Ton ratings & maximum payloads
When light-duty trucks were first produced in the United States, they were rated by their payload capacity in tons (e.g., 1/2, 3/4 and 1-ton). Over time, payload capacities for most domestic pickup trucks have increased while the ton titles have stayed the same. The now-imprecise ton rating is presently used to compare standard sizes, rather than actual capacities. This has led to categorizing trucks similarly, even if their payload is different.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) reflects the combined weight of the vehicle, all passengers and cargo. To calculate the trucks cargo capacity or maximum payload, we subtract the GVWR from the weight of the truck itself, plus 200 more pounds for a normal-sized driver. Engine, transmission, axle gearing, and passenger weight all play a part in the capabilities of your truck. Overload springs help keep the vehicle level when loaded or overloaded, but they do not strengthen the axle, wheel bearings, tires or frame.
In the United States, commercial truck classification is determined based on the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The classes range from 1–8. Trucks are also classified more broadly by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which groups classes 1–3 as light duty, 4–6 as medium duty, and 7–8 as heavy duty.
Class 1 (GVWR) ranges from 0–6000 lb. (Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon).
Class 2 (GVWR) ranges from 6001–10000 lb. (Toyota Tundra, Dodge Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150).
Class 2a (GVWR) ranges from 6001–8500 lb. Class 2a is commonly referred to as a light duty truck. (Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota).
Class 2b (GVWR) ranges from 8501–10000 lb. Class 2b being the lowest heavy-duty class, also called the light heavy-duty class.
Class 3 (GVWR) ranges from 10001–14000 lb. (Dodge Ram 3500, Ford F-350, GMC Sierra 3500).
Class 4 (GVWR) ranges from 14001–16000 lb. (Ford F-450 trucks, Dodge Ram 4500, GMC 4500).
Class 5 (GVWR) ranges from 16001–19500 lb. (International TerraStar, GMC 5500. Dodge Ram 5500, Ford F-550).
Class 6 (GVWR) ranges from 19501–26000 lb. (International Durastar, GMC Topkick C6500, Ford F-650).
Class 7 (GVWR) ranges from 26001–33000 lb. Class 7 and above require a Class B license to operate in the United States.
Class 8 (GVWR) is anything above 33000 lb. These include most tractor trailer trucks.