Payload capacity explained
Updated on December 06 2023
METRO MANILA, Updated July 18, 2022 – A truck, being a heavy-duty vehicle, can carry a lot of weight in the cabin and tow more weight behind it.
The payload capacity of a vehicle is usually displayed inside the driver’s side doorjamb, listed near the tire placard that indicates the recommended inflation pressure. Payload capacity should not be confused with towing capacity.
Payload capacity refers “to the gross load weight a truck is capable of safely sustaining and operating within.” It’s the combined weight of cargo and occupants that the vehicle is carrying.
Simply put, it’s the carrying capacity of a vehicle, be it a truck, a bus or a car. Payload varies depending on how each model is designed. A four-wheel drive system or a third row of seats can reduce the payload of a vehicle.
Determining payload and towing capacity
Automakers calculate payload by testing a vehicle’s structural integrity with the suspension parts, body frame and bed.
Using the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), a vehicle’s maximum weight is determined to allow safe operation without damaging its components. The GVWR shall be the maximum weight allowable for a truck to carry, while the gross vehicle weight (GVW) is the total weight of the truck (curb weight) and payload.
Carmakers calculate the payload of any vehicle by taking the GVWR and subtracting the vehicle’s curb weight.
Most drivers aren’t usually about carrying capacity. In cars, passengers count as payload and most automakers factor in 68 kilograms or 150 pounds per seating position.
As long as everyone has boarded the vehicle, with their cargo in the trunk, the driver is good to drive. It has been said that anything heavy enough to exceed payload limits of a car probably won’t fit inside in the first place.
However, an SUV can carry more weight than a car can. When it comes to payload, it has a lot of carrying capacity just like a small truck and has a higher seating capacity. Many SUVs have foldable back seats so that drivers can carry bulky items.
What happens if you exceed payload capacity?
Payload is an important figure for truck owners because it means the difference between having a serviceable truck or a ruined truck.
Overloading can result in premature breakdown of your suspension, body frame and drivetrain. Also, the extra weight puts more strain on the engine, transmission and brakes.
Overloading your vehicle will also increase braking distances and increase wear on brake pads. Your truck can stall anytime and the bumps on the road will become enhanced to damage the structure.
Can payload and towing capacity be increased?
You can’t increase payload rating, but you can make your vehicle weigh less.
It's the same with towing capacity – you need modifications to increase its pulling force like upgrading the hitch and brakes, replacing the axles and adding a bigger radiator and tires. But this move is expensive.
For payload, any accessory added, such as a winch, a hitch, and/or bumper guards will decrease payload. Removing them will take off weight and help increase the carrying capacity.
The payload capacity of any vehicle has been standardized by auto manufacturers based on engineering and field tests conducted before any power unit is made available in the market.
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Automart.PH Senior Content Creator VJ Bacungan contributed to this story.