Kent Sundling: Mr. Truck 4-30-12
April 30, 2012
With a one ton dually now rated to tow over 20,000 pound trailers, the difference between an empty and fully loaded truck can be 4-inches difference in truck squat. That means trouble to the driveline and pinion angle which causes vibration, axle wrap and U-joint popping.
Then there’s braking, though one ton dually’s from the big three have improved their braking ability, they still aren’t great with big trailers. In the tests and reviews I do with trucks, we ran trucks on a race track with and without trailer brakes. You’d be shocked at how far a new one ton dually diesel takes to stop without trailer brakes – it’s hundreds of feet at 60 mph.
Then take a class 5 or 6 conversion truck like the Freightliner M2 or Pete 335 and do the same thing with the trucks air brakes and engine brake and it will make you smile. And with air bag suspensions, they don’t squat when loaded.
Engine brakes are the same in over-the-road semi-trucks, which are dramatically more powerful than an exhaust brake in a one ton diesel.
Each new model pickup truck year has an increase in towing capacity. What is the limit? Truck manufactures don’t know, they work off demand. The new SAE trailer towing standards that start in 2013 will help, but at some point with 20,000 pound plus trailers, you are going to need a heavy truck with big brakes.
The term medium duty truck covers a lot of territory. It use to refer more to two-ton trucks. Since 1998 the 1-1/2-ton trucks are coming back. In the 40s and 50s a 1-1/2-ton truck was a common size. By the 60s farmers needed more capacity and the two-tons took over the market of medium duty trucks. Now you see more and more big rigs on the farms that have all grown to match economics of size. The market for pickup trucks has once again become competitive. Bigger diesel power created bigger trailers and so on.
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A one-ton use to be as big as a pickup grew up to. With trailers growing over 15,000 pounds truck manufactures have brought back the 1-1/2-ton’s with the Ford F450-550, GM HD cab and chassis, and Dodge 4500-5500. With the growing trailers it’s so important to get the numbers in line for the maximum capacity of your truck.
You need to know the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the truck and the trailer. You need to know the GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating), what the two together weigh. You need to know each GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) and you need to know the tongue weight of your trailer whether the tongue is a ball or mini-fifth wheel in the bed or a receiver hitch drawbar. Most folks don’t know that most of the tongue weight of a gooseneck or bumper pull trailer is on the rear axle, so the Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating is especially important.
Starting in 2011, the big three raised the GCWR from 26,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds on one-ton dually pickup trucks. GM quit making C4500-7500. So they need to rate their 3500 high enough to compete. But Ram and Ford aren’t going to just set in the sidelines.
Now the other category of medium duty trucks, the two-tons. I have worn out my share of trucks. No I really mean I wore them out! When I was done with them they were worth about $20 a ton for scrap metal. The springs were arced the wrong way, the box was gone, and you couldn’t tell what color the engine was from the oil dripping off it. But by then I could replace the starter, alternator, u-joints or clutch with my eyes closed.
Being a rancher/farmer meant my truck had to pay for itself with use. Being overloaded most of the time is what got the job done. I hauled livestock, hay, wool, tractors, balers, backhoes, buildings, trees and whatever “kind of fit” the trailer. I was overweight, over width and under trucked. No not me, the truck!
After I replaced another set of u-joints in the drive shaft, I thought maybe I’m working my one-ton dually too much. It had 300,000 miles on it and my Korean replacement door from the last time I jackknifed the trailer, was leaking so much air I couldn’t hear the weather report on the AM radio. So time for my next workhorse. I saw an ad for some furniture van body two-ton trucks. They had 90,000 miles on them so they were already broke-in. My neighbor and I each bought one. Mine was a C65 Chevy. I took the 18 foot van body off, leaving a flatbed and added a recessed gooseneck ball to the rear of the rear axle.
I pulled a 32 foot flatbed triple axle trailer with it and had 12 feet to haul cargo behind the cab in front of the gooseneck. That was the most reliable truck I ever pulled with. It had a 366 cu gas engine and a five-speed manual transmission with an electric two-speed Eaton axle. I loved that truck and couldn’t hurt it. Ten gears, I was in heaven! I couldn’t tell it was loaded, it had low axle ratios and would pull anything 70 MPH. Tires cost more but they also lasted longer. The most expensive repair I did to the truck was replace the king pins in the front axle. The next 100,000 miles were all trailer miles. So I do like bigger trucks with bigger brakes, trannies, axles and springs.
If you also decide you pull too much weight for a one-ton, (Ford F350, Dodge 3500, GM 3500,) now the next decision is between new and used. One of the nice things about a used big truck, (two-ton or 26,000 GVWR) is they can last like an “Eveready Battery Bunny.” If you go out to farm country, you can find the old “Over The Road” rigs that are 30 years old plus still hauling corn or hay. Some trailer dealers also sell big trucks even conversions that are classified as an RV. The rental businesses like U-haul, Hertz or Penske sell thousands of used two-ton trucks a year. Penske is friendly with GM so a lot of these used van trucks can be found at new GMC franchises. Hertz is friendly with Ford but also sell there own trucks and used cars. Several of the 2-ton used trucks that U-haul, Hertz and Penske would have will have the a low profile kit with just 16 inch tires, so they won’t be any harder to climb up into than a one-ton. Some of them will even have Allison automatics, and a few diesels. I think my truck came from Mayflower originally. It had a hydraulic lift, which I used a couple of years and then took off. So check out a few of the big moving companies also.
One-ton dually pickup trucks win the battle with speed and acceleration. The larger cab and chassis trucks on certain models will have less horse power and torque with the same diesel engines than 3/4 and one ton diesels. Manufactures consider pickup trucks to be loaded 10 percent of the time and let the engineers have their fun competing with other brands for top power. Cab and chassis trucks on the other hand are designed to be loaded 90 percent of the time and are made for a longer life cycle.
The two ton trucks can have larger diesels and more towing power, but aren’t designed for racing but for more controlled slower lift offs. But with large air brakes, engine brakes and weight, win the contest for stopping a trailer.
Most of the two-ton trucks will have six to 10 gears in the manual transmission or five or six speeds with an automatic transmission. These trucks are made to be loaded all the time. My two-ton gave me the least amount of trouble hauling loads and pulling trailers. It’s also nice to have a heavy truck pulling the trailer. It gives you more control when you brake going down hill keeps the trailer behind you instead of trying to pass you. And if you were to loose your trailer brakes, these big trucks with their extra weight and size of their brakes, will stop you better than a one-ton, (Ford F350, Dodge 3500, GM 3500.)
If you choose a new big truck, (two-ton, medium duty) choices range from Ford F650, F750 to Freightliner M2, International 4700, Peterbuilt T-330 and Kenworth T-300. And with the big boys you can get engine or exhaust brakes, crew cabs, any diesel engine. The diesels in these medium duty trucks are very powerful, with a whole other realm of torque. Now the biggest down side is the cost. So it’s a bigger decision. And they have a better resale value. You are also looking at a truck designed for one million miles plus instead of a target of 300,000 miles for a good pickup truck diesel.
Another consideration is drivers license. I had a Class A drivers license in Colorado, which would let me drive anything in the old days. Now I have an CDL for multiple trailers. But the one ton dually pickups starting in 2011 model year have a GCWR of 30,000 pounds so a CDL maybe needed for both. Unless you’re disguised as a RV.
Another problem with a big truck and a short wheelbase and a single rear axle is the bounce. It’s common to ad 1000 pounds of weight to the rear frame so when not pulling a trailer it will bounce less. A nice heavy flat bed will help. If you always are hooked to a trailer it won’t be a problem. My truck had a 18-foot flatbed, so I did use it without the trailer to haul things. It worked well for me but not everyone wants that long of a rig with a trailer.