Payload Capacity: How Much Load Your Truck can Handle?

While scaling your logistics, delivery, or trucking business, you will come across some spectacular claims about a truck’s payload capacity. For example, salespeople for Light Commercial Vehicles will base their entire pitch on the payload capacity of their vehicles

All these impressive claims might seem like simple numbers on a spreadsheet to new truck owners. However, there is so much more to it than meets the eye. 

Once you understand the importance of payload capacity, you can immensely improve the efficiency of your deliveries, increase your ROI and revamp the upkeep of your vehicles. Here is everything you need to know about payload capacity

What is Payload Capacity?

To understand the Payload Capacity more clearly, let’s first know what a payload is. The payload refers to the weight of everything your vehicle carries, including the driver and the passengers. Even some experienced truckers mistake payload for the weight that is only carried by their truck’s bed. However, that is far from the truth. The payload includes the weight of both the bed and cabin.

Now, payload capacity refers to the maximum weight your truck can safely carry inside without any risk. 

  • For a truck, payload capacity is calculated by considering the total weight in the cabin and the bed. 
  • Similarly, the total weight in the cabin and trunk is used to calculate the payload capacity of a road car. 
  • In the case of trailers, the trailer’s weight at the point of the trailer hitch is included. And, a quirky fact, the trailer weight at the hitch is known as the trailer tongue weight.

For example, a 2022 Ford pick-up truck has a max payload capacity of 3325 pounds. This does not mean that you can carry logs weighing 3325 pounds because the max payload capacity also includes the weight of objects in the cabin, including the driver. Therefore, the weight you can carry on the truck is determined after subtracting the weight of the driver, passengers, and other objects in the cabin. 

Importance of Payload Capacity

Some may argue that loading the truck beyond payload capacity never affects your vehicle’s performance. You should know that overloading it once or twice for personal use might not affect the vehicle much. But, in a professional setting, repeatedly overloading your trucks will drastically reduce their lifespans.

Payload capacity helps you know the limitations of your vehicles. Here is why it is important. 

  • If you do not adhere to the specified limits, you will face a host of suspension-related issues. One of the most common overloading problems is the premature failure of shock absorbers or suspension springs. 
  • Early drivetrain failure and bent frames are a few other common issues related to overloading your trucks. These repairs are expensive and increase the downtime of your vehicle causing financial losses.
  • Apart from the mechanical problems, overloaded trucks are also a road hazard. To begin with, the payload may prevent the loaded truck from properly accelerating to keep up with the traffic. Even if it gains the appropriate speed, the braking becomes less effective. The braking power required to stop overloaded trucks is often much more than the brake pads handle, leading to multiple road accidents. It is one of the reasons why traffic police charge hefty fines for overloaded trucks. 
  • Lastly, overloading the trucks violates the terms and conditions of the vehicle warranty and insurance contracts. You will have to pay for the repair of your trucks out of your pockets.

Therefore, understanding and operating within the payload capacity will increase your ROI while keeping you out of trouble. 

How to Increase Payload Capacity?

Here are your useful tips to increase the payload capacity of your vehicle: 

1. Better rear springs 

Better rear springs for payload capacity

The overall weight of the payload is spread across all the springs in your trucks. But they are not evenly distributed. The rear springs take more load compared to the front ones. Accordingly, the rear springs are more powerful than the front suspension. Therefore, upgrading the springs will help you increase the payload capacity.

There are two main variants of rear springs- leaf springs and coil springs. Fortunately, both springs can be upgraded to extract the maximum performance from your trucks. To upgrade the leaf springs, add one or two extra leaves to the spring to increase their durability. And in cases of coil springs, exchange them with thicker coils. 

2. Longer beds

Installing longer beds in your trucks helps you maximize your existing truck’s payload capacity. However, it does not necessarily increase the payload capacity. For example, if you carry steel on your truck bed, you can easily reach your payload capacity without filling the bed. But, if you carry wood, you will run out of bed space before reaching your capacity. 

Elongating the bed helps accommodate more items and, consequently, more deliveries. A longer truck bed also increases the vehicle’s stability by distributing the maximum amount of weight over a larger surface. You can also opt for a bed extension to increase the length without major modifications. 

3. Extra bed racks 

Adding bed racks can also increase the payload capacity of trucks. Moreover, they create additional space for the storage of tools. Custom-made racks are also available in the market to hold items that can not be stored on the bed. Say, you run a motorbike roadside assistance service. Your job will include carrying motorcycles on your truck. You will have to lay the bike on its side without a custom rack to achieve stability. 

The extra bed racks can also slightly extend from the rear of your bikes and increase the overall payload capacity without affecting the maximum amount of weight distribution. 

4. Shock absorber coils

While adding shock absorber coils does not increase the payload capacity, it does increase the truck’s stability. Adding a coil over your suspension coils removes any unwarranted vibrations and makes the vehicle steady. You can even conduct deliveries on uneven terrain. 

Even with maximum payload capacity, you can drive at reasonable speeds on the highways without worrying about potholes. Driving becomes much more comfortable and enables the driver to drive for long hours without exhaustion. 

Shock absorbers also make it easier to load and unload heavier loads. Now, the shock absorber coils come in various grades and shapes. Discuss with your truck manufacturers before making any decision about changing them. 

5. Use trailer

Use trailer for payload capacity

The ability of the truck to carry a heavier payload is limited to the payload capacity. To overcome the limitations, you can attach a trailer to the back of your truck. This is because the truck’s towing capacity is often more than the payload capacity. In an ideal scenario, adding a trailer to the back of your truck doubles your payload capacity. You will not notice any sagging if you have the right suspension. 

There are a few things you need to remember while attaching a trailer:

  • Attaching a trailer will depend on the structural strength and engine horsepower. 
  • The trailers will have their respective payload capacities. 
  • Trailers are not suitable for trucks if you regularly deliver to hilly areas. Uphill climb with a loaded trailer can damage the engine.
  • The drivers need special mirrors to avoid the blind spots created by the trailer. 
  • Lastly, trailers decrease the maneuverability of the vehicle. Your drivers might need special training to drive trucks with trailers. 

Difference between Truck Payload and Towing Capacity

A truck’s payload capacity refers to the maximum cargo weight your pickup truck can carry on its bed, including the items in the cabin. As a result, the driver and the passengers are also included in this calculation. 

On the other hand, the truck’s towing capacity refers to the maximum amount of weight the pickup truck can safely pull using a trailer. 

The payload capacity also factors in the truck’s towing capacity. 

The towing capacity will also be significantly higher than the payload capacity. Mainly because the trailer is doing the heavy lifting while the truck only needs to pull. Therefore, the horsepower and torque of the truck’s engine will matter more than its other mechanical features. 

For example, carrying weights on your shoulder uses upper body muscles as well as your legs. But, in the case of pulling weights, more pressure is applied to your legs and calf muscles. 

Trucks are well equipped to carry a payload while towing a trailer behind them. However, you must ensure that the overall weight is within the mentioned payload capacity. 

How to Calculate Payload Capacity?

Nowadays, you do not have to manually calculate your truck’s payload capacity. The manufacturers mention all the necessary information in the owner’s manual. But if the need arises, you can also crunch the numbers by yourself. The formula for calculating the payload capacity is simple –

Payload Capacity = Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (truck’s GVWR) – Truck’s curb weight

  1. To start with, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) stands for the maximum weight load under which the truck can operate without any risk of damage. The GVWR includes the vehicle’s weight, accessories, passengers, and cargo.
  2. While calculating the vehicle’s GVWR, the manufacturers consider the limitations of the suspension, wheels, truck’s axles, frames, and other load-bearing structures. Again, you can find the GVWR number mentioned in the owner’s manual or printed on the side of the door.
  3. Similarly, truck’s curb weight refers to how much your empty vehicle weighs (full weight of your truck), devoid of passengers, accessories, or cargo inside. However, it does include all the fluids required for the vehicle to function properly like fuel, full tank of gas, radiator fluid, lubricants, engine oil, and fluids in the hydraulic tubes. Therefore, subtracting the vehicle’s weight from the total maximum weight shows the payload capacity for the vehicle. Now, there are a few different variations of the same formula to find the payload capacity in different scenarios.
  • If you’re towing a trailer, subtract the trailer tongue weight from the given formula to find the payload capacity while towing. The formula looks like this: Payload capacity while towing = GVWR – Truck’s curb weight – Tongue weight 
  • If you have any third-party modification on your vehicle, you have to subtract its weight too. Payload capacity with third-party modifications= GVWR – Curb Weight – Truck’s Tongue Weight

Lastly, you must consider the object’s density while putting it on your truck. 

Say, you have a truck with a payload capacity of 1000 pounds. And you have to carry a metal block of 1100 pounds. Even though your truck’s bed can visually store the metal block, the weight will be detrimental to your truck’s suspension. On the other hand, if you have 1000 pounds of feathers, you can easily carry them on your truck even if your truck bed cannot fully contain them.

Disperse Your Delivery Chaos Using Upper

As a delivery business owner, you may know how planning around the payload capacity of all the trucks in your service can be challenging. But, it becomes easier if you buy your fleet from the same brand simultaneously.

You will often add more trucks as you scale your business operations. In such cases, keeping track of the payload capacity of all your delivery trucks is essential. 

Upper offers impressive route planning and optimization features that help you leverage the payload capacity of your trucks.

  • Reduced downtime

With Upper, routes and deliveries are effectively planned, optimized, and scheduled. This means no trucks are overloaded during pick-ups and seldom any weight-related mechanical failures occur. Hence, more trucks can operate at once increasing your efficiency. 

  • Better ROI

You can re-invest your profits into the business to grow its operation without having to constantly spend on truck repairs. 

  • Better delivery times

Upper route planning and optimization software can help you assign the right routes to the right trucks depending on the payload capacity. For example, you don’t want to assign a higher number of/complex routes to trucks with lesser payload capacity. More routes can be assigned to trucks with higher payload capacity. This, in turn, increases the overall delivery efficiency. 

To learn more about Upper and our route-revolutionizing offerings, sign-up for a 7-day free trial today.

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FAQs

The weight of the payload will vary depending on the truck’s build. For example, the most commonly used Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) can carry between 3.5 and 7 tons.

No, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is not the same as payload. The weight of the payload is included in the calculation of GVWR, along with a few other elements. Therefore, we subtract the truck’s weight from GVWR to find the truck’s payload capacity.

Mechanical elements like suspension springs, length of the truck’s bed, wheels, axle size, etc., determine the vehicle’s payload capacity.

Going slightly over the truck’s payload capacity once or twice will not significantly damage your vehicle. However, if you regularly overload your vehicle, you risk damaging the shock absorber springs, suspensions, engine, and frame of the vehicle.

Conclusion

A truck’s payload capacity is a key element for any delivery business to safely carry loads. Understanding your carrying capacities and limitations helps you frame better strategy and route plans to maximize your deliveries without compromising the lifespan of your fleet. 

In doing so, you can increase the productivity of your employees, boost your ROI, and easily scale your business. Adding route optimization software like Upper to the mix, you’ll be able to assign optimum routes as per the truck’s payload capacity and make the best routing decisions, increasing the efficiency and upkeep of your vehicles. 

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel is the founder and CEO of Upper Route Planner. A subject matter expert in building simple solutions for day-to-day problems, Rakesh has been involved in technology for 30+ years. Looking to help delivery businesses eliminate on-field delivery challenges, Rakesh started Upper Route Planner with the ultimate goal of simplistic operations in mind.

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