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What Is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)?

Gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR is the maximum amount of weight that a vehicle can carry. There are eight vehicle classes from light trucks to heavy-duty trucks that specify the gross vehicle weight rating. 

The GVWR helps drivers calculate the maximum payload weight. Whether you’re an owner-operator or a driver, understanding the gross vehicle weight rating of each vehicle increases safety and reduces vehicle wear and tear. Here is what you need to know! 

Why Is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating Important?

Gross vehicle weight rating is important for safety. Exceeding the maximum safe weight can make a vehicle unstable. With overloaded vehicles, there can be issues with the brakes or suspension. It can increase the possibility of a crash and becomes a danger to other vehicles. 

Knowing the GVWR or the gross combined vehicle weight rating is also important to calculate the total load value. Drivers can avoid accidentally overloading the truck by checking the GVWR on each vehicle they drive. 

The Components of GVWR

The components of gross vehicle weight rating are the curb weight, the weight of optional truck accessories, passengers and cargo. In simple terms, the GVWR is the weight of the truck empty plus all weight that is added to it. The GVWR is calculated at a set number.

The first component, curb weight, is set. That is the weight of the vehicle without any passengers or cargo. The second component is the maximum safe value of variable weights. The weight of accessories, passengers, and cargo all fall into this second category.  

So, what is GVW? The gross vehicle weight (GVW) changes with loading and unloading cargo. The GVWR does not change: it is always the safe maximum. 

How to Calculate Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

To calculate the gross vehicle weight rating, you will add the cab or curb vehicle weight, the axle weight plus the weight of any other accessories, cargo, and passengers. The gross vehicle weight rating is given by the manufacturer for each vehicle.

For example, if the GVWR is 50,000 pounds, you can check the total weight complies with the stated GVWR by adding the following:

  • The weight of the cab plus accessories: 23,000 pounds 
  • The weight of the trailer: 10,000 pounds 
  • Cargo weight: 15,000 pounds 
  • Total weight: 48,000 pounds 

The total weight also includes the weight of the driver and the passengers, if there are any. This puts the gross vehicle weight within the GVWR.

What Happens If You Exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating?

If you exceed gross vehicle weight ratings, there are both safety and legal implications. From a safety perspective, the weight will put strain on the axle, brakes, suspension and frame. 

From a legal perspective, you risk being ticketed and fined. There can be additional penalties for multiple infractions.  This will usually happen at a weigh station, although in rare cases a vehicle may be pulled over. 

How Do I Find My Gross Vehicle Weight Rating?

Drivers can find the gross vehicle weight rating in the driver’s manual. Many vehicles  also have the GVWR marked on the driver door or other location on the vehicle. 

Even within semi trucks, the GVWR varies. For this reason, it’s important to check the gross vehicle weight rating for each vehicle. 

Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings and Truck Classifications

There are eight classes of trucks as defined by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. government. Each class has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). 

These range from passenger vehicles like minivans or pickup trucks to tractor trailers and commercial trucks. As many types of vehicles can fall into different categories based on weight, it’s important to check your specific vehicle. 

Light Trucks

Light trucks encompass personal vehicles like minivans and pickup trucks to city delivery trucks. There are three classes of light trucks with GVWR ranging from 6,000 pounds or less to 16,000 pounds at most. 

  • Class 1: Maximum GVWR is 6,000 pounds or less
    • Minivans
    • SUVs
    • Pickup trucks 
    • Cargo vans 
  • Class 2: GVWR is from 6,001 to 10,000 pounds
    • Larger minivans
    • Pickup trucks
    • Step vans 
    • Cargo vans 
  • Class 3: GVWR is from 10,001 to 16,000 pounds.
    • Box vans
    • Heavy-duty pickups
    • Walk-in trucks
    • City delivery vehicles 

Medium Trucks

Medium trucks range from large walk-in and delivery vehicles to school buses and beverage trucks. The total gross vehicle weight rating for medium trucks ranges from 14,001 to 26,000 pounds. 

  • Class 4: GVWR is from 14,001 pounds to 16,000 pounds
    • Large walk-ins
    • City delivery trucks 
    • Box trucks
  • Class 5: GVWR is from 16,001 pounds to 19,500 pounds
    • Bucket trucks 
    • Larger walk-ins 
    • City delivery trucks 
  • Class 6: GVWR is from 19,501 pounds to 26,000 pounds
    • Rack trucks
    • Single-axle trucks
    • Beverage trucks
    • School buses 

Heavy-Duty Trucks

Heavy-duty trucks include larger commercial vehicles such as sleeper trucks and truck tractors. These two largest classes are for the largest vehicles. 

  • Class 7: GVWR is from 26,001 pounds to 33,000 pounds
    • Refuse trucks
    • City transit buses
    • Furniture trucks
    • Certain truck tractors 
  • Class 8: GVWR is from 33,001 pounds and greater
    • Cement trucks
    • Sleeper trucks
    • Dump trucks
    • Truck tractors 

How Gross Vehicle Weight Is Enforced?

Gross vehicle weight rating can be enforced at the local, state, or federal levels. This is specified through the commercial size and weight program. The maximum total weight allowed on the interstate highway systems is 80,000 pounds. 

Each state is required to submit an annual report to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) about how they will enforce weight limits. This is enforced through weigh stations throughout the interstate highway system. These weigh stations measure GVWR, length, and width. 

What to Ask for Finding Out the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Gross vehicle weight ratings are not the responsibility of the truck trailer manufacturer. Enforcement of GVWR is enforced at the government level and is the responsibility of the driver.  

When purchasing a trailer for a truck, ensure that its weight when loaded will not be over the GVWR. It is helpful to have estimated load weights to ensure GVWR compliance. 

Gross Axle Weight Rating vs Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

The gross axle weight rating is the maximum amount of distributed weight an axle can hold. Gross vehicle weight rating is the total weight of the vehicle plus passengers, cargo, and trailers. The two maximum weights should both be considered as surpassing either maximum can reduce safety and increase accident risks. 

Safety First

What does gross vehicle weight rating mean? Compliance means increased safety on the road. Gross vehicle weight ratings should be important to drivers because it protects their safety.

In the case of owner-operators, maintaining the GVWR also protects the semi truck and trailer from additional wear and tear. Understanding GVWR for each vehicle and respecting the vehicles’ limits ensures safer roads for everyone. 

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