New test will standardize towing capacity

July 15, 2011 12:00 AM

Measurements like fuel economy, horsepower and torque are often analyzed and discussed by car buyers, but for those searching for a pickup truck, one stat trumps them all: towing capacity. It may surprise shoppers to know that this statistic has essentially been made up by automakers for years.

Unlike other automotive statistics, there was never a standardized test for towing capacity. Thus, each automaker designed their own test with their own rules to arrive at the number. This made comparing the ratings between automakers somewhat frivolous - there was more than one case of an automaker simply changing their test entirely to boast "better" numbers.

That's about to change, as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which is comprised of engineers from all the major manufacturers, has developed a new standard test that will allow trucks to be compared accurately, reports USA Today. Using input from trailer and hitch manufacturers, the group came up with a series of tests that examine towing capacity under a variety of conditions.

"We wanted our customers to know that 10,000 pounds of towing capacity means the same things for all trucks," said Robert Krouse, a GM engineer who chaired the design committee.

The test is not mandatory, like the EPA-regulated fuel economy, but all the major truck manufacturers have pledged to begin using it by the 2013 model year. 

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