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Looking into an HDT truck, what does a newbie need to know?


Brass

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Hi everyone.

 

My wife and I have been RVing for a few years now having started with bumper pulls and then bigger bumper pulls and for the past few years we've been in a 15k lbs 5th and are looking to go to bigger again. The RV toy hauler we plan to purchase will end up at around 20k lbs. We also fully expect to be moving to something larger again in a few (5-6) years down the road. We want to upgrade our tow vehicle now before we upgrade the RV so we know what we can handle (or not handle).

 

My current truck, a 2015 SRW Ford superduty diesel is only rated to pull a max of about 16k and the thought of buying another truck with DRW but otherwise the same is a struggle for me to wrap my mind around. So we have been looking at options and that has taken us towards HDT's.

 

The trouble there is, we don't know what we don't know. A simple statement. Being so new to the thought of using an HDT, we don't know what questions to ask, what limitations there are, what the downsides are, what and where we will encounter hurdles or complete road blocks and how to get around those issues.

 

Naturally we have tried to search out as much as we can, You Tube has been a great source of information and one person there has posted hundreds of vids about his business of converting Volvos for RV hauling. No doubt many of you are familiar with who I am referring to. Again, that has been a great source of information but it is only one source. Due diligence says I need to ask more questions to more people.

 

As with any question, details help to ensure the most correct response is reached. With that in mind I'll share some information about how we use our RV.

 

My wife and I love to travel, sometimes as much as 4000 miles (6400 km) over a 4 day weekend. We are also avid dirt bike riders, we love to travel to remote areas and explore. Not be confused with motocross riders who go to different established tracks. We ride in the woods, bush, desert, mountains, etc.. This often takes us down some narrow access roads or simply well travelled paths where we drop our RV and stay until the water tanks are empty.We never stay in full hookup RV parks, ever! While we are camped we will on occasion load the bikes into the truck to head out to ride other areas in the vicinity. We also sometimes have friends along and carry their bikes as well.

 

Articulation between the truck and trailer is sometimes a concern. We have on occasion reached the limits of what the Reese Titan hitch pivot is capable of. We try to stay on firm ground where traction isn't an issue but have been known to get caught by Mother Nature and use 4wd to pull out.

 

With those details in mind;

1 - What should we be looking at or for?

2 - What should we avoid?

3 - What questions should we be asking, either to ourselves, of a truck, or other source?

4 - What other information do we need?

5 - ......

 

No doubt many of you have been in the same spot as us an were simply unsure of the unknown as we are. We are hopeful that by asking as many questions as we can think of to as many people who will answer, that we will avoid those pit falls that we all know are out there.

 

Thanks for your help.

 

 

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Hi Brass,

 

Welcome to the site. After doing all of your reading, I hope this idea can help you out. There is a National Rally in Hutchinson, Kanas from October 9th to the 15th. You do not need to have a hdt to attend. The rally will have the right people there to answer all of your questions. The info about the rally is in the hdt resource guide. HDTRally.com.

 

Best of luck with your research,

Al

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What part of the country do you live in? It would be a good idea to try and attend one of the HDT Rallies. You do not have to own an HDT to attend.

 

The West Coast Rally is coming up next month in Idaho.

The National Rally is in October in Kansas.

The East Coast Rally was in April in Tenessee.

 

There is a sticky topic at the top of the HDT section with links to the various rallies.

 

A rally would give you an opportunity to talk one on one with owners and view their setups to see what might or might not work for you. There are also various presentations given at the rallies that could help you learn about HDT and related topics.

 

On edit: Al was typing the same idea. A rally is really the best place to get a lot of information and ask a lot of questions.

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Brass,

There are a lot of us in the same place you are in regards to the HDT. We are going to the West Coast Rally to further educate ourselves. Their rally location in Idaho this year was just a couple hundred miles from our previously planned vacation trip so we re-routed. They are great folks to talk to and you can always hitch a ride with someone to experience the trucks.

 

Lots to consider! Attend the closest one to you

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How does your domicile state treat HDTs? Will they register it as a motorhome or a private truck? How will your insurance company treat the HDT? When you are traveling, what will you drive to the supermarket, movie theater, veterinarians or doctors office? Do you boondock or stay in FHU campgrounds or mix it up?

 

I went thru this within the past 2 months. I was ready to buy an already converted truck. I'm talking a tentative offer had been made and accepted. But, I simply could not find insurance in Fla for a private use truck. The state of Fla's has some insurance laws that are vastly different than other states and would not cover a truck that heavy for private use.

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All of the previous posters we agree with. In addition HDTs are not for everyone. They typically do not work good off road. Some have commented about getting stuck in wet grass. Units with a powered front axle will be geared such the mileage will really suck plus they are hard to find. They (HDTs) are big and heavy but no wider than a dually and even though they are tall, your RV will probably be just as tall. Just understand their limitations and be thankful of their outstanding features like brakes, power and comfort.

 

Dave

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I don't have any experience with the pure HDT conversions, but I do have some miles on our Renegade and have driven semi-trucks enough to get my CDL. I agree with everything above.

 

From a newbie's perspective: Since you like to cover some ground, I think you should also know just how nicely modern class-8 trucks DRIVE. My wife and I were amazed at the ease of handling and the commanding view of the road. You will really appreciate it. We prefer to drive our Renegade over anything we own.

 

With regard to offroading... if given the choice, I would not drive mine on grass during a drought. It is built for pavement, that is where I keep it. For exploring off road, you could easily (and effortlessly) carry a 4X4 in either a toy hauler trailer, or towed behind a motorhome conversion.

 

Everything on the trucks, although built to really go the distance, is designed to be easily serviced. Unlike light trucks and cars, you can access most everything that might require your attention.

 

Most have ridiculous power.

 

 

Best of luck with your purchase!

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the off road characteristics of an HDT are not super positive and getting an HDT unstuck is a lot more work then getting a pickup unstuck

 

the HDT's shine for long haul scenarios, mountains, very heavy 5th wheels, etc

sounds like you will need to weigh those scenarios and land on what works for you

 

keep in mind that the length of the singling makes a significant difference in the maneuverability of the HDT

a singled hyper short volvo will have better turning radius then a 1 ton pickup, singled long and it doesn't

 

we like the singled long as it makes for a larger deck which we can get 3 atvs or a pair of side by sides on; but we give up turning radius

happy hunting

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I use mine in a very similar way, but usually with UTV's. I love it on long hauls and on the interstate, but once you get off of the asphalt you have to be very careful. The weight alone is a liability due to the front axle being so heavy. It will literally dig itself into soft ground, even when not wet.

 

I absolutely love my truck, more than a rational man should, but it sounds like its limitation could be very impactful to the way you would use a HDT.

 

When I win the lottery, which should be any day now, I'll be building an overland setup based on a military HET. I'm not suggesting you do that, but you do need to weigh out how important off road performance is to your plans. If you do much around sand/desert, you need to be especially careful. I have had big issues at Glamis and similar areas.

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Thanks to everyone that replied, added links, offered advise, words of wisdom and of caution. It is greatly appreciated.

 

Attending a rally certainly sounds like a great opportunity to pick the minds of those who have already been down this road. I will have to see if we can shift one of them into our work schedules.

 

To answer some of the questions:

 

We live in Calgary Alberta. Here we can easily register and insure the HDT as an RV once singled. Alternately we can retain the 2 rear axles and register as a private commercial truck but would require a class 1 license (CDL) to operate. As a private truck, we would not be required to pull into scales, complete log books or be restricted by hours of service. ** I'm still looking into the details of that and it has not been confirmed **. I was informed that only Ontario and Quebec don't recognize the "private commercial" status but the rest of Canada and the lower 48 do. Perhaps someone can comment.

 

As mentioned in my initial post, we never camp in conventional camp sites. We may stop for a night on our way somewhere but that happens no more than once or twice per year, so the off-pavement limitations are a concern. I don't know what the front axle weight would be but imagine with a singled truck it would be very near 10,000 - 11,0000 lbs. Would it be better to retain the 2 rear axles rather than converting to single despite the affect to ride comfort? More so to gain (retain) the extra locking differential? Are wider front tires a viable option?

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I don't know what the front axle weight would be but imagine with a singled truck it would be very near 10,000 - 11,0000 lbs. Would it be better to retain the 2 rear axles rather than converting to single despite the affect to ride comfort? More so to gain (retain) the extra locking differential? Are wider front tires a viable option?

 

My Volvo 730 (D16 engine) is singled mid. The front axle weight is 11k.

 

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For traction's sake, keeping it tandem would definitely be better. Make sure you get a truck with a locker in the rear. My truck does not have that. I wish it did. A locker could definitely be added (estimated at $1600), but obviously it would be better to get it in the truck to start with. Other than the locker, this truck was exactly what I was looking for. With so many variables in these trucks, and the 730 so hard to find, I decided to make a locker upgrade if necessary.
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Interesting timing, I just spent a very long time ( so much for work today! ) going through the 29 pages of your build and saw the weigh ticket there. It also looks like we were in Moab at about the same time, though we were camped about 10 miles north of town and about 1 mile in off the road near the Sovereign trail.

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Interesting timing, I just spent a very long time ( so much for work today! ) going through the 29 pages of your build and saw the weigh ticket there. It also looks like we were in Moab at about the same time, though we were camped about 10 miles north of town and about 1 mile in off the road near the Sovereign trail.

 

I'm glad you found it interesting. That was the reason for trying to keep it updated, and still going so. I have an update to make to it this evening.

 

Moab was great, as usual. We drove north on the way out, probably close to where you were camped. Unfortunately, we didn't get to ride out there this trip. Hopefully we'll get to explore some different parts when we go back this summer. Moab is one of my favorite places in the country. I hope to spend a good portion of my later years there.

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We usually camp as you do and rarely go to campgrounds. We were lucky and found a HDT with double lockers. I put a big heavy bed on it and this made the HDT about as good as can be expected. In fact in some instances it has managed to get us out of places others needed 4x4's. However the front axle weight of an HDT can be like an anchor in soft earth and freeing an HDT when stuck is a major undertaking so we are careful and vigilant wherever we go. I also added extra fresh and waste water tanks on the HDT so we can stay longer and refill without moving the 5er.

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I have stuck my tandom axle once so far, trying to get into a friends camp in the desert at night.

We had to unhook my trailer and it still took my early Broncos winch doubled up with a snatch block and two trucks tied on the bronco as a anchor to get it out.

Truck weighs 20k by itself.

A locker and not being dark would have solved the problem.

Another concern would be the fifth wheel they don't like to articulate considering they're just made of wood.

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Thanks to everyone that replied, added links, offered advise, words of wisdom and of caution. It is greatly appreciated.

 

Attending a rally certainly sounds like a great opportunity to pick the minds of those who have already been down this road. I will have to see if we can shift one of them into our work schedules.

 

To answer some of the questions:

 

We live in Calgary Alberta. Here we can easily register and insure the HDT as an RV once singled. Alternately we can retain the 2 rear axles and register as a private commercial truck but would require a class 1 license (CDL) to operate. As a private truck, we would not be required to pull into scales, complete log books or be restricted by hours of service. ** I'm still looking into the details of that and it has not been confirmed **. I was informed that only Ontario and Quebec don't recognize the "private commercial" status but the rest of Canada and the lower 48 do. Perhaps someone can comment.

 

As mentioned in my initial post, we never camp in conventional camp sites. We may stop for a night on our way somewhere but that happens no more than once or twice per year, so the off-pavement limitations are a concern. I don't know what the front axle weight would be but imagine with a singled truck it would be very near 10,000 - 11,0000 lbs. Would it be better to retain the 2 rear axles rather than converting to single despite the affect to ride comfort? More so to gain (retain) the extra locking differential? Are wider front tires a viable option?

 

Checkout www.rvhaulers.ca. Gregg has some great info on his site and many videos posted on his you-tube page and may also be a source for a truck. He is also located in Calgary

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Thanks again for everyone's replies.

 

I have been to the rvhauler site many many many times and watch most of his 300 plus videos. I have even bothered him on the phone a couple times. Great guy and very knowledgeable. But, he is a business man and I respect his time enough to not want to hound him with questions he no doubt has answered a hundred times. I'm certain he is busy, likely building a truck for someone on this forum.

 

Attending the Idaho rally in June would be great but my work calendar conflicts. The Kansas rally is possible but I won't know for sure for a few more weeks.

 

In the meantime, I have to replace the pin box on my trailer. Seems the Moab trip has resulted in the 5th pin being partially ripped out of the box. A big deal as far as safety but a minor nuissance overall. It will give me some time to investigate the HDT while a new box is ordered.

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We still don't know where you live, might be a member or two close enough to look over their set-up.

Edit to add: Be advised most of the trucks on the forum aren't geared towards off-road use, with all the fairing & low hanging storage boxes. A HDT can be set-up for off-road, but it may hurt the performance as a RV hauler. Always a compromise.

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