Once a limiting factor in fifth-wheel towing, the 6-foot truck bed is a viable alternative when equipped with a PullRite SuperGlide hitch
The shortbed extended-cab pickup is arguably the most versatile vehicle you can buy. It seats five to six, has enough room in the cargo box for work or play essentials, and is tough enough to go pretty much anywhere your imagination can take you. One of its few limitations is revealed only when considering a fifth-wheel trailer. That same shortbed that allows better maneuverability around town puts the trailer’s front cap in dangerous proximity to the rear of the cab, often creating disastrous consequences in tight turns.
The RV-hitch industry was not without a solution to this problem — namely, the “sliding” fifth-wheel hitch, which moved the pivot point rearward during turning maneuvers, thereby providing adequate cap-to-cab clearance. Early examples, however, were strictly manual in operation; the owner had to have the presence of mind to operate one or more levers in the bed of the truck before and after executing a turn, a process that was hard to live with and easy to forget.
Unless you have masochistic leanings, the obvious choice today is an automatic sliding hitch. Designs vary, but the essential common denominator of these hitches is that they begin to move rearward as the vehicle starts to turn; the sharper the turn, the farther back the hitch moves to ensure there is adequate clearance. In this way, the truck owner can enjoy the convenience of a shortbed truck during the week and still tow a fifth-wheel when it’s time to skip town for a few days.
One of the most popular automatic sliding hitches on the market is the SuperGlide by PullRite. It operates through mechanical cam action and a capture plate that restricts the kingpin on the trailer from turning in the fifth-wheel plate on the SuperGlide. Once the truck begins to turn, the “captured” fifth-wheel plate forces the large roller of the turntable cam-arm assembly to rotate and roll along the path of the cam slot to begin the turn. This action pulls the plate and turntable assembly away from the cab of the truck — the more you turn, the more it moves back.
While the SuperGlide is a proven product that operates as designed in the correct application, it’s important to note that the width of the trailer and the location of the kingpin in relation to the front cap of the trailer are critical in determining if the truck and trailer are compatible for use with the SuperGlide. Shortbed trucks have limited cab-to-rear-axle space to work with, so if the kingpin is located too far under the nose of the trailer, the SuperGlide may not be able to move the trailer back fast enough to allow the necessary clearance. If in doubt, contact PullRite’s customer-service department for assistance.
We recently acquired a clean 2003 Chevy 2500 shortbed truck for use in our test fleet that we felt was an ideal candidate for the SuperGlide 16K hitch (part number 2700). The truck had already been used to tow a fifth-wheel, but the hitch was not part of the deal, and the brackets, which had been welded into place, were suspect.
So, we contacted PullRite for the hitch and an ISR-Series HD Custom Mounting Kit (part number 2224) designed for 1999 to 2010 Chevy 2500 and 3500 trucks. This kit is rated up to 24,000 pounds and bolts into place using supplied hardware. For the installation, we contacted C&S RV Service Center in Oxnard, California, where the job was completed in about two hours. Installation time (and related labor costs) will vary depending on the application.
Once the hitch was installed in the Chevy truck, it was used to tow the Northwood Fox Mountain 235RLS fifth-wheel from Oxnard to Pala RV Resort in San Diego County for the November 2017 cover story. It took some time to get used to the idea that the front cap wouldn’t crash into the back of the cab of the truck during a turn, but after a few hundred miles and numerous directional changes (including backing into some spots), those using the truck got into a comfort zone.
The PullRite SuperGlide works as promised and is a viable no-worries solution for those who want to tow a fifth-wheel but don’t want to give up a shortbed truck to do it.
C&S RV Service Center | 805-983-1673 | www.candsrv.com
PullRite Towing Systems | 800-443-2307 | www.pullrite.com
Safety in Numbers
All of the trucks currently on the market have to conform to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J2807 towing standard, which sets guidelines as to how the vehicle must perform in a variety of situations. First published in 2008 and currently adopted by all the major OEMs (Chevy, Ford, Ram, Toyota and Nissan) the document helps clarify what is expected of the vehicle and establishes an “apples to apples” criteria that helps level the playing field in an increasingly competitive market.
What you may not know is that there is also an SAE standard for fifth-wheel hitches, called J2638, which is only voluntary as of this writing. In fact, there isn’t even a current DOT regulation that requires the testing of fifth-wheel hitches — surprising, considering the loads and stresses these components are regularly subjected to.
PullRite is one fifth-wheel hitch manufacturer that voluntarily conforms to the J2638 standard.
“We believe it adds to the credibility of both the product and the company when it is being proactive in this manner,” explained Scott Later, national sales manager for PullRite Towing Systems. “Without a testing standard, it is anyone’s opinion as to whether [the hitch] is strong enough or even overbuilt. With all that we’ve learned through the rigorous testing laid out by the SAE standard, and our own additional testing, we’re a more confident
manufacturer and can reduce our risk for liability while producing better products for our customers.”
The SAE dynamic testing requires 300,000 cycles in three different directions (up and down, side to side and front to back), or 900,000 cycles in total, with weight in excess of the hitch’s rating, according to Later. “Trucks and trailers are getting more and more expensive,” he said. “We believe that knowledgeable buyers will choose tested products over those that aren’t, to protect their investment and keep them safe while enjoying the RVing experience.”