The powerplants in today's pickups often provide the power to pull heavily-laden equipment trailers. But just because you have the power to get the load rolling doesn't mean you should. A lot of trucks can pull the weight, but control of that load is also very important, says Elliott Benson, marketing manager for the Kodiak and TopKick C4500, General Motors.
Manufacturers publish Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings (GVWRs) and Gross Combination Weight Ratings (GCWRs) to ensure you can maintain adequate control of the trailer being towed. The combined weight of the trailer, load on the trailer, truck, cargo in the truck and passengers should never exceed the GCWR.
Besides adhering to the manufacturers' ratings, selecting the right options and features provides an extra measure of control. For example, Ford offers a TowCommand System that provides a combination of standard and optional features, such as a TorqShift transmission with a tow-haul mode, adjustable trailer towing mirrors and a factory-installed trailer brake controller.
"The TowCommand package was designed to provide maximum control," says Phil O'Connor, F-Series Super Duty marketing manager. This package is available across the whole Super Duty line.
According to O'Connor, there are significant advantages to Ford's integrated trailer brake controller vs. an aftermarket trailer brake controller. "It is integrated into all of the electronic systems of the truck. The first advantage customers notice immediately is that is offers proportional braking," he explains. "The trailer brake controller is tied to the master cylinder and it knows exactly how much pressure that you put on the brake pedal. It applies that amount of pressure to the trailer brakes. You have very smooth operation of the entire system - the truck and trailer combined. They brake at the same rate."
This eliminates the jerky operation associated with most aftermarket trailer brake controllers, which essentially work in an on/off mode rather than a proportional mode. Those aftermarket controllers can get pretty jerky at slow speeds.
"Another advantage is that it is tied into the anti-lock brake system of the truck," says O'Connor. While trailers with electric brakes do not have the anti-lock option, this feature still enhances control. "Our trailer brake controller knows immediately when the truck goes into an anti-lock braking event and it reduces the amount of voltage to the trailer brakes." This prevents jackknifing and allows you to maintain control of the trailer. "The truck and trailer are working together as one unit."
The tow-haul mode feature is an important towing option offered by many manufacturers. "It is a very complex algorithm in the transmission's computer," says O'Connor. "It changes the shift patterns to optimize for towing and hauling. It also gives you engine braking. If you are going down a hill, it will sense that and it will downshift to provide engine braking so that you can save your brakes."
1-ton truck options
When it comes to 1-ton pickups and chassis cabs, most manufacturers offer a choice of single or dual rear wheels. The dual rear wheel option increases the towing capacity of the trucks.
"There are not really any disadvantages to using a dual rear wheel truck for towing," says O'Connor. "The reason that most customers move to a dual rear wheel truck is because they are towing a fifth-wheel trailer. They generally have a higher tongue weight, so they put quite a bit of pressure on the back of the truck. The dual rear wheels also provide an additional level of stability for those heavy trailers.
"We have customers who tow on a regular basis with our single rear wheel trucks," O'Connor notes. "There is no problem in doing that. But when you get into those really heavy trailers, having that wider stance in the back provides an additional level of stability."