You've seen commercials for pickup trucks with heavy-duty gear carrying construction materials so heavy that when they're placed in the bed, the entire rear dips beneath the weight and then bounces back up. Such aspirations are frequently a consideration in a driver's choice of truck; most pickup drivers want to be able to carry a huge payload. But aren't all trucks strong? Is payload really that important?
The payload is the maximum amount of weight that a vehicle can safely carry, and the figures are not arbitrary. Overloading a truck can cause it to steer and brake differently. Even a safe amount of weight increases the pressure on the brakes due to a higher braking temperature. Steering can also be more challenging because the vehicle is now carrying significantly greater weight. Consider how quickly and nimbly you could move and halt with an empty cardboard box in your hands. Now image attempting those rapid motions while carrying 200 pounds in that cardboard box. The same holds true for a vehicle's cargo.
The effects of payload on braking apply not just to weight but also to cargo distribution. By putting a lot of weight in the back, payload can effectively alter the center of gravity in a truck. However, because the same weight is not always distributed in the same way at the back of the truck, brakes and steering might still be influenced differently depending on the cargo. A hefty or unevenly distributed freight can occasionally cause brakes to lock up.
Furthermore, the payload might shift while driving, influencing steering and braking. Cargo should always be adequately secured, with padding added as needed to prevent the weight from moving and putting strain on the brakes as well as damaging the cargo. Driving with extra caution and avoiding quick or forceful stops when carrying a big burden helps reduce the pressure on brakes.