Class 3 one ton or
Class 5-6 two ton? One class wins acceleration, the other wins braking
Ram (Dodge), GM and Ford One Ton
Freightliner, Peterbilt and
By H. Kent Sundling
With a one ton dually
now rated to tow over 20,000 lb trailers, the difference between empty and
fully loaded truck can be 4 inches difference in truck squat. That means
trouble to the driveline and pinion angle which causes vibration, axle
wrap and U-joint popping.
Then there's braking,
though one ton dually's from the big three have improved their braking
ability, they still aren't great with big trailers. In the tests
and reviews I do with trucks, we run trucks on a race track with and
without trailer brakes. Without trailer brakes, you'd be shocked at how
far and long a new one ton dually diesel takes to stop without trailer
brakes. It's hundreds of feet at 60 mph.
Then take a class 5 or 6
conversion truck like the Freightliner M2 or Pete 335 and do the same
thing with the trucks air brakes and engine brake and it will make you smile.
And with air bag suspensions, they don't squat when loaded.
Engine brakes are the
same in over-the-road semi-trucks, which are dramatically more powerful
than an exhaust brake in a one ton diesel.
Each new model pickup truck
year has an increase in towing capacity. What is the limit? Truck
manufactures don't know, they work off demand. The new
SAE trailer towing standards
that start in 2013 will help, but at some point with 20,000 lb plus trailers, you
are going to need a heavy truck with big brakes.
The term medium duty truck covers a
lot of territory. It use to refer more to 2-ton trucks. Since 1998 the 1-½
ton trucks are coming back. In the “Forties and Fifties” a 1-½ ton truck was
a common size. By the “Sixties” farmers needed more capacity and the 2-tons
took over the market of medium duty truck. Now you see more and more big
rigs on the farms that have all grown to match economics of size. The market
for pickup trucks has once again become competitive. Bigger diesel power created
bigger trailers and so on.
one-ton use to be as big as a pickup grew up to. With trailers growing
over 15,000 #’s truck manufactures have brought back the 1 ½ ton’s with
the Ford F450-550, GM HD cab and chassis, and Dodge 4500-5500. With the growing trailers
it’s so important to get the numbers in line for the maximum capacity of
You need to know the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the
truck and the trailer. You need to know the GCWR (Gross Combination Weight
Rating,) what the two together weigh. You need to know each GAWR (Gross Axle
Weight Rating.) and you need to know the tongue weight of your trailer
whether the tongue is a ball or mini-fifth wheel in the bed or a receiver
hitch drawbar. Most
folks don't know that most of the tongue weight of a gooseneck or bumper
pull trailer is on the rear axle, so the Rear Gross Axle Weight
Rating is especially important.
2011, the big three raised the GCWR from 26,000 lbs to 30,000 lbs on 1
ton dually pickup trucks. GM quit making
C4500-7500. So they need to rate their 3500 high enough to compete. But
Ram and Ford aren't going to just set in the sidelines.
the other category of medium duty trucks, the 2-tons. I have worn out my
share of trucks. No I really mean I wore them out! When I was done with them
they were worth about $20 a ton for scrap metal. The springs were arced the
wrong way, the box was gone, and you couldn’t tell what color the engine was
from the oil dripping off it. But by then I could replace the starter,
alternator, u-joints or clutch with my eyes closed.
Being a rancher/farmer meant my truck had to pay for itself with use. Being
overloaded most of the time is what got the job done. I hauled livestock,
hay, wool, tractors, balers, backhoes, buildings, trees and whatever “kind
of fit” the trailer. I was overweight, over width, and under trucked. No not
me, the truck!
After I replaced another set of u-joints in the drive shaft, I thought maybe
I’m working my 1-ton dually too much. It had 300,000 miles on it and my
Korean replacement door from the last time I jackknifed the trailer, was
leaking so much air I couldn’t hear the weather report on the AM radio. So
time for my next workhorse. I saw an ad for some furniture van body 2-ton
trucks. They had 90,000 miles on them so they were already broke-in. My
neighbor and I each bought one. Mine was a C65 Chevy.
I took the 18 ft. van body off, leaving a flatbed and added a recessed
gooseneck ball to the rear of the rear axle.
I pulled a 32 ft. flatbed
triple axle trailer with it and had 12 feet to haul cargo behind the cab in
front of the gooseneck. That was the most reliable truck I ever pulled with.
It had a 366 cu gas engine and a 5-speed manual transmission with an electric
2-speed Eaton axle. I loved that truck and couldn't hurt it. Ten gears, I
was in heaven! If even rode nice. I couldn’t tell it was loaded, it had low
axle ratios and would pull anything 70 MPH. Tires cost more but they also
lasted longer. The most expensive repair I did to the truck was replace the
king pins in the front axle. The next 100,000 miles were all trailer miles.
So I do like bigger trucks with bigger brakes, trannies, axles and springs.
above picture you can
see how much taller the M2 Freightliner is than the one ton's, with more glass for
visibility and a larger wheel cut for out turning some one tons. On dirt
roads, a big truck can take more caution with the front axles as wide as
the outside dual. This can make the truck steer toward the ditch on a
soft road shoulder. One ton pickup trucks front axle is inside and
matches it's inside dual wheel.
|In Freightliner M2, better visibility so
you can see more deer in the mountains, air seat, 50 degree
wheel cut, turns like a one ton
Freightliner conversion makes hooking to a gooseneck easy, no
worry about hitting the bed rails
PickupTrucks.com where their "Hurt Locker" truck comparison,
3 new one ton dually's towing 20,000 lbs
Downhill is the dangerous side, stopping power is what separates
1 ton and 2 ton trucks, exhaust brakes on the new diesels help
|Summit Hauler Super Singles Wide Base Low Profile
tires handle better than duals
Sterling (deceased) same as Ram (Dodge) 4500 is competition for
||We tow in the Rocky Mountains
often for our truck comparisons
If you also decide you pull too much weight for a 1-ton,
(Ford F350, Dodge 3500, GM 3500,) now the next decision
is between new and used. One of the nice things about a used big truck,
(two-ton or 26,000 GVWR) is they can last like an “Eveready Battery Bunny.”
If you go out to farm country, you can find the old “Over The Road” rigs
that are 30 years old plus still hauling corn or hay. Some trailer dealers
also sell big trucks even conversions that are classified as an RV. The
rental businesses like U-haul, Hertz or Penske sell thousands of used 2-ton
trucks a year. Penske is friendly with GM so a lot of these used van trucks
can be found at new GMC franchises. Hertz is friendly with Ford but also
sell there own trucks and used cars. Several of the 2-ton used trucks that
U-haul, Hertz and Penske would have will have the a low profile kit with
just 16 in. tires, so they won't be any harder to climb up into than a
1-ton. Some of them will even have Allison automatics, and a
few diesels. I think my truck came from Mayflower originally. It had a
hydraulic lift, which I used a couple of years and then took off. So check
out a few of the big moving companies also.
One ton dually pickup trucks win the battle
with speed and acceleration. The larger cab and chassis trucks on
certain models will have less horse power and torque with the same
diesel engines than 3/4 and 1 ton diesels. Manufactures consider pickup trucks to be loaded 10 % of
the time and let the engineers have their fun competing with other
brands for top power. Cab & chassis trucks on the other hand are
designed to be loaded 90% of the time and are made for a longer life
The two ton trucks can have larger
diesels and more towing power, but aren't designed for racing but for
more controlled slower lift offs. But with large air brakes, engine
brakes and weight, win the contest for stopping a trailer.
of the 2-ton trucks will have 6 to 10 gears in the manual transmission or 5
or 6 speeds with an automatic transmission. These trucks are made to be
loaded all the time. My 2-ton gave me the least amount of trouble hauling
loads and pulling trailers. It’s also nice to have a heavy truck pulling the
trailer. It gives you more control when you brake going down hill keeps the
trailer behind you instead of trying to pass you. And if you were to loose
your trailer brakes, these big trucks with their extra weight and size of
their brakes, will stop you better than a 1-ton, (Ford F350, Dodge 3500, GM
you choose a new big truck, (2-ton, medium duty) choices range from Ford F650, F750 to Freightliner
M2, International 4700, Peterbuilt T-330 and Kenworth T-300. And with
the big boys you can get engine or exhaust brakes, crew cabs, any diesel
engine you want, more gears, air ride and air seat. Yes air seat! The
diesels in these medium duty trucks are very powerful, with a whole
other realm of torque reaching over 1000
ft.#’s. Now the biggest down side is the cost. So it’s a bigger decision.
And they have a better resale
value. You are also looking at a truck designed for one million miles plus
instead of a target of 300,000 miles for a good pickup truck diesel.
consideration is drivers license. I had a Class A drivers license in
Colorado, which would let me drive anything in the old days. Now I have
an CDL for multiple trailers. But the one ton dually pickups starting in
2011 model year have a GCWR of 30,000 lbs, so a CDL maybe needed for
both. Unless you're disguised as a RV.
This is a gray area for the whole country. Pickup trucks pulling trailers
and big trucks pulling gooseneck trailers seems to confuse the DOT,
(Department of Transportation.) I know some people who get tickets because
they are over 26,000 GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) and don’t have a CDL
and log books and I know people who have never been pulled over with rigs
that look totally commercial. Even with national CDL’s you would think there
is some kind of constant rule but several states law enforcement seems
to not know what to do. 10 years ago in Colorado when I pulled everyday,
I never stopped in a port with a loaded trailer even when I hauled large
round bales 12’ wide. But when I went threw Nebraska even with a stock
trailer, I had to stop at the ports. Now the portable ports in Colorado
would stop everybody. The one thing the DOT
does agree on is RV’s. Pull a fifth-wheel RV or a horse trailer with Living
Quarters and don't make money hauling your horses to a roping jackpot and
you may not require a CDL or logbook unless you
are in an Eastern state that makes their own rules.
Another problem with a big truck and a short wheelbase and a single rear
axle is the bounce. Some people ad 1000 lbs weight to the rear frame so when not
pulling a trailer it will bounce less. A nice heavy flat bed will help. If
you always are hooked to a trailer it won’t be a problem. My truck had a 18’
flatbed, so I did use it without the trailer to haul things. It worked well
for me but not everyone wants that long of a rig with a trailer.
When GM made
4500/5500, they came with exhaust brake, low axle ratios and
Allison Automatic. All useful on mountain grades. GM has dropped
out of the medium duty market. Picture left, on mountain grades,
exhaust brake takes the fear out of the fast side of the