Ever attend an auction (or worse, participate in one), and watch two players raise the ante fractionally back and forth, only to have one attempt to smack the other guy into submission with a big jump? I'm not sure that's what Ram Truck had in mind when it announced a top tow rating of 30,000 pounds, but a 5300-pound leap above any other pickup truck certainly had that effect.
My phone didn't stop ringing. "No," I'd reply, "I never expected that big a number." I'm confident Ford and the General didn't either. But while the new Silverado and Sierra were supposed to be the big pickup news at the North American International (aka Detroit) Auto Show, with some keen interest in Ford's Transit, for few days, nobody mentioned them to me. Discussion was all Ram numbers.
This is the largest single increase in capacity I, and most of my truck-minded pals, can remember. It more than doubles gross combined from Dodge's first Cummins pickup.
Marketing battles have inched payload and tow ratings up 100 or 200, perhaps 500 pounds at a time. The numbers have grown since the second pickup was introduced. But Ram's out to win the war, not just a battle, with a 3-ton whack at the pickup world.
I won't repeat an attorney source's comments verbatim, but he was surprised any Joe Schmo with money could visit a Ram dealership and drive out with a truck that can pull 15 tons. Have we gone off the deep end chasing pounds and pound-feet?
When the news first hit, I missed any reference to J2807 SAE standards (which are a regulated way to make sure that manufacturers' towing capacity claims are fair and repeatable), which it seems only Toyota has uniformly adopted. I'm not suggesting the Ram won't literally and figuratively measure up--if it doesn't, a lot of Big Horn shirts will be summoned to Marchionne's office, and the competitors will use it against Ram. But why are there standards if every new truck doesn't adopt them?
Let's assume the Ram numbers are good and make more assumptions. Tongue weight of 20 percent is often considered ideal for a gooseneck or fifth-wheel. If you agree, the math, as usual with maximum pickups, shows little wiggle room. A 15-ton trailer will put 3 tons on the pin. GVWR won't go above 14,000 because that bumps them into Class 4 trucks. You can buy a Ram at 7500 pounds and heavier hardware won't make them lighter; there won't be a lot of payload left from GCWR. Did you ever see a gooseneck hauling construction equipment or livestock without a fuel tank, tools, hay, or anything else in the bed?
Last time I towed 13 tons, it was in a Freightliner with air brakes and substantial rolling stock--it was still within weight restrictions with only two rear tires. The Cummins engine didn't make as much power as the new Ram's, but it never felt uncomfortable. So far my heaviest pickup trailer was 11.5 tons, and I was not as comfortable with that arrangement, but I struggle correlating payload ratings that are higher than the sum limits of tie-down point ratings for a given truck.
I wonder if this will be the number that drives new legislation, enforcement, or regulation. People notice when things get big and popular: The diesel performance market eventually got popular, people noticed, and the authorities started cracking down. We all know anything near the 37,000-plus GCWR on the Ram is going to require a commercial driver's license or an endorsement of some type in many states and maybe more of them, given the proliferation of "medium-duty" pickups. Regulations already exist, but the public and some enforcing agencies are woefully unaware. Even a state trooper co-worker of mine had no idea he needed a special license to pull an 11,000-pound RV or boat in his home state of California.
We all know people who tow over the limit, without the correct license, or both, people with more money than brains. They aren't going to abide by regulations or rules until they get caught, and then only if the penalty is severe enough or they hurt someone. But is 35,000 pounds safe for the average Joe, even if he has passed a no-air-brake driving test? Professional test drivers and engineers have more experience with "events," as they describe things gone wrong, often in better controlled circumstances than many roads and traffic, in trucks laden with data-acquisition equipment. How many testing and validation miles are driven by the average guy on the street, in overloaded, undermaintained trucks, as in the real world.
Ram spoke up and the truck world took notice. Who else will notice?