Once the power and towing bragging rights are out of the way, trucks are built to haul stuff, and payload rating is the value most often quoted to represent that. But where did that rating come from, and can you do anything to change it?
There’s no doubt you’ve seen comparisons of payload ratings, but they should have many footnotes because there is no detailed industry standard, and ratings change so fast that few are up to date. Truck makers typically define maximum payload as the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) minus the truck’s curb weight — and in the case of GM, they use “base option curb weight” to calculate — and payload is composed of passengers and cargo.
Numbers May Vary
From the outset there’s a gray area, as GM and Ram Truck consider all passengers to weigh 150 pounds at each seating position. That seems a bit optimistic to us. Even the FAA is considering raising its 170-pounds-per-person specification of recent years because of potential overloading of small aircraft and the ever-increasing weight of Americans. Transport Canada has proposed 200 pounds for men and 165 pounds for women. Even if we use the 150-pound specification, a half-ton four-wheel-drive pickup with five passengers could easily be left with an effective cargo capacity of just 350 to 750 pounds.
It’s important to note that the payload figures in brochures and on manufacturer websites highlight “best-case” scenarios. The specific truck in question will be fitted with the minimum equipment needed to attain that given rating. Optional parts usually add weight, though there are exceptions, like changing from steel wheels to alloy wheels, an aluminum-block engine rather than iron, smaller mirrors, or deleting the bumper or spare tire. Anything else you add — a hitch, winch, or megawatt stereo — will subtract from your payload rating.
The only way to boost the payload rating is to take weight off the truck: removing the rear seat or bumper, using lighter wheels and/or tires that meet gross axle weight rating requirements, and so on.