Pulling Together: SAE, OEMs, Trailer and Hitch Makers Work to Set Tow Testing Standards for Pickup Trucks
By: Mike Levine & Kent Sundling Posted: 11-10-07 11:30 PT
© 2007 PickupTruck.com

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Say goodbye to the suspension fairy. You know, the one that spreads its enchanted dust on leaf springs, shocks, and coils, magically increasing a truck's maximum tow ratings from year to year so it can meet or beat the competition’s ratings.

An industry wide congress has been convened to set tow testing standards for pickups, under the governance of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The effort is a response to recent hikes in claimed maximum tow ratings that have pushed some half-tons into formerly three-quarter-ton towing territory.

Known within the SAE as standard 'J-2807 - Performance Requirements for Determining Tow Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Ratings and Trailer Weight Ratings', that dryly described objective doesn't do justice to an important selling feature for manufacturers and a passionate bragging point for owners.

The arrival of the all-new Toyota Tundra kicked off the latest scramble to claim max towing. The 2007 model promised best-in-class pulling capacity up to 10,800-pounds. Other manufacturers quickly responded, like Ford which upped the 2008 F-150's max tow rating to 11,000-pounds from 9,900-lbs the year before.

But when you read the fine print, how each OEM calculates their truck's high-end towing capacity, the testing conditions and parameters can vary greatly. That's because there aren't standards for this heavily touted metric. Each manufacturer has been free to create and test in conditions ideally suited to their truck’s towing strengths but not what might be considered 'apples-to-apples' relative to the other guys' claims.

So, the SAE, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and several leading trailer and hitch makers got together last winter and used the summer months to review and discuss proposed uniform standards for trailer towing.

"Multiple OEMs were very excited about setting towing standards. They came together with the SAE and gathered a balanced group of manufacturers and suppliers," says Jack Pokrzywa, the SAE's Ground Vehicle Standards Manager.

It's serious business though. Competitive rivalries had to be left behind at the door before the process could start.

"All the reps that become part of the committee have to take their corporate hats off and not be constrained by any other issues except technical before they enter the room," says Mr. Pokrzywa.

The standard is still evolving and subject to change, but the final version is expected to be built around two primary towing scenarios – pulling a trailer on a level grade and up a 7-percent incline, both at an ambient air temperature of 100-degrees-F. Straight line 0 to 60 acceleration time and braking and cooling performance are some of the items that will be measured.

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