Trucks

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When it comes time to choose a new transport vehicle for the commercial equine operation, many factors come into play. But for both practical as well as safety reasons, one of the more important considerations is the vehicle’s ability to move horses from location to location. Too often, people feel that if they have a truck that pulls a maximum of 10,000 pounds and they’ve estimated their fully loaded trailer to weigh between 9,000 and 10,000 pounds, then they’re in the clear. That’s not true; there’s much more to it than just the engine’s ability to pull the weight.

That trailer behind a van or truck with the 10,000-pound maximum capacity can create all kinds of havoc on a highway when a deer springs out of the woods or when the car up ahead suddenly slams on the brakes on a steep downhill. The vehicle-trailer dynamics change suddenly and a simple swerve or a panic stop can spell disaster. Even when a load-leveling device or anti-sway setup are installed on a truck with barely enough towing capacity, things can often get tricky.

Consider that a loaded four-horse gooseneck trailer can easily weigh in at 10,000 pounds. That’s five tons, a substantial amount when considering some of the distances traveled and the roads used to get to shows and competitions. And, as any experienced horse hauler will attest, it’s always a good idea to make sure the truck doing the pulling has more than enough power—pulling and stopping—to tackle the chore.

Toward that end, with the loaded four-horse gooseneck as a yardstick, we took a look at the 2002 model year vehicles currently on dealer lots and decided to showcase the strongest pullers. Of the 17 models of trucks introduced for this year by everyone from Chevrolet to Toyota, a handful can be classified as heavy-duty haulers. They start this roundup. We’ve also included a couple of vehicles capable of pulling ten or more horses at a time. And, to satisfy readers who transport only two or three at once, we’ve included a fast rundown of some lighter weight haulers.

Chevrolet Avalanche 1500/2500

The Avalanche is proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This new model is known for its ability to go from short-bed crew-cab truck to two-seat long bed. But its split personality aside, the Avalanche is available with a big-block Vortec 8.1 liter engine that pushes 340 horsepower (hp) and will pull up to 12,000 pounds. It’s on the lower end of the scale with regard to the big five pulling machines listed here, but that towing capacity can accomplish all but the biggest chores. A downside is that its shape-shifting capability adds at least 300 pounds to curb weight when compared to the next heaviest model among the big six.

Its payload capacity is a comparatively slim 1,363 pounds, but some view the cab configuration as a tradeoff. Where does it get its stout frame? The model made its way to the road from the concept computer in less than two years by chopping the windows and roof behind the rear doors of a Suburban. But while the Suburban has four discs, the Avalanche trades the rear pair in for drums with standard four-wheel ABS.

  • Max. towing: 12,000
  • Base engine: 5.3 L/285 hp V-8
  • Drivetrain: RWD or 4WD
  • Brakes, f/r: disc/drum, ABS
  • Base weight: 5,437 lbs.
  • Payload cap.: 1,363
  • Basic warranty: 3 yrs, 36K miles
  • Price (est.): $30,965-$35,865

Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500

Nothing’s changed in this series of HD trucks from Chevy since they were introduced in 2001. In case you missed them last year, they offer more power from the engine, stronger frames and hardier drivetrains than pre-HD versions of the Silverado.

The standard engine package is a new six-liter (360 c.i.) 300-hp V-8 with five-speed manual transmission. Serious haulers should consider the new quiet Duramax 6.6 (396 c.i.) turbo diesel V-8 that makes 520 lb-ft of torque when coupled with the Allison five-speed automatic package or, for less money, a big-block Vortec 8.1 liter (486 c.i.) V-8 is available at 455 lb-ft of torque. With these packages, the Silverado leads its class in power. Towing capacity ranges from 10,500 to 15,800 pounds depending on the engine, tranny and body style.

The Silverado has a full lineup of bed lengths and cab styles from standard to four-door crew cabs (all HD extended cabs have four real doors), but the most important bit of news for horsefarm operators is that the model is expected to be outfitted soon with Quadrasteer four-wheel steering (currently found only on the lighter duty GMC Sierra Denali), a bonus when it comes to maneuvering with a trailer. Another bonus is that all automatic GM transmissions have a button on the shift lever that reprograms shifting points for maximum torque when trailering. Four-wheel anti-lock (ABS) brakes are standard.

  • Max. towing: 10,500-15,800
  • Base engine: 6.0 L/300 hp V-8
  • Drivetrain: RWD or 4WD
  • Brakes, f/r: disc/disc, ABS
  • Base weight: 5,171 lbs.
  • Payload cap.: 3,321-5,753
  • Basic warranty: 3 yrs, 36K miles
  • Price (est.): $26,800-$31,700

For more information, visit the Website at www.chevrolet.com.

Dodge Ram 2500/3500

While the lighter 1500 gets a complete redesign for 2002, the big heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 series pickups continue with last year’s design for 2002 only. There are two cab styles: a regular two-seat version and the four-door extended cab using half doors that hinge at the rear. The standard engine for both the 2500 and the 3500 is the 5.9 liter (354 c.i.), 245 hp V-8, which, depending on cab configurations and transmissions, yields between 8,100 and 8,800 pounds of towing capacity. But when the 2500 with a regular cab is outfitted with a manual five-speed tranny and the 5.9 liter inline six Cummins turbo diesel that makes 505 lb-ft of torque, towing capacity grows to 14,100 pounds. There’s also a gas-fed 8 liter (480 c.i.) V-10, an option that provides towing capacity of about 13,000 pounds.

The 2500 and 3500 offer a wide range of transmission setups as well. And while there are a number of comfort items, including the SLT Plus group with steering wheel-mounted radio and CD player controls, rear under-seat storage and heated leather front seats, a nice plus are standard heated towing mirrors.

Stopping power is backed by four-wheel disc brakes standard on both versions; rear-wheel ABS is standard on 2500 models. Four-wheel ABS is an option. For more information, check out the Website at www.4adodge.com.

  • Max. towing: 8,000-14,100
  • Base engine: 5.9L/245 hp V-8
  • Drivetrain: RWD or 4WD
  • Brakes, f/r: disc/disc, rear ABS standard
  • Base weight: 5,090 lbs.
  • Payload cap.: 2,040-4,980
  • Basic warranty: 3 yrs, 36K miles
  • Price (est.): $21,900-$29,700

Ford F-Series Super Duty 250/350

The Super Duty, the big brothers of the F-150 have the usual three cab styles. They also include a range of wheelbases and the crew cab has four full-sized doors

The base engine in the company’s big trucks is a 5.4 liter (324 c.i.) V-8 that makes 350 lb-ft of torque, but for serious towing there are two other options: A 6.8 liter (408 c.i.) V-10 with 425 lb-ft of torque or their proven overhead-valve 7.3 liter (438 c.i.) turbo diesel V-8 that cranks out 520 lb-ft of torque when joined with a manual transmission. The smaller engines also benefit from the introduction of a standard six-speed manual transmission.

With the right combination in the powertrain, the Super Duty can tow 12,500 pounds. A fifth wheel hitch increases that to 14,300 pounds. Adding the option of dual rear wheels, available from all manufacturers, increases towing stability. Various axle-suspension systems can be configured for different purposes.

There are plenty of amenities available in a range of packages, including the mid-level XLT and top-of-the-line Lariat. A nice feature is the forward-fold telescoping tow mirrors, which can be adjusted electrically on the XLT and Lariat. But a big bonus is the fold down rear seat, which creates a level platform to carry extra saddles and gear.

For more information, visit the Website at www.ford.com.

  • Max. towing: 9,700-14,300
  • Base engine: 5.4L/260 hp V-8
  • Drivetrain: RWD or 4WD
  • Brakes, f/r: disc/disc, ABS
  • Base weight: 5,058 lbs.
  • Payload cap.: 3,740-5,780
  • Basic warranty: 3 yrs, 36K miles
  • Price (est.): $21,600-$36,250

GMC Sierra HD 2500/3500

There are three V-8 engines available in the GMC three-quarter and one-ton pickups. The standard Vortec 6.0 liter produces 300 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque while the 8.1 liter version of the same engine creates 340 hp and increases torque to 455 lb-ft. But the Duramax 6.6 liter (396 c.i.) turbo diesel V-8, developed by Isuzu, ups torque to 520 lb-ft on 300 hp. When combined with a six-speed manual transmission and the right cab style, it can tow up to 16,300 pounds of loaded trailer. Optional trannys include a five-speed manual and an Allison five-speed automatic.

A number of heavy-duty suspension-drivetrain options are available, including a beefy trailering package and dual rear wheels. To help keep things safe on the road, power ventilated disc brakes fitted front and rear are a standard feature; as is a four-wheel ABS system.

GMC Sierra 1500

The half-ton 1500 should also be mentioned here since towing capacity ranges up to 10,800 pounds—the most among the half-ton pickups. Like the three-quarter and one-ton Sierras, it is available in three cab styles, including a four-door crew cab with four full-sized doors, all hinged at the front. A choice of two bed sizes, at 6.5 feet and eight feet, combined with the various cab sizes results in five different wheel bases.

New in the 1500 this year is an HD crew cab that has a standard 6.0 liter, 300 hp Vortec V-8. The standard engine for other 1500s is a 4.3 liter V-6 that produces 200 hp. Two other options are a 4.8 liter, 270 hp V-8 and a 5.3 liter, 285 hp V-8.

Another new development for 2002 are two models with extended cabs and short beds said to be geared to tradespeople. Included in those models are features like temperature-controlled cupholders and food storage bins in a new center console, lockable storage in the box, a full bedliner and box-rail covers.

For more information, visit the Website at www.gmc.com.

  • Max. towing: 10,500-16,300
  • Base engine: 6.0 L/300 hp V-8
  • Drivetrain: RWD or 4WD
  • Brakes, f/r: disc/disc, ABS
  • Base weight: 5,126 lbs.
  • Payload cap.: 3,177-5,555
  • Basic warranty: 3 yrs, 36K miles
  • Price (est.): $23,500-$36,000

Taking the Plunge

Once you’ve done your research, talk to a representative of the trailer manufacturer directly or visit the vehicle maker’s Website (don’t rely on a car salesman on the showroom floor) to determine whether the truck you’re considering is the right one for the trailers you own or are about to purchase. Also take a long, hard look at the suspension and trailering options available, and be sure to outfit any truck you purchase with a brake controller.

Most manufacturers suggest that when trailers (other than goosenecks) weigh more than 10,000 pounds, the operator should add a fifth-wheel hitch to increase the towing capacity. Check with the truck manufacturer directly for more specifics.