucks for an F-150 for heavy towing

The F-150 Eco-Boost is wonderful and your hatred of believing all the lies about it is your loss.

I am really surprised, PUTC tested braking distance pulling heavy load without trailer brakes hooked up. Very appreciated and it gives us better picture about chassis handling the load.
All of them are fast enough, so I couldn't care less about few seconds difference up the hill.

@Ecoboost, please, F150 is so light, it would be in the ditch in no time pulling that load.

Ford is fudging the numbers for centuries.

@Robert R

So you say it's not important but you cannot stand to answer my question about fuel cost. Don't you realize how that makes you look?

It is totally irrelavant too why they do not use US HD Pickups outside the US. Bit like complaining about certain colours on vehicles.

Just answered your question about fuel costs.

It is totally irrelavant too why they do not use US HD Pickups outside the US. Bit like complaining about certain colours on vehicles....Posted by: Robert Ryan | Jul 31, 2018

So from your childish refusal to offer a relevant reply we can assume that fuel cost is a BIG reason, along with lame import quotas (and protectionist policies) that American-built trucks are not common in Oz.

A quick glance at the web says that equivalent prices in the US would be half of what Aussies pay, or less depending on local taxes in the states. Maybe it's just not practical to own a big well equipped truck in Australia anymore.

you made me think

even the lowly unibody Mercedes Sprinter Van has a payload of 5000 lbs that's widely used in Europe
plus it uses a tiny little diesel engine with great fuel economy

here in the states we have giant heavy duty pickups you need a ladder to get into the cab with a giant 7 liter diesel that gets horrible mileage that has a payload of only 3000 lbs

you don't need a heavy duty pickup the only reason you have one is to prove to the world you have big balls
My F-150 Eco-Boost can haul and tow anything a HD can do plus I have MORE reserve engine power that I don't need.
My F-150 Eco-Boost is so wonderful where I can take it to high class social party dressed in a tuxedo and the next day haul muddy steel pipe dressed in Carhartts.

Try as you might, you have not elaborated why US HD Pickups are a TOTAL FAILURE here and other countries where the fuel is cheaper than the US. Middle East
Try a few other factors, not relating too cost of fuel.Would you
You have a F650 as a daily driver in the US? Surely you can come up wth more answers than " fuel is more expensive"
So far I am wondering if you have any understanding of the outside world or even the dynamics of the US

@Ecoboost Rules
You are more on the money than Papajims "fuel is more expensive " generic answers

You are more on the money than Papajims "fuel is more expensive " generic answers

Posted by: Robert Ryan | Jul 31, 2018 2:53:48

If fuel cost isn't a factor to consider when buying a truck, there there is exactly ZERO reason to but an aluminum F-150. The bed is inferior. The IFS was weakened to the point that a Tacoma has a better IFS. The 4X4 systems is the weakest of any full-size truck to get better fuel economy. The road noise is worse due to the lightweight body. The towing stability of aluminum F-series trucks is worse. There is nothing thatvthe Ford can offer if fuel economy is not an important consideration.

Not sure we're dealing with the REAL Robert Ryan here. It might be the other guy from oz trying to stir the pot.

I'm really surprised you picked the Silverado to win. Not because it has the best HD drivetrain but because of the bias you continually show towards Ford. This appears to be a fair test and I applaud you guys for the way it was conducted. There isn't a bad truck in the bunch but in a comparison test there has to be a winner and a loser. Ford claims the most power on paper but the Duramax consistently outperforms it in head to head testing. Its tough to argue with the GM HD trucks where in this test were the quickest empty and loaded, got the best fuel mileage empty and loaded, and had the quietest cab. Those are the most important things to me vs. all the techy stuff Ford brags about. Great job PUTC and especially the GM HD design and build team.

So Ford spent billions of dollars to change to aluminum, but the trucks till outweighed the Chevy HD?? Dont tell me its BC its had a larger bed, bc fords aluminum beds are junk and it didn't even come with a bed liner! That's pathetic!

I am the real Robert Ryan and statement of fact the HD's sell in very small quantities

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