You’ve seen the photographs and read the article by now—the Pavel’s 2020 Ram 3500 buckled in two with a 2020 Eagle Cap 1165 mounted on back. The disaster occurred during a recent trip to Baja, Mexico. Unbeknownst to Michael Pavel and his wife, they had overloaded their dually with a fully-loaded 6,500-pound triple-slide truck camper plus passengers, bicycles, and gear in a truck that was rated for only 5,178 pounds. They thought that the Ram 3500 they bought was rated for 7,680 pounds, which was the maximum payload rating advertised by Ram.
“First of all, Mike, I want to let you know that your assessment of the payload capacity is correct,” Michael Pavel told Truck Camper Adventure. “Yes, I was unaware of it when I bought the truck and camper and should have done more research on the payload. I posted my experience on Facebook to share with other current truck camper owners as I know there are many who have similar setups. I am glad that the article in The Drive was shared by the online community so as to prevent this from happening to others.”
Exceeding the payload rating is probably the most common error made by truck camper owners. We see it all the time here at Truck Camper Adventure. The payload rating tells you the maximum amount of weight that a truck can safely haul, in terms of passengers, cargo and gear. The rating is determined by subtracting the truck’s curb weight from the truck’s GVWR. This rating, which is expressed in both kilograms and pounds, can be found on the Tire and Loading Sticker and is preceded by the statement, “the combined weight of occupants and cargo should never exceed…” Unfortunately, the payload rating cannot be raised officially by the owner, though there are several upgrades to the suspension that you can make to improve the ride of your rig.
But overloading the truck was only part of the couple’s problem. The triple-slide truck camper’s massive rear overhang plus two 72-pound bikes placed an inordinate amount of weight behind the rear axle. Coupled with the weight from the 1,100-pound 6.7L diesel engine and a 300-pound aftermarket front bumper, this fulcrum affect created a “bowing” affect in the center of the frame, exactly where Pavel’s Ram 3500 frame split in two. The arched and cracked frame shown in the photographs provide additional evidence that an excessive amount of weight was located behind the rear axle.
So what happened after their catastrophic breakdown in Mexico’s Baja? Fortunately, Michael reached out to us after our first story broke and updated us on what happened next.
“The incident happened on the turn-off of the small village of Puertecitos in Baja,” Michael explained. “Within five minutes, two Americans pulled up and rendered assistance. By chance they were on their way to see the local mechanic. They gave me a ride and introduced me to the local mechanic who followed us back a half-mile back to my truck. He assessed the damage and told me he could weld the frame enough to get my truck back to the States. I used my rear camper Happy Jacks to lift the camper back to horizontal. He proceeded to add two steel plates on either side and welded the frame right there on the spot.”
“We followed him back to his fenced compound and spent the night in the camper. The next morning we unloaded the camper off of the truck and drove the 800 miles back to Tahoe without a mishap. In Mexico they call it “Mexican-do” when the locals fix things on the spot,” he said.
Manufacturer warranties will not cover negligent damage and this includes grossly overloading a truck. We’ve written about overloading numerous times here on Truck Camper Adventure, and even wrote about it in a popular truck camper mistakes article. Fortunately, Pavel’s truck was fully insured with Geico. Surprisingly, his insurance policy included damage caused by overloading.
“I contacted the MOPAR Warranty and took the truck down to Reno Dodge. I experienced terrible service with MOPAR Warranty. It was useless. They denied my claim after two weeks of a run around. I filed a comprehensive claim with my Geico auto insurance and they approved the repairs. It’s been two months since the incident and Reno Dodge has been great at transferring all the truck parts onto a new frame and it’s now as good as new,” Michael said.
Minus the deductible, Pavel’s insurance covered the $17,000 needed to repair the damage, but this incident could have been avoided at the dealership. When ordering a truck to haul a truck camper, options are key. The 7,680-pound payload that was advertised by Ram mandated a Ram 3500 DRW regular cab truck with a 6.4L HEMI V8 gasoline engine, 2WD, and an 8-foot bed. However, this configuration is rarely used by truck camper owners. Many owners, like Pavel, opt for a truck with a diesel, a crew cab, and 4WD instead. These three options alone will reduce a Ram 3500’s payload by a good 1,500 pounds. Combine that number with other options and you’re staring at a 5,178-pound payload. The lone exception to the “more options is bad for payload” rule is the dual rear wheel (DRW) truck. When it comes to payload, the dually is king and it isn’t even close, but it isn’t a panacea when it comes to hauling a truck camper. You still have to determine what each truck is rated for when it comes to GVWR and payload.
Then, of course, there’s the camper. The Eagle Cap 1165 is a VERY heavy truck camper, a veritable hotel on wheels. Yes, the dry weight of the Eagle Cap 1165 is only 4,912 pounds, but fully loaded with options this camper weighs a good 1,500 to 2,000 pounds more. Add passengers, bicycles, and gear and you’re looking at well over 7,000 pounds of weight. The right truck is need to haul such a heavy load and Pavel’s 2020 Ram 3500 dually with a 5,178-pound payload clearly wasn’t it. If Pavel consulted with us beforehand, we would have advised him to buy either a class 4 or class 5 truck. In his case either a Ram 4500 chassis (7,850 pound payload) or a Ram 5500 chassis (10,700-pound payload) outfitted with custom truck bed like those made by StableCamper with extra storage. Either truck would’ve prevented this disaster from occurring.
Michael sold his truck on February 4, the day after he returned from Baja with his Eagle Cap 1165. A happy ending for what had been a nightmare for the California couple. His next truck will be a Ram 5500 chassis, a truck with more than enough payload for his Eagle Cap 1165.
“All in all, it worked out okay. We will be back on the road and plan on traveling in our new truck and camper through British Columbia this summer. We still love traveling in our truck camper having spent five months and over 9,000 miles last winter driving down the Baja in 2021,” he said.