Recreational Vehicles and Trailers Handbook

Driver Education illustration

Additional Formats

  • Open selection options
    Download PDF

Section 11 of 16

Loading and Overloading Information for RVs and Trailers

It is almost impossible to overload a passenger vehicle because space tends to limit the amount of weight you can carry. You can’t take your child’s six friends to the baseball game if you are taking all of the team’s Little League equipment in the back seat. Space, not weight, is the main concern.

Now that you have an RV, you must remember an RV is heavier than a passenger vehicle and is capable of being overloaded. Also, the storage capacity in most RVs offers any number of possibilities for improper weight distribution. The way you load your supplies can have a major impact on how the vehicle handles, as well as on the durability of your tires. The results of overloading can be serious. Passenger safety is at stake. Problems such as tire failure and/or poor handling can leave the driver with inadequate ability to control the vehicle during emergency maneuvers.

Load Ratings for RVs

RV manufacturers provide load ratings on certification tags at various points inside or outside the RV. The certification tags are usually placed as follows (if you can’t locate the sticker, check with your dealer):

  • Motor homes: on door edge/pillar, or near the driver’s position in the interior.
  • Pickup/Camper: on back exterior wall.
  • Travel Trailers: on front left-side exterior wall.
  • Tow Vehicles: on driver’s side door frame.

To weigh your RV, you will need to use a level, commercial platform scale to obtain the following five weights (refer to the yellow pages of your local telephone directory under “Scales-Public”):

  1. The entire vehicle with all wheels on the scale.
  2. The front axle with only the front wheels parked on the scale.
  3. The rear axle with only the rear wheels parked on the scale.
  4. The left side with only the left front and back wheels on the scale.
  5. The right side with only the right front and back wheels on the scale.

Springs, wheels, axles, and tires are all affected by overloading. Tire failure can be disastrous in an RV, especially at high speeds. Be very careful and pay close attention to the inflation pressures stamped on the sides of the tires.

Distribute weight as equally as possible on the left and right sides of your RV. The need for this will be clear when turning and maneuvering your RV in traffic.

Pickups with campers present another type of weight distribution problem because the camper is added to the truck as cargo, rather than being built on its own chassis or being towed. GVWR and GAWR listings still apply. Manufacturers are also required to tell you the weight distribution limits, or “center of gravity zones” which are listed in truck and camper owner’s manuals. The main focus in balancing a camper is to be sure the weight of the camper does not make the vehicle fishtail or top heavy and cause stability problems.

Loading a Motorcycle Trailer

The biggest problem with towing a motorcycle trailer is loading it so there is equal weight on each wheel. The less unused space in your trailer, the less load shifting problems you will have. If you carry an ice chest inside the trailer, be sure to pack it over the axle. If you carry the ice chest on the trailer tongue, load it at the same time you load the trailer to obtain the proper tongue weight. Remember to readjust the weight as you use the contents of the ice chest to maintain proper tongue weight. Loading your motorcycle saddle bags will also assist with traction and handling when towing a motorcycle trailer.

Pack frequently needed items last so they will be at the top of the trailer. Never overload the trailer beyond the GVWR.