- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Recreational vehicle manufacturers have been largely regulation-free when it comes to the weight and loading issues that surround their products. So far, no government body has stepped in to interfere. The system works pretty well as it is. The rule has pretty much been "police thyself," followed closely by "customer, hope for the best."

Recent changes in RV product labeling and disclosure standards, instituted by the RV manufacturers themselves, along with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, have made it easier for the buyer to accurately judge the vehicle's weight and its cargo-carrying potential. It's still possible, however, for RVs to be easily overloaded when the customer loads the RV according to the manufacturer's design parameters. So it's important for the buyer to be aware of the available information and its significance for a successful and safe RV purchase and use.

Starting back in September 1996, each new RV was fitted with a label that carried a figure called Unloaded Vehicle Weight, which is defined as the RV's weight as-built, but not including fresh-water, LP gas, cargo, dealer-installed options or — in the case of motor homes — any passengers aboard. If the unit is a motor home, the UVW must include a full tank of fuel, engine oil and coolant. The label may be tricky to locate in some cases because the manufacturers seem to tuck them away in the farthest-back, darkest-closet corner of the RV.

In effect, UVW is supposed to be the weight of the rig as it rolls from the factory. Some companies weigh each vehicle and produce an individual weight label for each, while others weigh perhaps the first in a production run and average the rest of the weights.

The weight labels also include the usual RV terms and explanations for each one: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, Gross Combination Weight Rating, Gross Axle Weight Rating and New Carrying Capacity. The NCC figure is determined by deducting the rig's UVW from its GVWR, to arrive at approximately how much weight can be added to the rig without exceeding its GVWR and overloading it.

Each label also includes a handy list of the rig's fresh-water, fuel, and LP gas capacities in gallons, along with the weight of each fluid per gallon, to further help the customer calculate the rig's final weight when filled with fluids. These weights include fresh water, 8.3 lbs./gal., LP gas, 4.5 lbs./gal., gasoline, 6 lbs./gal., and diesel, 7 lbs./gal.

This original label was further refined in September 2000 when a set of standards required for Canadian RVs, as established jointly by Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Association, was added to the specifications. These new figures included Cargo Carrying Capacity and, for motor homes only, Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating. Adding the Canadian-based standards, which are a really good idea, makes it easier to export U.S.-built RVs to Canada.

SCWR is based on how many adults the coach can sleep. The parties involved established 154 pounds per person as the average weight of passengers carried in a motor home. If a motor home has beds that will accommodate six adults, that's six times 154 pounds, or 924 pounds, of SCWR. If a motor home can sleep six, the rationale is that at some time those same six person will probably be traveling in that coach, and they'll also have their own personal cargo along on the trip. As such, the six-sleeper coach has to have enough CCC to handle that 924 pounds (average) of passengers, plus a reasonable amount of capacity for their personal cargo and the usual gear hauled in a motor home without overloading the coach.

CCC is basically the rig's actual carrying capacity based on deducting the calculated weight of water, LP gas and — for a motor home — its SCWR from the rig's GVWR.

Any weight and loading calculation has to start with a set of reliable vehicle weights. A trip to a local public-access scale to determine some accurate numbers is a great way to start. If it's a motor home, weigh the front and rear axles and the overall weight. For a trailer, weigh the axle(s), the hitch and the overall unit; and use the figures to make some educated estimations about how much cargo you can pack into your trailer.

For more information about weight and loading, see "The RV Handbook" by Bill Estes, available from TL Enterprises, 805/667-4100.


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