By Andre LeBlond
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) may be the most important truck statistic in the plowing industry. It refers to the total vehicle weight that the truck can handle while still operating safely, and it’s the basis for every aspect of how the truck operates. When you use plows, and especially spreaders, your truck will frequently approach its GVWR limit.
But GVWR is only one part of the overall equation. You must also consider the front and rear gross axle weight ratings and front axle distribution. Together, those four ratings will determine whether your truck is safe and legally compliant.
A typical Class 3 snowplow truck weighs around 7,500 pounds before the addition of the snowplow, which adds between 900 and 1,100 pounds. Adding a spreader increases the base weight by another 600 to 700 pounds, with the ability to carry 3,500 to 5,500 pounds in payload. The weight adds up quickly.
If you’re in the market for a new plow or spreader, rely on your manufacturer to help determine if the plow fits on your truck and your dealer to assist with proper install.
But if you exceed your weight rating limits, what’s the big deal?
At the highest and most obvious level, it’s the law. GVWR limits exist for a reason. The manufacturer put that particular number on the data plate because they want to keep your drivers and others safe. Depending on weight, the vehicles are subject to federal, state and local regulations. If you exceed your GVWR and you get stopped and weighed, you will get a ticket. Fines and penalties vary by state. Some states penalize the driver while others penalize all parties involved - the driver, the owner and/or the person that loaded the vehicle.
If you go over your weight limit, your truck’s brakes may not stop the vehicle in time to ensure that you won’t have an accident, given human reaction time. Also, if you see something in the road and have to maneuver suddenly to avoid it, your truck may not handle as expected. The GVWR is the last safe point where you can be sure that if you are properly alert and following traffic laws that you will not endanger pedestrians, property or other drivers.
It’s damaging to your truck
In general, as you drive with a load above your GVWR, you are putting a strain on your truck’s wheel bearings, causing them to wear out faster. You can also cause long-term damage to the steering system. In severe cases, the added weight could increase the internal tire pressure and result in a blowout. Hitting bumps in the road could bottom out your suspension and damage springs, as well as create a number of other problems - all of them expensive to repair.
It’ll shorten your truck’s life
Exceeding the recommended weight on your truck puts a strain on the entire truck, including the frame, suspension and body. Over the long term, metal flexes and fatigues at a much higher rate when excessive weight is applied.
However long your truck was going to last you before you overloaded it, you can be sure that driving around with too much weight is going to shorten the life of your truck.
Tear & Teach pullout
The June Tear & Teach pullout, available for download here
, offers instructions on where to find your vehicle’s weight ratings, how to calculate vehicle weights, and how to adjust should they be over or under.
Andre LeBlond is project engineer-vehicle integration for Fisher Snowplows. Learn more at www.fisherplows.com.