Question: We noticed the chassis manufacturer requires ballast. Why is this needed and what factors should we should consider for using ballast weight?
You’re following a good procedure by first determining if the vehicle is properly equipped to support a snowplow. OEM guidelines are based on multiple factors, including the ability to meet specific Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) when equipped with a snowplow. Some, but not all, applicable standards include FMVSS 105/135: Braking; FMVSS 208: Occupant Crash Protection; and FMVSS 301: Fuel System Integrity. Also, occupant weight in the cab combined with weight of the snowplow positioned in front of the vehicle may create a need for ballast weight in the rear of the vehicle, so as not to exceed the truck’s front gross axle weight rating (GAWR).
Many snowplow manufacturers provide recommended ballast information in their application guides. Use this in conjunction with meeting all other FMVSS, vehicle, and plow manufacturer requirements. OEM braking guidance for FMVSS 105/135 may state a limit for the amount of weight on the front axle shown as a percentage of the total vehicle weight. Ballast is normally used to address the additional weight of the removable plow, which may overload front axle GAWR.
To determine if ballasting is necessary, first review recommendations from your plow supplier for the specific vehicle and snowplow model applications. Most plow manufacturers may be able to provide details on how much ballast is required; but a thorough weight distribution analysis should be performed to understand overall vehicle loading and effects of the plow, plow mount, other equipment on the vehicle and cargo.
Choose your ballast
If ballast is needed, it can take many forms. Equipment mounted behind the rear axle, such as a tailgate spreader on a pickup, can proportionally reduce weight on the front axle when installed. V-box spreaders mounted on flatbeds and in dump bodies are examples of equipment that can help with ballast requirements. However, when adding ballast, ensure the truck’s gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) and GAWRs are not exceeded.
For instance, if a ballast weight of 200 pounds is necessary where a removable, 200-pound-when-empty tailgate spreader would be installed, the spreader could serve as ballast whenever the plow is installed. Without the spreader, another form of ballast can be used at a different spot, but required weight will change with location relative to the rear axle. Additionally, adjustment for other allowable vehicle payload must be made when the spreader is full.
Take into account the weight of salt or sand in the spreader when calculating the vehicle’s remaining payload capacity. Also, reaction on the rear axle with added weight in the spreader should be compared to the rear GAWR, and effects on overall vehicle center of gravity must be reviewed against chassis manufacturer recommendations. Thorough weight distributions for various loading scenarios can help identify what, including ballasting, must be done to properly distribute weight on the truck.