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The standard won’t be for half-ton pickups only. SAE J-2807 will cover truck segments up to a gross vehicle weight (max base curb weight plus passengers and cargo) of 19,500-pounds (Class 5). And each segment will have a max towing capacity assigned to it.

One participating OEM rep on the committee tells that, "We don't want to push the trailer weights on a single rear wheel to a point where they are overlapping with dual rear wheels. We want have half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton differentiation. In some cases, it might even set a percentage of the vehicles back in how they are rating their trailers."

The role of the trailer and hitch manufacturers is to help set usage and test parameters for their products. Part of the standard covers trailer tongue weight, the percent-amount of a trailer’s gross weight pushing down on the hitch. In the past, trucks tested with fifth wheel trailers had tongue weights that might have varied from 15% to 25%. The committee has tentatively settled on a 20% standard tongue weight for all fifth wheel tow testing. And a 10% tongue weight for conventionally hitched trailers. All manufacturers would be expected to test and certify to these weights.

The trailer companies are also helping establish standard frontal area charts for trailers pulled in each truck class, to make sure aerodynamic loads are defined, while the hitch companies are recommending acceptable vehicle dynamic metrics for sway damping and stability.

A year after it was proposed, J-2807 is getting ready for the first of two rounds of balloting before the committee’s OEM, trailer, and hitch reps - an amazingly short period of time to arrive at this stage, according to Mr. Pokrzywa.

"You rarely have such an agreement come together so quickly. And sometimes it's difficult and lengthy to reach because the process is very scientific. But these guys jumped on it very fast," says Mr. Pokrzywa.

Committee reps have 28-days to make comments on the standard. The comments must be addressed and answered before each round of voting. After the second round, the standard will be made publicly available for final comment before becoming official.

It's expected that by the middle of 2008 all the tow ratings cited in truck commercials will have been measured under the new standard and guidelines. Truck shoppers will finally have an apples-to-apples comparison to refer to before reaching a purchase decision. It'll be fair - without the fairies.

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