Monday, February 6, 2023


Overloaded pickup? Your taillight might tell you!

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Some might say that taillights are the least glamorous parts of a motor vehicle. No matter, they do serve some practical purposes. Around 1905, stop lights warned folks behind that that rig ahead was slowing or stopping. In 1907 Percy Douglas-Hamilton applied for a patent on turn signals. Stop, turn, that’s all taillights indicated for nearly a century. In the 1990s, taillights got a new job: For some vehicles equipped with a remote door lock feature, taillights would blink to indicate that you’d locked or unlocked your doors. Here we are, in 2022, and for some, the taillight tells if your pickup is overloaded!

“Onboard Scales”

Courtesy Ford

Leave it to the engineers at Ford to come up with a scale system for their F-150 series pickups. Called “Onboard Scales”, the system measures and displays “the approximate weight” of the load in the truck bed. The load-weight figure is displayed on a touch screen in the cab. But if you’re loading up your truck, who wants to run back and forth to check the display?

The taillights tell. As you load up the bed of the truck, a vertically running line of four LEDs in the taillight assembly light up. Think of it like the battery charge condition bars on your cell phone. One light at the bottom, you’ve got something on board. As you continue to put more weight in the pickup bed, additional LEDs light up to give you a picture of the percentage of the load. When all four LEDs are lit, you’ve got a full load on. Gone over the legal load? The top LEDs blink.

The cynic’s take

That’s helpful information for the pickup user. One cynic suggests he’d just as soon knock out those LEDs. He figures that if he’s overloaded, a police officer following behind his rig will know too. The taillights have ratted him out.

Other stories by Russ and Tiña De Maris



Facebook Groups you might like
RV Electricity
RVing with Dogs
RV Tech Tips
Electric Bikes for RVers
RV Advice
RV Short Stops (NEW)
Towing Behind a Motorhome
. . . and the official Facebook page

Winterizing your RV this season? Amazon has a wide choice of RV antifreeze.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

To all the comments about the tail light “ratting” you out to a cop if overloaded, I’m going to check, but I seriously doubt those LED load lights stay illuminated while underway!

Bob M
1 year ago

I belive the onboard scale is an option. Looking at F150 hybrids I only saw one that had it on the window sticker.

Bob p
1 year ago

Why is it only on the F150, I have seen many F250s overloaded with the weight of the huge 5th wheel hitched up. People don’t know and what’s more they don’t care that they’re overloaded. Every time I see one of these I’m glad I’m not close to them, and what makes it worse most are running 75-80 mph. We were coming home last Monday on I75 S towards Tampa doing 75 (without the trailer) and saw a truck and 5th wheel coming up behind us, as they passed(easily doing 80) it was a F250 and at least a 38’ 5th wheel from SLOHIO. (Ohio)

1 year ago

While I think the concept of the “weight” lights is spot on, I have to agree with the cynic to a degree also. As a retired OTR truck driver of 35 years I have to say that it always seemed that giving out citations for being overweight was always a favorite for law enforcement officials. I know, ya’ll are probably thinking that it would not be so much of a problem with RV’s and travel trailers in comparison to commercial vehicles. With that in mind I would say that if you give the officials the ability to easily write a citation for any vehicle that is exceeding its registered weight limits, citations will easily be given out. Not saying they shouldn’t as safety NEEDS to be priority one for everybody! ?, Why couldn’t the indicators be automatically or manually switched off as soon as the vehicle begins to move?

1 year ago
Reply to  rvoeller

Agree. They should “turn off” when driving. In fact, I would think those “extra” lights flashing “overloaded” would be classified as unapproved lights by states MV depts.

Bob p
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim

Another great FORD Idea.

Wayne Caldwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob p

Like the 7-lug wheels on the late 90s F250s. Look how much they saved by eliminating one lug & nut per wheel while also having the wheel & hub manufacturers retool for that.

1 year ago
Reply to  Tim

I think they do, in fact, turn off once underway.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.