What’s A Dually Truck? Is it Needed To Tow A Travel Trailer?

A dually truck or Dual Rear Wheel (DRW) Pickup is a pickup truck with four wheels on the rear of the axle and two at the front, making a total of six wheels. These pickup trucks are large and powerful. Their extra-wide rear fenders and roaring engines make them hard to miss on the road.

A DWR truck is more than a pair of extra wheels, though. They are designed from the ground up for intense, heavy work in America’s toughest environments.

Many people may think that you need a dually, or DRW, to pull a large camping trailer like a fifth wheel, but simply put, you do not need a DRW to pull any fifth wheel on the market. Most fifth wheels are between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds. At that weight, a single rear wheel Ford F-350 will provide more than enough power. However, a dually pickup will provide more stability, more power, and greater safety; all at the price of gas mileage.

Why The Extra Wheels?

A dually truck stands out more in appearance than anything else, due to the extra rear tires. To many, those extra tires may seem to be nothing more than for appearance. If they actually made a truck better, wouldn’t more people have them?

Well, as it turns out, the extra wheels do make a truck more stable and powerful because there is more going on than what meets the eye. A dually has a wider frame, heavy-duty shocks, and heavy-duty brakes. They can tow heavier loads and are more stable on the road when hauling. The extra wheels provide more contact with the road which gives them more braking power, too. With all these benefits, why don’t more people have dually trucks?

Dually trucks are designed for hard work, the extra wheels are not a style statement. Pulling construction loads and large horse trailers is really what went into mind for their design. When it comes to pulling heavy loads DRWs do an exceptional job. It is when they are not pulling large loads that problems come up.

DRWs are very uncomfortable to drive when not towing. Their suspension is stiffer, they are more difficult to park, consume a large amount of fuel, and handle terribly on ice or water. Because a DRW is designed around pulling a large load for a long time, they are most comfortable to drive when doing so.

If you do not intend to use a dually heavily, it may not be the best option for you. A single rear wheel model with the same level of power can be purchased that will perform better when unloaded.

Can Any Pickup Truck Be A Dually?

In spite of appearances, a DRW is more than an extra set of wheels. A dually has an adapted rear frame and a specialized axle to accommodate the extra wheels. This design is spread out in a sort of box shape which increases the strength and stability of the vehicle. Along with the redesigned skeleton, a dually also requires significantly stronger suspension and brakes.

If you were to convert a single rear wheel truck into a DRW you would have to rebuild it from the ground up, which would be extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming. There are people who do add extra rear wheels to their pickups, but in reality, a dually is much more than a vehicle with six wheels.

DRW pickup trucks are typically 1-ton vehicles, you would be hard-pressed to find one for purchase that was in the 2500/F-250 range.

Is A Dually Expensive?

As with just about any model of pickup truck these days, brand new DRW models are expensive to purchase, but not necessarily more expensive than an SRW. The 2020 Dodge Ram 2500 starts at $33,645, which is only offered as an SRW, while the DRW variant of the 3500 is $35,095. That makes for a difference of $1,450, which is insignificant compared to the increased power and stability provided by the dually model.

A dually, then, is really no more expensive than any other pickup trucks in its class. As a specialized model, its purpose is to endure the punishing conditions in construction and ranch work. With this focus in its design, it services a niche market in the country, which keeps the prices fairly stable. 

If the base price of a new model is too steep for your budget it is possible to find a used option at a reduced cost. It is important to keep in mind that these pickup trucks are most often used by their owners for intense work. It will be important to inspect any used DRW in detail for damage and erosion before purchasing it. The repairs for a DRW pickup truck, whether it is a gasoline or diesel engine, can be very expensive.

If you are unsure about your ability to inspect a vehicle, Consumer Reports has an excellent guide that you can use as a blueprint when examining any vehicle.

Do I Need A Dually To Pull A Travel Trailer?

Many travel trailers are very large, especially fifth wheels. The average weight for a 5th wheel is between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds. Shouldn’t that require the largest truck on the market? Well, no, it doesn’t.

As it turns out, pickup trucks these days are made very powerful. It is not a requirement, by any standards, to own a dually for pulling large travel trailers, even fifth wheels. Single rear wheel pickups are offered in a wide variety of models ranging from the typical 1500/F-150 variant to the massive 3500/F-350 models.

An SRW pickup truck can more than handle any fifth-wheel trailer out there, especially with advances in modern safety features like trailer sway control. However, a DRW does offer more stability and more power. If you own or are intending to purchase a very large travel trailer that will be more than 15,000 pounds, it may be worth looking into DRWs.

Make sure that you consider what use you will need from a tow vehicle for your camper trailer. Will this vehicle be used exclusively for transporting the trailer? Will you need to use it as a secondary mode of day-to-day transportation?

These are important questions to ask when considering purchasing a dually. A dually is excellent at hauling a load, which is what it is designed to do, but not a good vehicle for day-to-day driving without a load. The strong suspension makes for a stiff and rough feeling ride, while the large frame and extra wheels turn parking into an even bigger headache than it already is. DRWs, when not hauling or loaded, are also more prone to hydroplaning and sliding on ice than the average pickup truck.

If you are going to make heavy use out of your camper and need your tow vehicle to reliably pull it long distances, the commercial design and performance for a dually may be a good fit for you.

A Dually Is A Workhorse

When considering purchasing a DRW pickup truck do not forget that the vehicle’s primary purpose is for commercial use. This truck was truly designed to be a workhorse. Construction contractors, tradesmen, farmers, and ranchers put their DRWs to heavy use in punishing conditions day after day.

A DRW from any manufacturer is a machine to be reckoned with, and one not to be taken lightly. There is more responsibility when driving such a large vehicle on the highway or downtown, and I really mean that. Any dually with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more requires at class A CDL to legally drive in most states. The 26,000-pound limit applies to the combined weight of the tow vehicle and the trailer, too. When researching a dually truck make sure you look up your state’s laws about GVWRs, it could save you from a potentially costly citation.

So, you don’t actually need a dually to haul around a fifth wheel, no matter how large it is. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into buying a DRW. The added power, stability, and endurance on long trips make a DRW truck a tempting option for someone serious about hauling the camping trailer of their dreams from one adventure to the next.

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