GAWR, GVWR, GCWR, Class B non-CDL. It seems I have learned a whole new language full of acronyms and gobbledygook. But this is a language any RVer should know, especially full-timers. So first, some definitions. Gross weight ratings are determined by the chassis manufacturers according to the components used along with the engine and transmission combination. They are set in stone and the RV manufacturer has to work around those limits. “Gross”, of course, refers to the actual weight of the RV itself plus whatever is loaded on to it
GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating. This is how much each axle can carry. In the case of Motorhomes, it is usually followed designations of Front, Rear, and Tag, if so equipped. Not only should each axle be weighed individually, but each side should also be weighed. You need to make sure none of the axles are overweight and the RV is balanced side to side. Be especially careful with Motorhomes that have a front kitchen with a residential refrigerator right behind the cockpit. Some of these motorhomes are right at the limit of Front GAWR before they are even loaded.
GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the maximum an RV can weigh when fully loaded.
GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating. This is the maximum the RV plus whatever it is towing can weigh.
Now that you understand what the numbers mean, you need to find out where they are. RV manufacturers will post a tag somewhere inside, as required by law. They may also be printed on a build sheet.
Why is it important to know and understand these numbers?
- The biggest reason is safety. An overloaded rig is simply not safe to operate. Not to mention that it is illegal. If you are ever in an accident in an overloaded RV, you will likely be found at fault no matter who actually caused the accident.
- Overloading will also cause damage and premature wear on important (and expensive) chassis components.
- Special licensing may be required depending on the RV’s GCWR. Remember, it’s not how much it actually weighs, but how much it could weigh. Once again, if you are in an accident and are improperly licensed, you could be found at fault.
In Texas, for vehicles that have a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more (most diesel pushers) require special licensing. If you are towing less than 10,000 pounds, you need a Class B. If you tow 10,001 or more pounds, you will need a Class A license. Again, those weights are GCWR for the tow units, whether they are trailers or vehicles.
Whatever you do, check with your state’s DMV or licensing bureau to get an authoritative answer about any special requirements concerning weights and limits. I have received a lot of bad information from salesmen and Internet forums.