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Fact #621: May 3, 2010 Gross Vehicle Weight vs. Empty Vehicle Weight

The gross weight of a vehicle (GVW) is the weight of the empty vehicle plus the weight of the maximum payload that the vehicle was designed to carry. In cars and small light trucks, the difference between the empty weight of the vehicle and the GVW is not significantly different (1,000 to 1,500 lbs). The largest trucks and tractor-trailers, however, have a payload capacity share of 200%, which means they can carry 200% of their empty weight. The medium-sized trucks (truck classes 3-6) have payload capacity shares between 50% and 100%.

Payload Capacity Share by Weight Class
Graph showing the payload capacity share by weight class. For more detailed information, see supporting information below.

Supporting Information

Gross Vehicle Weight vs. Empty Weight of Vehicles
Vehicle Description Truck Class Gross Vehicle Weight Range (Pounds) Empty Vehicle Weight Range (Pounds) Maximum Payload Capacity (Pounds) Payload Capacity Share (Percent of Empty Weight)
Cars   3,200-6,000 2,400-5,000 1,000 20%
Minivans, Small SUVs, Small Pick-Ups 1 4,000-2,400 3,200-4,500 1,500 33%
Large SUVs, Standard Pick-Ups 2a 6,001-8,500 4,500-6,000 2,500 40%
Large SUVs, Standard Pick-Ups 2b 8,501-10,000 5,000-6,300 3,700 60%
Utility Van, Multi- Purpose, Mini-Bus, Step Van 3 10,001-14,000 7,650-8,750 5,250 60%
City Delivery, Parcel Delivery, Large Walk-in, Bucket, Landscaping 4 14,001-16,000 7,650-8,750 7,250 80%
City Delivery, Parcel Delivery, Large Walk-in, Bucket 5 16,001-19,500 9,500-10,000 8,700 80%
City Delivery, School Bus, Large Walk-in, Bucket 6 19,501-26,000 11,500-14,500 11,500 80%
City Bus, Furniture, Refrigerated, Refuse, Fuel Tanker, Dump, Tow, Concrete, Fire Engine, Tractor-Trailer 7 26,001-33,000 11,500-14,500 18,500 125%
Refuse, Concrete, Furniture, City Bus, Tow, Fire Engine (straight trucks) 8a 33,001-80,000 20,000-26,000 54,000 200%
Tractor-Trailer: Van, Refrigerated, Bulk Tanker, Flat Bed (combination trucks) 8b 33,001-80,000 20,000-26,000 54,000 200%

Source: National Academy of Sciences, Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, prepublication copy, March 2010, pp. 2-2 and 5-42.

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