I Know Squat

And that’s more than I knew before!

One of the things that’s always on my mind when driving loaded-down work trucks is exceeding their rated capacity. Sure, you can cheat those ratings a little, but it’s always a compromise. Even if the engine can “handle it”, there’s so much more to it than that, and the given rating is a great starting point.


My truck, a 1995 C2500 Sierra, has a clearly labelled GVWR of 7200 pounds. But that’s just the maximum overall loaded weight. It doesn’t spell out just how much it can carry.

So during a scrap metal run, I made sure to get a reading from the scale after unloading. I want to know what my truck weighs empty, so that I can subtract that from the GVWR and get a sense of what its hauling capacity is, since I can’t find a reliable source for those kinds of numbers that will match my truck’s configuration. Luckily, these scales (truck scales too), have to be re-certified frequently. And from what I’ve been able to find, they’re supposed to be within 0.01% of dead-on balls accurate. That’s a 10 lb tolerance for a 100,000 lb capacity scale. Not bad!

But first I wanted to have my truck prepared as best I can for a true baseline reading. I don’t trust my fuel gauge to be 100% accurate when it claims to read 3/4 tank, or 1/2, so right before visiting the recycling facility, I topped off my fuel tank at the nearest station. I’d rather get a “worst-case scenario” scale-reading with a full tank, which is only going to get lighter as I drive.


I also decided to leave any extra cargo at home: my ball-mount, extra ratchet straps, spare fluids, etc, even though that’s stuff that I always carry in the truck. It doesn’t amount to much, but I really want to get as close to a naked-truck reading for my baseline as I can.

I got my reading, then went home and weighed myself on the bathroom scale so that I could subtract that, too. The result: my truck weighs 4400 pounds totally empty of cargo (but all fluid tanks & reservoirs full).


Subtracted from the GVWR, that means that the truck can carry 2800 pounds. But let’s not forget that some of that weight is going to be spoken for: by me the driver, and any passengers riding with me.


This morning I went to pick up a load of concrete: 42 80# bags! 42 x 80 = 3360 pounds Yeah, I better split that into two trips. So I calculated how many bags would constitute a full load, after subtracting an overly-cautious 400 pounds from the cabin to accommodate me and my passenger. If I wanted to do a full maximum-capacity load, I would have to take 30 bags of concrete.

Well, I’d like to know what my truck looks like with a full load, so that if I ever find myself hauling more than I can measure, I can use the squat level of the truck for reference.


So we loaded up 30 bags, and I took some pictures and measured the distance from the ground (in this case a level, paved parking lot). We then took 9 bags back off and made the first trip, returning soon afterward for the equal remainder.

After taking some measurements at home, I can now save these pics and measurements for future reference. The top of the unloaded bed railing stands about 50 inches above the ground with the truck empty. But with a full load, that distance is only 46 inches.


Good to know!

21 bags of concrete (1680 lbs) onboard, sags the bed rail down to about 48 inches

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