Firefighters: Understand Your Vehicle's Payload Capacity

Published on:  

November 10, 2023

Let’s start this blog with a one-question quiz: What is “payload”?

  1. Truck bed cargo
  2. Baggage in cab
  3. The driver
  4. All of the above

The answer? All of the above. When considering vehicle weight ratings, it's essential to know your available payload, which includes everything you pile into your truck or UTV–cargo in the bed, passengers, gear in the cab, and fuel–everything. Not only is it illegal to overload your vehicle on the road, it also presents a safety hazard. 

To calculate your vehicle's payload capacity, subtract the curb weight from the GVWR. The curb weight is supplied by the manufacturer and is usually an unladen vehicle that has oil and other necessary fluids included. The GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is the maximum weight your vehicle can safely carry, as determined by the manufacturer.

Here's an example:

  • GVWR: 10,000 lbs.
  • Curb weight: 6,000 lbs.
  • Payload capacity: 4,000 lbs.
    Bed capacity: 2,500 lbs.

This means that your vehicle can safely carry up to 4,000 lbs. of passengers, cargo, fuel, and firefighting equipment. However, if you max out the bed capacity at 2,500 lbs., your remaining payload is 1,500 lbs.

Here are a few key formulas to remember:

  • Bed Capacity = Cargo weight limit for the truck bed
  • Payload = Bed cargo + passengers + cab cargo + fuel + any additional weight
  • GVWR - Curb Weight = Maximum payload capacity
  • Maximum Payload - Bed Cargo Weight = Available payload capacity for other uses

To calculate your truck's maximum payload:

  • Identify the GVWR – the absolute weight limit that your vehicle is built to handle.
  • Subtract the curb weight (the weight of the empty vehicle).
  • The resulting number is your maximum payload capacity.

When loading your vehicle, be sure to factor in the weight of everything, including the full contents of containers. For example, a QTAC™ 125 HP skid has a full wet weight of 1,340 lbs., not just its standing dry weight of 297 lbs.

Never overload your vehicle. If you need to carry more weight than your vehicle's payload capacity, consider using a trailer or adding another vehicle to your fleet.

Here are some tips for safely loading your vehicle:

  • Distribute the weight evenly throughout the vehicle.
  • Avoid placing heavy objects high up in the vehicle, as this can raise the center of gravity and make the vehicle more likely to roll over.
  • Secure all cargo properly to prevent it from shifting during transit.
  • Be aware of the weight limits of your vehicle's axles and tires.

By understanding and respecting your vehicle's payload capacity, you can help ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.

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