Weights and Payload in UK Pick-Up Trucks And Vans

Understanding payload, weights and towing capacity in UK pick-up trucks

What is payload capacity in a pickup truck, and how much can I tow with my pickup truck?

If you’re new to the world of pickup trucks, you may find this guide a helpful starting point to understanding payload capacity in pickup trucks, and how much weight you can tow with a pickup truck in the UK. So without further ado, allow us to explain towing capacity and payload in a UK pickup truck.

And, this applies to vans too - so if you’re looking to find out the payload for your van, or how much weight you can tow with your van, the same information could be helpful to you!

Unladen weight

First off, you have the unladen weight, or kerb weight of your vehicle. This is simply how much your pickup truck weighs when it’s empty - without having anything in the load bed (or any people in the cabin, or indeed petrol in the petrol tank!)

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

Stepping things up a gear, you have Gross Vehicle Weight, or GVW for short. It may also be known as Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), or Permissible Maximum Weight.

This is the max weight of your pickup truck or van once it’s been fully laden with people and/or goods. Imagine you fully load up your truck and drive it onto a weigh bridge. The total weight on the weigh bridge is your GVW. Every pickup truck will have a maximum recommended limit for its GVW. It should be listed in your owner’s manual, or on a plate/sticker attached to the vehicle itself. If you exceed this limit, you have overloaded the vehicle and risk doing serious long term damage to your truck.


So understandably, there’s only so much extra weight that any pickup truck or van is designed to carry - and this is called payload. Simply - the payload is the difference between the unladen weight, and the maximum GVW. In other words, the total extra weight your truck or van can take before it reaches its GVW.

It's a useful thing to know, obviously, because it's essentially the answer to the question: "How much stuff can I carry?"

So, what about towing?

You may think you already know the weight your truck can tow - manufacturers often make this clear. It's regularly referred to as towing capacity. Indeed, many modern UK pick-up trucks can tow weights of up to 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes).

But… it’s not quite as simple as that, because there’s one more weight to take into consideration - Gross Combination Weight, or GCW for short.

Gross Combination Weight (GCW)

GCW is the total combined weight of your fully-laden pick-up truck, and fully-laden trailer, added together. It may also be known as Gross Train Weight (GTW). This time, imagine driving your pickup, trailer and all their contents onto that weigh bridge - that’s going to be the largest weight yet, and that is your GCW. And once again, there’s a maximum recommended limit for a pickup truck’s GCW. It’s essential not to exceed your maximum GCW to prevent damage to your vehicle. Exceeding it may also render your vehicle dangerous to drive, and pose a serious risk to other road users.

So, all this could mean you can’t tow quite as much as you thought.

Why? Well, imagine your truck is already fully-loaded with goods and passengers before you’ve even hitched up to your trailer. The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of your pickup truck - on its own - is going to be higher, meaning there’s less weight needed on that trailer before you reach your maximum Gross Combination Weight (GCW) for both the truck and trailer.

If you only have, for example, 2 tonnes of wiggle room before you reach your maximum GCW - you can’t tow any more than 2 tonnes of weight, even if your pickup's advertised towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes. To tow 3.5 tonnes, first you would have to remove some of the load from the pickup truck.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but ultimately - know your GVW and GCW, make sure that you don’t exceed the limit for either of them at any time, and take care on the road ahead.

Here’s a quick recap:

Unladen weight
The weight of your empty pick-up truck, without fuel.

The extra weight your pick-up truck can carry.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)
The weight your pick-up truck should weigh once it has its full payload. You must not exceed the maximum recommended GVW.

Towing capacity
The maximum amount of weight your pick-up truck can tow.

Gross Combination Weight (GCW)
The combined weight of your fully-laden pick-up truck, and fully-laden trailer. You must not exceed the maximum recommended GCW.

TMC, The Motor Company - Used pickup truck and van specialists near Bordon, Hampshire

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