Posted by: Mark Polk | 10:25 am

Truck Towing Standard SAE J2807 Update 2013

truck with 5th wheel

truck with 5th wheel

I first wrote this article back in 2010 and have waited patiently for 2013 to get here so the new SAE J2807 towing standard could be implemented. I have said for years that from a consumer safety standpoint there needs to be standards to measure tow vehicle weight ratings against, rather than allowing auto manufacturers to determine their own vehicle tow ratings.

Several years ago domestic and some foreign auto manufacturer engineers worked with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to establish standardized testing across the board for tow vehicle ratings. The standard was revised, agreed on and established with a implementation date of 2013. This gave all auto manufacturers sufficient time to prepare for and implement the new standard.

I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with my original article and in closing I’ll talk about where things currently stand with the new standard.

What is J2807 and why is it important?

If you haven’t heard, SAE J2807 is a standard that will be used to determine the trailer weight rating for all tow vehicles. I don’t always agree with mandated standards, government or otherwise, but there is one standard that I am highly in favor of. That standard is called “Performance Requirements for Determining Tow Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Ratings and Trailer Weight Ratings,” or in shorter terms Society of Engineers (SAE) Standard J2807.

I do applaud auto manufacturers for getting behind and supporting a standard for measuring tow ratings for vehicles. I have always had issues with vehicle manufacturer published tow ratings, and even more so in the truck wars of recent years. When a ½ truck is rated to tow more than its bigger ¾ ton brothers I start to see red flags popping up everywhere. To bring you up to speed on this topic take a minute to read my first article titled “let’s Talk 1/2 Ton Trucks” that I wrote in 2007, and my follow-up articles “2010 Let’s Talk 1/2 ton Trucks” and Why Truck Tow Ratings don’t Add Up which I wrote a few years later.

The Problem with Tow Ratings:

In my humble opinion the truck towing wars is nothing more than a marketing strategy, based on bragging rights. My truck can tow more than your truck. And in reality the method for determining those bragging rights was left up to the guy doing the bragging. Sadly the consumer was misinformed through advertising and left to believe if they purchase this truck it can tow this amount of weight.

The reason for some of these unrealistic tow capacities, at least the way I see it, was until now vehicle manufacturers had free reign to test and determine a vehicle’s tow capacity based on its own criteria. If somebody tells you to perform your own testing and publish the results the tendency is to test in a direction favorable to the design of the said vehicle you are testing. Therefore “my truck can tow more than your truck!”

On the other hand if you test against a specific standard you get results based on that standard, not just on some of the design elements built into the product being tested. In other words you get actual results and there is no ‘bully on the block boasting’ I can tow more than you can tow. Now we know the real numbers and the consumer wins in the end because you have a standard to compare and measure vehicles against.

The Tow Rating Solution

This new standard will measure a vehicles towing performance based on several criteria using a standard test trailer. These criteria are:

1)      Maintaining speed on a specified grade

2)      Timed acceleration on level terrain

3)      Timed acceleration up a specified grade

4)      Response to trailer sway

5)      Braking characteristics at Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCW)

6)      Hitch receiver structure and strength

To give you an example of what occurs when you apply these new standards Toyota put its 2011 Tundra through the paces. The results were towing capacities dropping 400lbs, 500lbs and 1,100lbs for various models of the Tundra, over previously published capacities.

I think it is notable for Toyota to step up to the plate and certify the Tundra against the new standards well before the 2013 start date. All  other manufacturers are scheduled to follow suit for model year 2013, including Chrysler, GM, Ford and Honda, and many trailer and hitch manufacturers as well.

It will be interesting to see what happens to tow capacities when SAE Standard J2807 is implemented across the board. I would venture to say many other ½ ton tow ratings and Gross Combined Weight Ratings (GCWR) will be lowered, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

This J2807 Standard may not answer all of the questions we have, or provide all of the information we would like, but it is long overdue for something as important as determining vehicle tow ratings. Now maybe the consumer will have some reliable information to base a decision on when contemplating which vehicle can safely tow the load! It sure beats the “my truck can tow more than your truck” mentality.

Fast Forward to 2013

That was my original article. As I mentioned earlier I have literally waited for years for this new standard to be implemented. If it means lowering previously published tow ratings big deal, it’s the right thing to do.

So where do we stand early in 2013? Toyota started using the new standard in 2011 and I applaud them. GM moved to the new standard with its 2013 vehicle line-up and went as far as publishing towing capacities based on the new standard, but reverted back to old ratings when Ford decided not to use the J2807 standard until all of its newly designed models come to market. In other words Ford remains the ‘bully on the block’ boasting previously inflated towing capacities for its truck line-up. I think Ford deserves to be levied some heavy fines until they are in compliance. I heard Dodge did comply with the standard, but have not seen anything in writing at the time thios article was published.  

I guess it was wishful thinking on my part. To say the very least I am disappointed. Why can’t putting the safety of the consumer be first, rather than trying to sell more trucks than the competitor, based on unscrupulous methods? This topic is already confusing for the consumer, trying to muddle through things like a properly-equipped vehicle, weight carrying hitch vs. weight distributing hitch, not to mention all the other towing terminology. Why not give the consumer a fair shake and at least tell them what the vehicle’s real towing capacity is?

Maybe it will happen in 2014.

Happy RV Learning,

Mark Polk

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