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How can you trust your truck’s loading and towing capacity?

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If you buy a truck, trailer and payload ratings are often a key part of the process. But how do you know that you can trust the published numbers? Thanks to something called SAE J2807, you can get a pretty good idea.

SAE International is the premier technical congress for the automotive industry and one of its many specifications is the SAE J2807 process for determining gross vehicle weight and towing capacity for light vehicles. This includes the most popular pickup trucks, such as the Ford F-150 or the Chevy Silverado.

Some of the parameters include the assumed weight of the driver and passenger (an optimist 150 pounds each), the types and weights of the trailers used for the tests, the tires on which the trailer is fitted, and a defined series of acceleration and grade tests. There are tests for brake holding force and others that measure roll and understeer during towing.

But perhaps most intriguing is a road test conducted on an 11-mile stretch of Arizona SR 68 known as Davis Dam Grade, pulling a specific trailer in at least a 100 degree day with the air conditioning on full blast. That test can be simulated in a wind tunnel, but some automakers have found that doing it on the spot makes for a great photoshoot or commercial.

Nothing says a truck manufacturer has to follow SAE J2807, but they do so almost universally. It’s something to keep in mind when reading the fine print specs on any new truck you are considering.

All of this brings up one key point: even if you are confident of your truck’s capabilities thanks to SAE J2807, how do you know how much weight you are pulling or pulling? Ford has a new technology revealing that the use of weight sensors integrated into the truck chassis. Approximate payload weight is displayed on the center console display, in an app, or by a sleek array of segmented LEDs in the taillights, similar to a cell phone signal indicator.

Watch the video above for a real-world conversation about payload and towing with my colleague Emme Hall, trucking expert, review editor at CNET’s Roadshow.

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