The maximum-claimed towing capacity of most pickup trucks is bullshit. Those numbers are created by manufacturers and vetted by no one. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) wants to change that, with a standard test for measuring truck towing capacity called "J2807."
The standard was written 2008, revised in 2010, and adopted by Toyota in 2013. Every other automaker who sells trucks in the US was "totally going to start using it," but nobody wanted to be first because they all knew the SAE max would be lower than the numbers they could cook up under their own testing conditions.
Here are the main test methods trucks would be measured on as per J2807:
- Cooling capability on a long highway upgrade modeled on the Davis Dam grade on Arizona SR 68;
- Launch and acceleration performance on a level road and a 12 percent upgrade;
- Combined handling performance – understeer and trailer sway;
- Combined braking performance – stopping distance and parking brake-hold on grade; and
- Structural performance for the vehicle and hitch or hitch receiver.
New calculations for trailer weight ratings: In addition to the performance standards, SAE J2807 also uses a specific set of assumptions to calculate maximum trailer weight ratings:
- For light-duty full-size pickups (GVWR < 8,500 lbs.), SAE J2807 assumes that the tow vehicle includes any options with higher than 33 percent penetration;
- It assumes there is both a driver and passenger in the vehicle, each weighing 150 pounds;
- It assumes that tow vehicles also include up to 70 pounds of aftermarket hitch equipment (where applicable); and
- For conventional trailer towing, SAE J2807 assumes that 10 percent of the trailer weight is on the tongue.
Bring your questions about SAE J2807 and light-duty truck towing into the comments, and we'll see if we can get you sorted out!