Is your truck and camper combo a little overweight? Are you struggling with weight distribution issues with too much weight on the rear axle while towing? We might have the product for you. Pack Enterprises has released a patented tag axle that addresses both of these issues and more. Let’s be clear, we never recommend going over your truck’s GVWR, but we know that’s not always possible. Circumstances and situations sometimes demand quick, out-of-the-box solutions. We first met Roy and Gaye Pack at the NATCOA rally in Washington State in 2019. Roy, a retired associate engineer, was eager to show us his new tag axle design, but it was still in the testing phase and not yet ready to go to market. Now, after several years of safety testing, Roy’s tag axle is now ready for prime time. In a Truck Camper Adventure exclusive, Roy Pack was kind enough to answer several questions about this exciting new product.
TCA: Thanks, Roy, for taking the time to talk to us about your patented new tag axle. First, please tell us a little about your business and how you got started?
Roy Pack: Pack Enterprises is a family owned and operated manufacturer and distributor of Weight Distribution Tag Trailers located near Des Moines, Iowa. The story starts when we purchased a 2001 Lance 825 which was too large for my then current 2001 GMC 1500. As a recently retired associate engineer, with a very capable CAD program, the design process began. We put over 65,000 miles on that 2003 model with numerous design upgrades. It’s still out on the highways with a Texas owner.
In 2017, after several people showed interest in purchasing our unit, I decided to design a tag axle to sell. We faced two initial challenges. Number one was to submit a “Request for Interpretation” to DOT/NHTSA. That process took 18 months, moved through NHTSA Chief Crash Avoidance Office to Chief Counsel and resulted in a favorable interpretation of the design. NHTSA, Chief Counsel, determined that the unit would be considered a trailer not a tag axle and would carry its own GVWR. The designation was as a Weight Distribution Truck Camper Trailer (WDTCT) requiring a VIN number, lights and brakes. The second was to submit a patent application. The status is “Utility Patent Pending” as a Weight Distribution Tag Trailer (WDTT).
Our primary market was expected to be the half-ton and 3/4-ton pickup owners that use their pickup as a daily driver and need GVW, balance, and driving comfort, which can be achieved with an easily removable tag-trailer. But our sales have not been limited to this group. We have installed tag trailers on half-ton, 3/4-ton, and one-ton pickups with driving comfort issues related to trailer tongue weight, balance, and sway. Over 48,000 miles have been logged on our Ford F-250 hauling Lance and Alpenlite truck campers. A conservative estimate of total miles logged with Pack Enterprises installed WDTT units would be 125,000 miles.
TCA: Tell us more about your tag axle. How exactly does it work?
Roy Pack: A high percentage of truck camper setups have a heavy rear axle load and a light front axle load. The WDTT solves this issue. The purpose of any tag axle is to help carry some of the load of a vehicle. In this case, as in numerous tag usages, because it is a trailing axle, it will carry and transfer weight. In most of our installations it is the only suspension upgrade needed for a balanced rig that handles well.
TCA: How is your tag axle made?
Roy Pack: The axles are a top model built to my specifications by Dexter. They are designed to be submersible and are often used to launch boats. The steel parts are purchased from a major Midwest steel supplier and laser machined to my CAD files. Then on to a powder coating company. The parts are then assembled in our facility by me and our family, using grade-5 bolts and NyLock nuts, which have been torqued to specs.
TCA: Which truck and truck camper combinations will your tag axle work with?
Roy Pack: Our target market is to match short-bed campers with short-bed trucks as well as long-bed campers with long-bed trucks. Our products provide an option of a bit larger or heavier camper and still have excellent drivability. This group seems to be made up of recreational campers who use their vehicle for purposes other than camping.
TCA: We noticed that your personal camper consists of a long-bed camper, an Alpenlite, on a short-bed truck, an F-250 in your case. Do you sell a tag axle that allows customers to do this as well?
Roy Pack: No. This is not what we want to promote as the setup is extreme and requires personalized fixtures. In fact, I will not install a tag trailer for a customer with such extreme setup requirements.
TCA: What are the requirements to use one of your tag axles?
Roy Pack: The truck must have a category 4 or up, OEM or better, receiver hitch. The tag trailer is basically an extension of the frame with axle and wheels. You do not need to have a camper to need a tag trailer. You may be a landscaper hauling pavers or you may be a plumber with a van. You just need to have a category 4 or more receiver. My personal tag has been used numerous times hauling sand, white rock, lumber, cement blocks, etc.
TCA: How does your tag axle attach to the truck?
Roy Pack: The tag axle’s center main beam is inserted into the OEM or equivalent 2-inch or larger receiver and pinned. Two attachment beams are then bolted to the receiver’s cross frame or beam. This is one of the many patent pending points. After the original install, the removal and reinstall process should take less than 30 minutes with one hitch pin and four bolts, returning your truck to the OEM ride.
TCA: What components come with your tag axle?
Roy Pack: The tag axle comes with all attachment/load adjusting hardware needed for your original install. If the customer changes pickups and or campers, different hardware may be needed and can be purchased at that time.
TCA: How much extra weight carrying capacity does it provide?
Roy Pack: I recommend 1,000 to 1,500 pounds for the 2,000-pound model. This means taking up to 2,000 pounds from your rear axle, which then moves about 600 pounds to your front axle, and about 1,400 pounds to the tag trailer. Of course, the exact numbers are a function of the wheelbase measurement ratios. We are not the weight police, but scale tickets are a valuable tool in matching the tag setup to the vehicle.
A long-ago market study found a potential market for the tag trailer if used to replace a weight distribution hitch when towing a large trailer with a half-ton pickup or such. The tag trailer absorbs all the tongue weight. This, and the added braking power reduces overweight issues and provides ultimate sway control.
As an example, one of my 3,500-pound model customers routinely puts 2,000 pounds on his tag trailer, of which is a combination of rear axle transfer and his ATV trailer tongue weight. The trailer tongue weight and the additional braking were major reasons for his tag trailer purchase.
TCA: How much does your tag axle weigh?
Roy Pack: The 2,000-pound model weighs approximately 200 pounds, depending on attaching and load adjusting hardware needed.
TCA: What are the load and speed ratings for the tires that you use?
Roy Pack: The standard tires for the 2,000-pound model are:
- 205/65-10: Load Rating C, 1,100 pounds each, speed rating M=81 MPH at max load and temp
- 205/65-10: Load Rating D, 1,320 pounds each, speed rating M=87 MPH at max load and temp
- 205/65-10: Load Rating E, 1,650 pounds each, speed rating M=87 MPH at max load and temp
TCA: Do you sell different models of tag axles or is your tag axle a universal fit?
Roy Pack: There are currently three models in inventory. A 2,000-pound Dexter torsion axle model and a 3,500-pound Dexter adjustable torsion axle. The newest model is a 2,000-pound axle with a narrower frame width to give added clearance to the sewer drop on some campers like the Lance 1131. The tag trailer is not a universal fit as I have not found two identical truck, camper, hitch receiver combinations. This relates back to one of the patent pending items, all bolted, no welded frame members. Of course, the all-bolted construction is much more expensive, but much more adjustable.
TCA: How much does your tag axle cost?
Roy Pack: The cost range for current inventory is $2,500 to $3,000 installed by me or under my supervision. After a 10-mile or so drive, if you are not satisfied, I take it back off and issue you a refund (that has never happened). There are a few cost incentives available such as a 10 percent discount for the first purchase from your state.
TCA: What is the waiting time if you order one?
Roy Pack: We normally have inventory available for installation at our facility in Altoona, Iowa. This is currently the only sales outlet. We have had customers drive from Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah and throughout Iowa.
TCA: Are there any other benefits of your tag trailer that we haven’t mentioned yet?
Roy Pack: Yes, Several! The potential to add custom steps and additional storage, plus the ability to absorb 100 percent of trailer tongue weight and provide added braking power are super side benefits of the WDTT.
TCA: What kind of feedback have you received from customers, Roy?
Roy Pack: Here are just a few comments: “A world of difference in the wind…It drives so very nice. I’m loving it so much. I’m ready to travel… Not scared one bit… Your tag axle is the best upgrade ever.”