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At the risk of opening a large can of worms, I would like to solicit opinions on an adequate truck for towing.

When we first began RVing a few years ago both the RV dealer and truck salesman assured us that a diesel F-250 with a 50 gal auxiliary fuel tank was more than adequate for towing a fiver with a GVW of 16,830#, and a loaded pin weight of 3450#.  Apparently they based that on the listed towing capacity of that vehicle.  After researching truck payloads and axle capacities we decided on a F-350 dually diesel,bought that fiver, and have been happy with the choice.  We SmartWeigh every year and are careful to stay within limits.  As i look around at RV/truck combo ads and folks in the parks around me I see people towing with all sorts of trucks that appear to be too little truck for the job - they appear to be undertrucked.  This leaves me with several questions.

Is this a real problem?  How common is undertrucking?  Is this primarily a safety issue or an equipment durability issue - is the likely bad result an accident or more repairs?  Do things like air bags remedy the problem?

Although I feel I have enough truck I welcome input from those of you in MDT's and HDT's, as well.

Just to stir the pot a bit more, my experience as a trial attorney tells me that a person towing with too little truck, and who is involved in a serious injury accident, may be looking at large civil liability (big lawsuit) and maybe criminal exposure.

Thoughts?

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From my experience, it is an ongoing problem with the weekender crowd.  People who don’t spend a lot of time using their equipment often don’t realize what they don’t know.  Many people towing large trailers really have no idea what their vehicle ratings are or whether their vehicles are over weight or not.  

I don’t think it has reached epidemic proportions, but I do think it is a problem with a certain segment of the RV community.  I base this on things I see that I know are over weight (F250’s towing 45+ foot triple axle toy haulers), conversations I have had with people at RV parks (and them having no idea about their vehicle weights) and conversations I have had with RV sales people (telling me I could use a truck I knew was not rated for a trailer I was looking at).

I believe it is both a safety and a maintenance issue.  If your rig is over weight, it is not safe.  It will also result in accelerated maintenance needs.  Air bags and other similar accessories mask the problem rather than help it (although they can help when running near limits). 

I believe it is on the owner of any particular RV or RV combination to educated themselves about weights and capacities.  I also believe it is the responsibility of educated people (in relation to weights and ratings) to properly and courteously educate those who do not know about them.  I have regular conversations with people about upgrading RV’s and what that entails.  I try to be as diplomatic as possible when I have one of those conversations with somebody who already bought their equipment and doesn’t have the proper tow vehicle to tow it.  It’s all about property matching the tow vehicle to the load.

I am a firm believer in having the right equipment.  I personally tow with an HDT, but I realize not everyone needs that much truck and other trucks of smaller sizes are perfectly appropriate in the right situations.

Edited by Chad Heiser
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This is a subject that is often discussed among the experienced RV owners, but rarely with those who are considering their first RV purchase, probably because so many of us began our RV experience just as uneducated and lacking in knowledge as the new RV buyers of today. Even among experienced RV owners the understanding of weight limits and weight distribution used to be very limited. When I bought our first RV back in 1972, I had no idea what it weighed, or what my tow vehicle was rated to tow, or even that there were such design limits. At that time few manufacturers even published weight limits or actual weights of their vehicles and RVs. I suspect that when the Escapees RV Club began, few if any of the original members knew what their RV weighed and none had even given thought to the amount of weight on each tire. Over the years since, groups like Escapees, FMCA, RV Consumer Group, RVSEF, and a few others have made an effort to change both the know of the RV buyer/owner and the disclosure of needed information to make the right decisions. 

While access to weights and weight limits has gotten easier, the choices have become more complicated as it used to be that pickups came in half ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton, and those ratings meant pretty much what they said but truck carrying and towing capacities have increased and those numbers mean little today. 

Is this a real problem?  How common is undertrucking? The answer to that will depend on many things and the key to the answer is to define what makes it a problem. I began my education about such things with the purchase of my second RV which weighed about 4k# and was 96" wide, and my tow vehicle was a Jeepster Commando, that was lighter in weight and had a much narrower track. After a season of the two fighting when towing on less than ideal road conditions, we upgraded to a much larger and heavier tow vehicle. That was the beginning of my education but it took years for me to begin to understand the issues of weight and weight capacities and even today it isn't always clear because of changes in RVs and trucks that are available. They say that experience is the best teacher and even with our present RV, I acquired additional experience and from that knowledge. This is a very complicated issue and in my experience, there are very few people around who fully understand all parts of it and even fewer who can explain them to a beginner. And the issue is not just weights and weight capacities, but safe and comfortable towing also involves the wheelbase information for both the tow vehicle and the towed RV, not to mention that those same issues apply differently with motorized RVs. 

There is no doubt in my mind that accidents have happened and continue to happen because of weight related issues. But there are far more people who get by with mismatched weights than there are who have an accident and some learn by experience while others continue with the poor combinations for years and make no effort to correct it. Fulltimers are much more likely to deal with the problem because they travel so much more than part-time RVers and they also invest much more into their RV because of budget priorities. When we began to travel with an RV, out budget was stretched in order to buy the RV and we could not afford to buy the tow vehicle that would have been appropriate, even if we had known. Since we only towed on weekends and vacation, and we were much younger and more flexible, we just toughed things out and worked with what we had. 

The other part to this problem is that sales people for both tow vehicles and for RVs make their living based on sales commissions. When a salesperson has children at home who need things, that salesperson is going to be pressured to do or say whatever is needed to make another sale, with little thought to what happens to the customer after the sale. Most of them have less knowledge of weight and safety issues than do the majority of buyers and when desperate for another sale, most would not speak up even if they did know. 

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1 hour ago, durangodon said:

So, you guys probably don't approve of my rig.

Several years ago we were staying at the SKP park in Deming, NM.  I had to go to the office for some reason and there were people checking in.  I've forgotten if the truck was a 150/1500 or a 250/2500, but they were pulling a large fifth wheel and the truck was squatting just like the car in your picture.

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2 hours ago, Jinx & Wayne said:

When we first began RVing a few years ago both the RV dealer and truck salesman assured us that a diesel F-250 with a 50 gal auxiliary fuel tank was more than adequate for towing a fiver with a GVW of 16,830#, and a loaded pin weight of 3450#. 

 

  As i look around at RV/truck combo ads and folks in the parks around me I see people towing with all sorts of trucks that appear to be too little truck for the job - they appear to be undertrucked.  This leaves me with several questions.

 

Thoughts?

You made two points the sales people tell you this and the Buyer most likely had drove some parks, and said to their-selves "I have enough truck to that". 

I had a little Class C and was just starting to look at Fifth Wheels when going down a somewhat winding highway. I was following a fifth wheel when all of a sudden the truck and FW made a quick move to the left to avoid being hit in the side. Had his tow vehicle been anything but a dually, I think the tail would wagged the truck but everything was in control. It made a believer out out me

Several years ago I made a believer out out my wife. A fellow with a Class A pulling a car, run a stop sign and I had no to go but stop. All 34,000 pounds slowed immediately under control.

My line of work stressed Safety #1 and protection of equipment #2 so people could home each night

 

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Sadly, under-trucking is not too uncommon.  All too often the person listens to the RV sales person or they look at the truck brochure and all they see is that an XYZ brand can tow "up to" a 30,000 trailer.  They never see the little * and all the foot notes.

Read up and be come knowledgeable about the towing terms and meanings.

Ken

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We run a seasonal RV park, and can't keep track of the overloaded vehicles that come and go. Most aren't unsafe, but will definitely need more frequent maintenance. Some are downright scary, and we try to do what we can to get them back into the "more maintenance" group. Mostly these RVers know something isn't right, but aren't sure what. A little time with them goes a long way, and leads to repeat customers.

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I see a lot of 5th wheels and trailers were it seems the truck is adequate to carry the load, but the power is minimal.  Climbing a steep grade can be difficult and slow.  Another big issue seems to be overloading the trailer itself.  When I looked many years ago, a large number of trailers were so cheaply built that the suspension, tires and wheels could not carry a reasonable load.  

Truck campers are a whole different issue and being undertrucked due to weight is common.  My camper is a good example.  The sticker showed a wet weight (drinking water plus propane) of about 2400#.  Unfortunately, packed for camping, the unit weighs about 4400#.  It seems deceptively easy to accumulate a 1000# of so of bedding, clothing, cooking gear, food, misc supplies and tools, etc, etc.  In addition the wet weight from the manufacturer failed to consider accessories and upgrades including an 8" thick foam mattress, two large AGM batteries, solar panels, generator, truck bed mat, very HD suspension brackets and camper tiedowns.  My diesel Ram 3500 will easily pull the load but the rear wheels and tires are about max'd out.

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11 hours ago, Kirk W said:

And the issue is not just weights and weight capacities, but safe and comfortable towing also involves the wheelbase information for both the tow vehicle and the towed RV, not to mention that those same issues apply differently with motorized RVs.

Absolutely, I thought I was prepared when I researched tow vehicles before buying one (and after buying the rv).  Despite my research I had no idea of wheelbase issues.  When I finally found out I was relieved to find out we were fine.

I think the problem extends beyond weekenders.  I spent the summer near to a guy with a Ram 2500 and a 39' fiver weighting in at just under 18,000.  He was a full time snowbird, but only traveled north and south at the season change.  I suspected there was some lack of understanding or awareness when I discovered that one of the A/C units had just been replaced after being forcibly removed in an overpass.  Even after replacing the unit he still only had a rough idea of the RV height.

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7 hours ago, JimK said:

When I looked many years ago, a large number of trailers were so cheaply built that the suspension, tires and wheels could not carry a reasonable load

When I bought my fiver the tires had a speed rating of 56 MPH and barely sufficient load ratings.  I had never RV'ed but even to me that seemed a bit low. (I don't travel much faster than that, but a bit.)  I think many manufacturers view suspension, brakes and tires as an afterthought.  The majority of the money goes into interior bling.  The first thing I did was upgrade wheels and tires.  Then I took my first trip.  After that trip I upgraded to electric over hydraulic disc brakes and heavier, wet hub axles.  I've since improved the suspension. I'm in agreement full with ms60ocb. Safety first.

Wayne & Jinx
2017 F-350 diesel, dually
2006 Carriage Carri-Lite 36KSQ

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I have seen RVs with bent axles because the axle rating was only about 1500# over the base RV weight.  It is easy to exceed that and in addition RVs can take a real beating because of the poor suspensions.  A decent RV should have a suspension that will easily carry the weight and lots of gear, water, solar panels, generators, etc.   Wheels and tires need to be able to carry the load continuously including at highway speeds on a hot day.  It is hard to believe but many 5th wheels and trailers do not have shocks.  The trailer itself and everything inside takes a beating on even normal paved roads.

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Many, many years ago my mother had a Class C built on a Toyota frame. When the axel broke the builder (I think Coachman but not sure) blamed Toyota for an inadequate axel and Toyota blamed the builder for placing a too heavy unit on the truck. Meanwhile, Mom was grounded with no recourse. How are any of us supposed to know these things?

Linda

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52 minutes ago, sandsys said:

How are any of us supposed to know these things?

Any RV should have a list of specifications somewhere showing things like axle capacities, weights, etc. A tow vehicle should have specifications available, often online.  Vehicle specifications will vary depending upon the model and accessories.   Tires have the year and week of manufacture on the sidewall.  Advice about those tires can be found online.

Escapees has some very good educational resources.  I would include this forum among them.  This is where I found out about wheelbase and other issues. As you know from being a Major Contributor, you just need to ask and you can get a wealth of sometimes conflicting opinions. 😉

SmartWeigh is an Escapees program available for $55 or less.  It is a full review of a fully-loaded-for-travel RV and TV,  to determine weights and dimensions as compared to specifications.  It is available in Escapees parks in AZ, TX and FL.  You can find full information on the Escapees homepage under the Education tab.

The Escapees RV Online University is another resource.

There are also various individuals and organizations that have videos and information - sometimes free.  You have to look at some of them pretty carefully.  Some are very good.

Wayne & Jinx
2017 F-350 diesel, dually
2006 Carriage Carri-Lite 36KSQ

 

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1 hour ago, sandsys said:

How are any of us supposed to know these things?

Linda

The manufacturers do publish the dry weight, GVRW and load weight.  I just checked a popular manufacturer.  Their 25' trailer designed for 4 adults had a load rating of about 2000#.   As usual, that was based on dry weight.  So with fresh water and propane, the load capacity would be about 1500#.  In addition a great many common accessories were not included so a microwave, solar panel, a/c unit, awnings and perhaps a generator could easily remove another 500#, dropping the available load to 1000#.  That 1000# and more would vanish due to tools, lawn chairs, a stocked refrigerator, dry/canned goods, cooking and eating gear, and clothing.  

Clearly the manufacturers know this and have decided to cut costs.  The decor, bath and kitchen are going to sell the unit.  Almost no one will ever question the undersized suspension, wheels and tires.  On top of all that a great many people who buy these units seem to drive like fools.  Most of these  units, especially the tires, are not designed to handle 75 plus mph on a hot summer day.

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5 hours ago, JimK said:

The manufacturers do publish the dry weight, GVRW and load weight.  I just checked a popular manufacturer.  Their 25' trailer designed for 4 adults had a load rating of about 2000#.   As usual, that was based on dry weight.  So with fresh water and propane, the load capacity would be about 1500#.  In addition a great many common accessories were not included so a microwave, solar panel, a/c unit, awnings and perhaps a generator could easily remove another 500#, dropping the available load to 1000#.  That 1000# and more would vanish due to tools, lawn chairs, a stocked refrigerator, dry/canned goods, cooking and eating gear, and clothing.  

That's my point. The manufacturer gives you a bare bones weight without telling you the weight of add ons. How would anyone know to ask about individual add ons? That's why we made driving over a trusted scale part of each test drive before we bought once we realized this could be a problem. Then we did a 4-wheel weigh once we had a rig packed for travel. But, when Mom bought the wrong one such things were not available.

From Kirk's link: :

Toyota Dolphin

These were manufactured by National RV from 1979 to 1990. Many of them are so nice that they almost have what you could call a cult following. 

The company was hit hard by an axle recall. The recall came about because some of the campers that were being produced were too heavy for them."

Edited by sandsys
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When I bought a new truck camper a couple years ago I had to sign a waiver at the dealership that I would know and understand the weight of the camper I was buying and haul or tow with a vehicle of sufficient capacity. 

I thought to myself, "Self, so much for very popular 'blame the salesman' excuse..." 

 

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1 hour ago, noteven said:

When I bought a new truck camper a couple years ago I had to sign a waiver at the dealership that I would know and understand the weight of the camper I was buying and haul or tow with a vehicle of sufficient capacity. 

Interesting! Do you believe that the dealer would have refused the sale if you had said no to signing the document?

Has anyone else on the forum run across that requirement to buy?

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1 hour ago, Kirk W said:

Interesting! Do you believe that the dealer would have refused the sale if you had said no to signing the document?

Has anyone else on the forum run across that requirement to buy?

A couple of years ago I was at dealership with a friend that was looking at motor homes and I wondered over to the Lance PU campers and there was a sign stating what was required to haul them. 

Denny

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When chatting to other RVer's in parks, I often hear the comment that their truck has plenty of power.  I then ask if they've ever experienced a brake failure.  Normally, I get that deer-in-the-headlights look.  When the other person HAS had a brake failure, they understand why I have a large tow vehicle.

In 2009, my wife an I were going down the west side of Monarch Pass with our F-250 and 14k# fiver.  I was fiddling with the brake controller and tapping the brakes.  Wife asked why I was doing that, to which I replied that I was testing, to try and determine what might happen if anything disabled our trailer brakes.  I replied that we'd likely go home in a box. After a minute of silence, she asked it it might be wise to think about a bigger truck, and here we are.  I've had four brake failures, a simple plug not being secure, a ground wire with a bad crimp, a piece of road debris pulling the wire off the axle, and an outright controller failure.  Don't say it can't happen.

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