Trailer Weight Alphabet Soup

Cat Scale LogoWe finally put our minds at ease and weighed ourselves. No, we’re not gaining weight. Well, we might be after the way we’ve been eating and not working out. But that’s not what i’m talking about.

Since we left Eureka with our loaded trailer, a tiny voice in the back of my head has been nagging me about the alphabet soup of truck/trailer weights and towing capacities … GVWR, NCC, GTW, GCWR, GAWR … it’s enough to drive a man crazy. Or just ignore the issue altogether, which is what we did until recently.

 As we drove the Interstate 75 south through Michigan, I kept seeing signs for a truck stop with a CAT Scale weigh station. I determined it was high time that we know whether or not we were overweight. Or whether our vehicle and trailer exceeded their Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR) to be specific.

The wealth of information online about calculations for tow vehicle weight ratings and towing capacity is daunting to say the least. The website Changin Gears offers some rather straightforward help for Understanding RV Weights and a comprehensive fifth wheel weight calculator if you know what you’re talking about.

But I found most helpful with its towing basics and definitions. It was the Weight Calculator Excel Spreadsheet I downloaded from this website that finally helped put my mind at ease. You can also use this online RV and Tow Vehicle Weight Calculations Demonstrator.

How to weigh a trailerAfter staring blindly at our weight ticket for a few days wondering what to make of our steer, drive, and trailer axle weights. I finally dug into my old bookmarks and set forth to determine once and for all if we had packed too much stuff.

Weight does add up quickly – water is abut 8 lbs. per gallon, bicycles weigh approx. 40 lbs. each – but I am happy to say we are well within our GCVWR. We have 4,180 lbs. of reserve towing capacity to be specific.

To make a long story short, we came up with this calculation by subtracting our Gross Combined Weight or GCW (16,820 at the CAT Scale) from the Gross Combination Weight Rating or GCWR of our truck and trailer. Now if only I can convince René that this does not mean we can collect another two tons of stuff to pack into the trailer!

The weight calculator from also helped me determine that our Arctic Fox 24-5N fifth wheel is within the Gross Trailer Weight Rating or GTW for our Dodge Ram 2500 4×4. By subtracting the Curb Weight (Empty Weight) of our truck from our GCVWR, we come up with our Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) of 13,220 which is 1,220 lbs. more capable than our trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 12,000. Now if only I can convince René that this doesn’t mean we can et a bigger trailer!

Like I said, this alphabet soup is daunting. But it is good to be safe and do these calculations to ensure that you’re not towing more than you should. Or you could just do what we did – and what most every other first time RV buyer does – and trust the salesman who says your truck can handle it.

The following definitions are from the 2001 Towing Guide For Dodge vehicle trailering applications, by Dodge Corporation.

  • Gross Combination Weight (GCW) – Total weight of a fully equipped truck and trailer with cargo, driver, and passengers, fuel, coolant, equipment, etc.
  • Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) – Maximum allowable gross combination weight (GCW)
  • Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) – The weight of the trailer plus all the cargo in it. This is measured by putting a fully loaded trailer on a scale.
  • Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) – Maximum allowable weight of the trailer, plus its cargo.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) – The total weight of the tow vehicle, including driver, passengers, and any special equipment (options, accessories and upfitted equipment), cargo, fuel, collant, etc.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – The maximum allowable total weight of the tow vehicle, including driver, passengers, any special equipment (options, accessories and upfitted equipment), cargo, fuel, coollant, etc.

10 thoughts on “Trailer Weight Alphabet Soup”

  1. For 2007 your views and concerns about weighing are still valid today, if not more so. The improvement with this article would be mentioning the newest website on the block that helps the novice and experienced RVers with their weighing task. Please visit today to learn more.

  2. Jim, it’s starting to sound like the people are against you. I dare say by the end of this trip you may have to forego a few bottles of wine and some yummy snacks to make room for that veggie oil conversion.! I see a mutiny rising!

    Rene…I’ll start loooking for resources for you in NJ!

  3. We will not be doing the conversion to run pure greasel, at least not while there’s a nice big fifth wheel hitch in the back of our truck! 😉

  4. I just checked at Costco and their Soy Bean cooking oil is approx $18 w/tax for 4.6 gallons..Already filtered..maybe cheaper out on the road in bulk..Got room for a couple of drums in the bed of your truck :)…


  5. are you going to buy pure Veg oil (like at Costco/Sam’s club places) or get it from restaurants (starting to get popular now, even commercially viable) and filter it..?

  6. Not so quick there Greenie! :mrgreen:

    We weighed the rig with empty holding tanks (approx 630 lbs full), no fresh water (approx 476 lbs full), one empty propane tank, and only two bottles of wine! Besides, we must reserve some carrying capacity for all the yummy snacks and vegetables we keep stopping for.


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