Most of us, at some point or another, have passed a truck on the highway loaded to the brim with stuff. Overloading a truck can be dangerous, not only for you but for others on the road as well. It can also seriously damage your vehicle. If you plan on carrying items in your truck bed, it’s important to know your truck’s payload capacity. The payload capacity is the amount of cargo your truck can safely carry after you’ve filled up the tank with gas and topped off all the fluids. To determine your truck’s payload capacity, you have understood how pickup truck is classified.
How Much Weight Can a Pickup Truck Bed Hold? In general, a half-ton pickup can hold up to 3000 lbs of payload on the truck bed. A three-quarter-ton pickup can hold up to 4000 lbs of payload on the truck bed. And a one-ton pickup can carry up to 6000 lbs of payload on the truck bed. However, the payload capacity reduced significantly if you are towing a 5th wheel.
Pickup Truck Classes
Pickup trucks are classified based on the amount of payload it can carry in its bed. The industry classified pickup trucks into 3 classes: ‘Half-Ton,’ ‘Three-Quarter Ton,’ and ‘One Ton.’ The terms are old and the actual payload capacity of the modern trucks have increased irrespective of their class. For example, a 2014 Ford F-150 is a ‘half a ton’ truck but can easily carry more than 1000 lbs on its truck bed.
Half-Ton Pickup Truck
Today’s ‘half-ton’ pickup truck come under the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) Class 2. Some truck under this class includes Nissan Titan, Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, Chevy Silverado. They have a curb weight of over 5000 lbs with a payload capacity up to 3000 lbs. However, they can tow around 5000 to over 10000 lbs. These truck are designed for daily driving, which is why they are more mainstream and comfortable with an empty bed.
Three-Quarter-Ton Pickup Truck
These pickup trucks are considered ‘heavy duty’ trucks which come under the GVWR Class 3. Some trucks under this class include Ford F-250, Ram 2500, Sierra 2500, Silverado 2500. You can spot them with their typical wider rear-view mirrors which are meant to keep an eye on trailers. They have a payload capacity up to 4000 lbs and can tow around 13000 lbs. Moreover, they are somewhat stiffer than the half-ton trucks, so do make an informed decision before purchasing one.
One-Ton Pickup Truck
These are meant for frequent towing and carrying a larger payload. Some pickup trucks include the F-450, Sierra 3500, Silverado 3500 and Ram 3500. These are the trucks that let you tow extreme weights. They weigh over 6000 lbs empty and can carry a payload of over 6000 lbs. They can tow over 30000 pounds of weight.
Understanding the GVWR Classes
The United States government classifies trucks based on their GVWR – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The rating is ranked from 1 to 8. GVWR is the maximum operating weight which includes the weight of the payload it can carry, as well as the weight of the truck itself. It’s worth mentioning that it has nothing to do with its performance or engine power; it’s simply a classification based on weight.
If your pickup truck’s GVWR is 14000 lbs, it suggests that the manufacturer and the government have certified that truck weight that much including fuel, passengers and cargo. The government has these classes for safety regulation and commercial transportation.
All pickup truck live within Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3. The Class 1 truck is small for example Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. They have the GVWR rating of 6000 lbs or less. The Class 2 trucks include F-150, Silverado 1500, Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan. They have a GVWR rating of 6000 to 10000 lbs.
Most heavy-duty pickup trucks come under Class 3 with a GVWR rating of 10000 to 14000 lbs. All 3500 pickup trucks come under this category.
To make a long story short If your truck’s GVWR is rated at 10000 pounds and the truck weighs 6000 lbs when empty, then you can carry a payload of 4000 lbs.
This is the ‘Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating.’ This is the maximum weight of the loaded truck and the attached trailer. For example, if your truck’s GCVWR is 16000 lbs and its curb weight is 6000 lbs, then the truck can carry 9000 lbs of cargo and trailer weight. This suggests, if your trailer weighs 5000 lbs, you can carry only 4000 lbs of cargo on your truck bed.
Automakers use GCVWR rating to list the maximum weight a pickup truck can tow. The tow rating is listed out by subtracting the truck curb weight from the GCVWR weight rating. Usually, they publish tow ratings taking into account a driver (150 lbs) and passenger (150 lbs) and the full tank.
Understanding Trailer Tongue Weight
A trailer tongue weight is the downward weight exerted by the trailer on the hitch. It usually checks out around 10% – 15% of the trailers total weight including its load. So, if you are towing a trailer of 5000 lbs, the tongue weight will be around 500 lbs. This added weight should not exceed the GVWR weight rating considering the combined weight of passengers as well as the cargo in the truck bed. For example, if your truck’s GVWR is 14000 lbs and allows a payload capacity of 5000 lbs. Now if you hitch up a trailer of 5000 lbs then the tongue weight would be 500 lbs. This suggests you get a payload capacity of 4500 lbs.
How to Increase Payload Capacity of a Pickup Truck?
This is not meant to overload your pickup truck but to enable your truck to carry the maximum payload weight with each. These enhancements are only meant to strengthen your truck to reach its full potential.
Upgrade Rear Springs
Although the truck’s overall weight is evenly distributed on the four springs which supports the suspension on each tire, the rear springs take most of the beating when the truck is loaded. However, you can maximize truck’s payload capacity or so to say minimizing spring damage by upgrading the rear springs. Most truck owners do upgrade their truck’s rear springs especially if they frequently carry heavy loads on their truck bed.
There are two main types of rear springs: the coil spring and the leaf spring. They are both rated based on the amount of load they can support and both types of springs can be upgraded to maximize your payload carrying capacity.
The strength of the leaf spring kit is determined by the number of springs. For most trucks, they have leaf spring kit with 3 or 4 contoured leaves and a flat supportive leaf at the bottom. The simplest way to make it stronger is by adding an extra leaf on each side of the rear suspension. It may not increase your truck’s payload capacity but will definitely keep up if your max out the payload. I found a set of four leaf springs for truck bed rear at under $100; make sure it fits your make and model.
For coil springs, its strength is determined by its thickness. A thicker coil will have a higher payload capacity. So, if your existing coil springs aren’t enough you can simply upgrade by replacing it with a thicker coil. You can get a pair of rear coil spring at less than 100 online.
You can easily achieve this at home. Simply unscrew the existing suspension part and add a new leaf or replace the coil, then put all the parts back together. However, if your truck has a narrow clearance, use a jack to raise the truck and keep it suspended using jack stands. I found a pair a steel jack stands with over 6 Ton capacity which is a good one for me.
Upgrade Suspension System
A good suspension system should keep your truck level at all conditions. Even with a loaded bed, your truck should be able to ride along with all types of terrain. So, you could upgrade your rear suspension system with coil-over shock absorbers. This should be enough to keep your truck steady even on rough roads or while going uphill.
When your truck bed load is maxed out it can be tough to keep your truck stable. It gets worse around the curves, on speed bumps, uneven terrain, etc. The coil-over shock absorbers will prevent your truck from swaying and vibrating even with the maximum payload on your bed. Plus, it stays put when you have to make long trips with a fully-loaded truck. Again it’s worth noting that the shock absorbers will not increase your truck payload capacity but will definitely make your ride comfortable and prevent from unnecessary damages.
- Suspension system – Rough Country suspension leveling lift; make sure it fits your make and model.
- Coil-over shock absorbers – Arnott coil-over shocks; make sure it fits your vehicle.
Install a Longer Truck Bed
This is one of the obvious ways to optimize your truck’s payload capacity. Although you can’t increase your truck bed’s payload capacity you can definitely maximize its potential with a longer bed.
A longer bed will give you more room in the back for larger cargo. This is especially helpful if you are carrying lumber, piping, bedding, sofas, etc. Moreover, it will distribute the cargo weight to a larger area, making your ride stable.
If your purpose is transportation, then a truck with its short bed is more practical than pulling a larger one. On the other hand, if you plan on hauling large items from time to time or is a part of your job, a larger bed will really do the trick.
A longer bed will maximize its hauling capacity by evening out the weight across a wider area. On the other hand, on a shorter bed, the load will concentrate right on the rear suspension. Moreover, with a longer truck bed, there’ll be a lot more space in the middle section to carry your cargo.
However, if you have a short bed and still want to reap the benefits of a longer truck bed, you can add various truck bed extension. They are pieces of interlocking metal components that attach to the rear hitch, giving you more support for your longer cargo.
Add Bed Racks
Another great way to maximize your hauling potential is simply by organizing the cargo and use accessories for specific jobs. With a bed rack, you can easily increase the room in the bed. The racks mount on one side of the truck bed, which serves as a bunk space for hauling specific cargo. This way, you can free-up much space in the truck bed to carry boxes and other stuff. I found a great set of truck bed racks to carry your kayaks and even comes with clamps that will keep your bicycle in place.
It is an ideal solution for longer items which have difficult to fit shapes; something that you can lay flat on the bed, for example, a bicycle. A bed rack will keep the bike wheels tight in its place and will sit upright on the side, leaving a lot of space for other cargo.
Bed racks are convenient for items that don’t normally fit in the truck bed such as a ladder. You can simply lie the ladder horizontally along with the rack and hoist it above the roof, giving you maximum clearance.
Practically, it will enhance the payload capacity by providing additional storage space. Because it extends up above the rear – view of the truck, it will create more horizontal storage space than a usual truck bed. Plus, it will keep large items from obstructing your view on blind spots.
In addition, you can add a truck-bed extension for the ultimate payload capacity. However, you have to keep in mind that you will have to upgrade your springs and shock absorbers as well to keep things smooth.
Here is a list of the payload capacity of America’s most popular Pickup Trucks
2020 Nissan Frontier
- Payload Capacity – 1460 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 6620 lbs
2020 / 2021 Toyota Tacoma (4×4 Tacoma 6-Cylinder with Double Cab)
- Payload Capacity – 1155 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 6500 lbs
2020 Honda Ridgeline
- Payload Capacity – 1580 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 5000 lbs
2020 Chevrolet Colorado (2.8L Turbo-Diesel engine)
- Payload Capacity – 1494 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 7700 lbs
2020 / 2021 GMC Canyon ( 3.6L V6)
- Payload Capacity – 1620 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 7000 lbs
2020 Nissan Titan XD
- Payload Capacity – 2240 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 11000 lbs
2020 Toyota Tundra (5.7-liter V8 engine)
- Payload Capacity – 1700 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 10200 lbs
2020 Nissan Titan
- Payload Capacity – 1680 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 9370 lbs
2020 Ram 1500 (V8)
- Payload Capacity – 1970 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 12750 lbs
2020 Ford F-150 (5.0L V8)
- Payload Capacity – 3270 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 11600 lbs
2020 Ram Heavy-Duty 2500 (6.4L V8)
- Payload Capacity – 4010 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 17540 lbs
2020 Chevrolet Silverado (6.2L V8)
- Payload Capacity – 2100 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 13400 lbs
2020 GMC Sierra 1500 (6.2L V8)
- Payload Capacity – 2110 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 13400 lbs
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD (6.6L V8)
- Payload Capacity – 2800 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 13000 lbs
2020 GMC Sierra 2500HD 2WD (6.0L V8)
- Payload Capacity – 3233 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 13000 lbs
2020 Ford F-150 Raptor (SuperCrew 5.0L Ti-VCT V8)
- Payload Capacity – 3270 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 11600 lbs
2020 Ford Super Duty F-250
- Payload Capacity – 7850 lbs
- Towing Capacity – 15000 lbs
Dangers of Overloading Your Truck Bed
- Bent leaf springs
- Bent axle housing
- Damaged axle seals
- Damaged shocks, mounts, and other suspension parts
- Broken U-joints
- Damaged ABS sensors
- Worn out tires
- Damaged lug nuts
- Bent frames
- Damaged brakes
How to Safely Carry Cargo on Your Truck Bed?
Install the right truck bed accessories to secure your payload
Tie-Down Anchors – If are frequently carrying loose cargo you need to secure it with a net or rope or ratchet straps. However, you also need a secure point to tie down your cargo, hence install tie-down anchors to the truck bed to keep your cargo secure even when hitting high speeds. Bull Ring makes some of the toughest tie-down anchors in the market.
Bed Racks – Bed racks will enable you to transport long cargo securely to your destination. If you frequently carry lumber, ladders, piping, etc, a bed rack can increase your hauling capacity.
Bed Liners – They are more of a protective solution to increase your hauling capacity. However, if you carry metals and boxes, a bed liner can protect your truck bed from dust, scratches, and dents as well as provide enough traction to your cargo so that they don’t slide around while you drive. If you need something as a temporary solution, you could go for BedRug truck bed and tailgate mats.
Cargo Nets & Covers – Ratchet straps and nylon ropes may be a better solution but cargo nets and cover or tarps are enough in most situations. In fact, not many truck owners need ratchet straps unless they are carrying heavy cargo. For smaller cargo, cargo nets and covers provide much wholesome security and stability. Get your own 4’x6′ bungee cargo net which is best for me.
Tool Boxes & Bed Organizers – People who take their trucks to work know the need for tool boxes and bed organizers. They not only keep their tools and other stuff organized, but prevent them from sliding around, as well as protects from theft. Even if you are carrying groceries a bed organizer would be a great solution to your hauling needs. I found a great waterproof truck bed organizer which is collapsible and comes with a foldable cover.
Keep heavier items near the cab end
Hauling heavy items can sometimes throw your truck out of balance, especially if a lot of your cargo is loose and jiggles or slides while driving on the road. Therefore, it is advised to keep most of your heavier items towards the cab end. It will not only keep your truck in line but also protect from damage. Too much weight towards the back of the truck bed, puts a lot of pressure on the back axle, making your truck to slightly tilt back, leaving little traction for the front wheels. This will save your truck from poor handling, vibrations and make your cargo hauling fuel efficient.
On the other hand, do take care of your truck bed’s maximum payload capacity. As discussed earlier, check for your truck’s GVWR weight rating and load accordingly. Moreover, if you will hauling a trailer, you know you will have much less payload capacity on the truck bed. Overloading is not only dangerous but also illegal.
Keep larger and longer items to the sides
Keep larger items such as furniture, chairs, and mirrors to both sides of the truck bed. Leaving them in the middle will make them slide around thereby damaging fragile items. To keep larger items stable and secure tie them to the side bed rails and keep away from the center.
On the other hand, you can keep smaller items and load boxes in the middle. When you are stacking boxes, keep the heavier ones at the bottom and the lighter ones on the top. They secure them with cargo net or tarp. You can also use rope or bungee cords.
How to Tie Down Your Cargo Securely?
Cargo net and tarps are great for smaller loads. For larger ones, you need other accessories such as a nylon rope or a ratchet strap. To keep your cargo secure, make sure to tie down from two sides or you can use an X-shape pattern. For added protection from weather hazards or dust and debris, you can use high-quality cargo cover. After tying down your cargo use tarp or the cargo net to keep things in place. Ratchet straps will keep your cargo stuck to the floor but a cargo net will prevent your cargo from flying out.
- Nylon rope – 2 Nylon rope bundle
- Ratchet strap – Heavy duty ratchet straps from Rhino USA
How much weight you can carry on your truck bed depends directly on the payload capacity of your truck bed, which depends on the make and model of your pickup. The rated weight of your truck bed is assigned considering your truck’s engine, suspension, driveshaft, and other aspects. So, it is advised to keep your load within the rated limits. However, if you want to max out the full payload capacity, you can upgrade your truck components so that they hold up well. Moreover, if you are carrying long loads such as lumber and piping which will be hanging out of the truck bed, you should check up with your state’s overhang laws. After all, if you are still unsure of how much weight can your truck bed carry, you can always check up with your manufacturer or dealer find out your truck bed payload and hauling capacity.