Should Shortbed Trucks Tow Fifth Wheels?
Updated on March 15, 2011
Major Manufacturer Says No!
I just finished previewing the Trailer Life towing guide for 2008 and it confirms something I have suspected for a long time. In the Chevy section, which also applies to GMC trucks, there are two disclaimer warnings that jump out at you concerning 1500 and 2500 series pickup trucks.
I will quote,"Manufacturer's note: Shortbed models are not designed or intended to tow fifth-wheel trailers."
That's a pretty strong stance that opens up a flood of questions like:
Does this apply to past model year shortbed trucks?
Does this apply to shortbed trucks made by Ford and Dodge and others?
How about the heavier duty trucks?
Don't they built slide mount hitchs just for shortbed trucks? If this is true,what's up with that!?
How about bumper towing with a shortbed or short wheelbase?
In any case I believe it is clear, towing a 5th wheel trailer with a shortbed truck is not a good idea. It never has been. Now it is official.
The other manufacturer's note limits the kingpin weight to 15-25 percent of trailer weight. This is a tried and true guideline but further defined this year by adding an actual weight limit to the warning. For 1500 series its 1,500 ponds and for 2500 series, 3000 pounds. The weight of travel trailers is also limited to 13,000 pounds with weight distribution for the 2500 series.
Yet another manufacturer's note defines shortbed as 69.3 inches, standard bed as 78.7 inches and longbed as 97.6 inches.
We move on to the Dodge section and find a lot of hemming and hawing, kinda sorta maybe language that throws the final determination of what your dodge can tow into the laps of their dealers with all the reliability that can go along with that. It is almost like Dodge doesn't want your towing business.
It is also here we learn their published kinda sorta numbers are based on a 150 driver only in the truck. This is something I first remember reading in a late 90's Ford specific towing guide that further limited fifth wheel towing to units that where only one third the height of the truck above the cab.
Does anyone remember Ford towing commercials on TV? If you do, or don't, next time you see one, note the height of the trailer being towed. Then notice the gross disregard of this standard you can see everyday on our highways. Then notice that even the tractor trailer rigs have wind diverters that control the wind turbulence above the cab.
Ford is the only American manufacturer who is geared up and aggressively after your towing business. They are one of the sponsors of the TL towing guide. When you get into the guide you will notice even Ford soft-pedals the shortbox towing issue by stating the hitch will fit provided it is specially designed for small box trucks then dumps the explanation onto the dealer/ manufacturer.
All in all this is a good guide to get a hold of and read to learn the fundamentals of RV towing. It is available along with towing guides back through 1999 at this Trailer Life web address:
I have collected towing guides back through 1985 if you need information before 1999. Contact me at rvguru"at"gmail.com(replace"at" with @).
As with most things RV, when it comes to trailer towing, it's RV buyer beware! When it is time to get serious, get specific towing data from the truck dealer for what the truck can do and from the RV dealer for what the trailer requires. Remember to read the fine print and where ever possible, actually weigh the units to verify your finding. Remember most specs for both trucks and trailers are for base units and widgets whirygigs and toys add to weights quoted.
Please, in all cases tow safely and do not take chances. If you are close to the limits of things, upgrade! This is too important to monkey with and do not let predatory salesmen talk you into anything. Even if you want to believe it ( the my truck can tow anything bravado), and get emotionally involved, be well within specs, not on the edge. It's just too important not to do it safely!
Enjoy RVing! It is a great lifestyle.