On our last trip, to Cape Disappointment State Park here in Washington, we happened upon a quaint State Department of Transportation truck scale. It was on US 101, near the coast, with maybe not so much commercial truck traffic. Oyster trucks, maybe, if there is such a thing. There was the little shed where, presumably, truck scale attendants hang out and possibly did, at one time, crossword puzzles, but now probably play JackBingo on the smartphones. Instead of the more modern digital readout, there was a round, analog, clocklike gauge, sporting a white dial with black markings and pointer, visible through the window. If you pan and zoom in below, you might be able to see it.
The scale was unattended (“Scales closed ahead”) which means, in my limited experience and according to exhaustive-if-not-trustworthy Internet research, I could use it. There was just one scale — the newer installations have as many as three contiguous weighing platforms — so we did a few measurements.
NOTE: Wally was concerned about every aspect of this operation. He had a lot to say about it. I believe Sooz ran out of dog treats trying to appease him so I could concentrate, or at least try.
We pulled TinMan’s front wheels onto the scale, then I got out, read the scale and noted the results (couldn’t read it well enough from the driver’s seat). Analog, with small gradations, not so very accurate, possibly due to my sub-optimal eyesight.
Next, we weighed TinMan, both axles, all on the scale. BARK! offered Wally. Of course this weight would include Toto’s tongue weight, because there Toto was, hooked up to TinMan.
Then we weighed Tinman’s rear axle only. Finally, we weighed Toto, with both of his axles on the scale. This wasn’t Toto’s total weight, of course, because some of that total rested on TinMan’s hitch. But we knew (actually, hoped) we could do math to calculate everything.
We also knew we needed one more measurement: TinMan’s weight without Toto attached. I discussed this with the rest of the team, who pretty much said WHAT ARE YOU DOING WE WANT TO GO HOME. So, with incomplete data and anxious-for-home passengers, I pulled back out onto the roadway. A few hours later we were home and unhitched — and I convinced the team to jump back into TinMan (who hadn’t been unloaded at all) for a brief excursion to our local Department of Transportation truck scale, only a few minutes from our house.
Here, we would be able to capture the remaining, key data point: TinMan’s weight, one axle at a time and together, loaded but without Toto leaning on his rear end. This scale is a more modern version, with two contiguous weighing platforms and a digital readout (visible only through the little window in the door). Notwithstanding the compromised accuracy of using two different scales, at different times of day, in different weather and possibly on either side of a solar flare that could somehow matter but probably not, we had our data.
That night, I made an attempt at The Math, and the results, if I did it properly, are sobering. Let’s see if I can share the useful part of the results:
- We had not exceeded either of TinMan’s axle weight specifications.
- Including the weight from Toto’s hitch, we had too much weight overall in (and leaning on) TinMan. We were, in fact, over his rated capacity (they call it Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) by nearly 300 pounds. We were putting too much strain on TinMan’s frame.
- Too much of Toto’s weight rested on the hitch. It was roughly 100 pounds too much. Again, a strain on the frame. Not good.
It looks like the team, and the rig, need a diet, or a cargo reorganization, or both. We want TinMan to last a good, long time, and we want to travel safely. Also, if some sort of mishap occurred and an insurance company looked into things carefully, they might deny a claim because of this slight but nonetheless naughty overindulgence.
With a big trip coming up soon — more on that shortly — we have to clean up (trim down?) our act. So here’s what we’ve done.
- We took odds and ends out of TinMan’s cargo bed, and we’ll transport them in the trailer. This will be slightly less convenient, but really no big deal. These odds and ends include our portable propane BBQ grill and firepit, an 11-pound-capacity propane tank, our camp chairs and ottomans, the boys’ cot, a plastic footstool and a woven campsite “rug.” It all added up to 107 pounds, and it will go in the trailer.
- I removed a front-mounted hitch receiver, installed maybe two months ago, from TinMan. It weighs nearly 40 pounds. I’m getting skilled enough at backing that I think we can live without this, and the weight has to go.
- We shifted heavier items away from Toto’s front storage box into other storage areas, and vice versa. That storage box is quite a bit lighter now, and I think items are better organized now than they were. We’ll see about that.
- I got out our handy Sherline tongue weight scale to see the results — and I liked what I saw. I think we have reduced tongue weight by 200 pounds or so. Some of that will return when we fully load the trailer for travel, and that’s good. It’s a true balancing act: the trailer tongue has to be under 610 pounds (TinMan’s limit) but should be no less than about 12-13% of Toto’s total weight. If the tongue weight gets too low, Toto will have a tendency to fishtail (the RV-enthusiast term is “sway”) under certain conditions, and nobody wants that.
So I think we’re going to be safe, and within TinMan’s and Toto’s rated capacities. We wouldn’t have to work this hard at things had we been willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a large truck. But we were not willing. For us, this is the better way. BONUS: additional incentive for the humanoids and furfoots to shed a few pounds. We’ll get right on it.Sharing is caring!
Following is daring.