The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), an independent organization whom formulates standards for the design, development, and production of automobiles, issued the release of the J2807 standard in 2008. J2807 creates “Performance requirements for determining tow-vehicle gross combination weight rating and trailer weight rating”. It outlines test procedures in which the SAE recommends for certifying a vehicle’s maximum payload and tow ratings.
The standard essentially levels the playing field for pickup truck manufacturers – if everyone follows the same standard, the resulting ratings represent that outcome of roughly the same test procedure. Without adhering to the J2807 rating, automakers are essentially free to draft their own standards, which allows them to determine tow and payload ratings based on different criteria. The premise that automaker "A" can claim ratings higher than automaker "B" without using universally accepted criteria has been a cause for concern and criticism in recent years, especially considering the substantial GCWR ratings that modern pickups bear.
The J2807 test procedures include an acceleration test, which according to Car and Driver requires a vehicle to accelerate from 0 to 30 mph in at least 12 seconds, 0 to 60 mph in at least 30 seconds, and from 40 to 60 mph in at least 18 seconds for a given trailer weight (though dual rear wheel vehicles are allotted additional time).
Additional performance testing requires the truck and trailer to maintain at least 40 mph (35 mph for dual rear wheeled pickups) over an 11.4 mile stretch of Arizona’s Davis Dam grade with the AC on full. It sets additional standards for allotting the weight of the driver and any additional equipment. The purpose of these tests is to certify engine, drivetrain, and cooling system performance for a given trailer weight.
SAE recommended that all automakers adopt the J2807 standard by the 2013 model year. However, the Big 3 have been slow to accept the ratings. 2015 model year Ram pickups (1500, 2500, 3500), the 2015 Ford F-450, and the 2015 GMC Sierra/Chevrolet Silverado 1500 trucks are all J2807 certified, meaning that all these vehicles have undergone essentially the same testing in determining their maximum rated tow and payload ratings.
At time of publishing, the current Ford F-250/F-350, Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500, and GMC Sierra 2500/3500 models have tow ratings determined by the manufacturer that do not necessarily adhere to J2807 standards. Ford claims that it will adhere to the J2807 standard when the next generation Super Duty is released, and General Motor’s brands are likely to follow suit in the near future.
If the standard was introduced in 2008, why the delay in adopting it? Concerns that automakers would lose precious pounds in their tow and payload ratings. The testing procedures established by the SAE clearly presents more stringent means of assessing tow performance, even if the difference only amounts to a few hundred pounds.
Ultimately, max tow and payload ratings are not the priority of ever truck owner, as the occasion to tow/haul the pickup’s max rated load will likely never arise. Soon, controversy over the J2807 standard will grow irrelevant, as all pickups will adhere to its testing procedures. Those who’ve yet to adopt the standard have at least expressed plans to do so in the near future.
Source: ford.com, gmc.com, chevrolet.com, ramtrucks.com, caranddriver.com