The size of truck you need depends of course on your needs. ½ tons and light duty ¾ tons are for light duty work, loaded part-time. Heavy-duty ¾ tons, 1 tons and above are designed to be loaded all of the time with twice as many tapered bearings in the rear axle. It's called a full floating axle, similar to semi-truck eighteen-wheelers. While ½ ton pickups have a semi-floating axle similar to a car, with just 2 bearings. To know what you have, ½ tons and light duty ¾ tons will have a flush axle housing matching the wheel. With the heavy duty ¾ ton, 1 ton trucks and larger, the rear axle housing will actually stick out past the wheel and have an additional 8 bolts on the end of the hub holding the axle into the differential. Truck manufactures have made light duty ¾ ton pickup trucks over the years, which have 8 wheel studs. So counting studs doesn't always guarantee a heavy duty ¾ ton. Nice and confusing, in the last nine years though, the light duty ¾ ton has disappeared I hope for good.
The "Semi-floating axle" has the wheel studs attached to the axle, carrying the trucks weight directly on the axle shaft and bearings. Differently on a "full floating axle" where the axle shafts only provide power to the wheel hub from the differential. The wheel hub is attached to the axle housing with two tapered bearings on each side. On a full floating axle you can pull the axle out and the wheels are steel attached to differential axle tubes. This puts the load carrying capacity on the axle housing not on the axle shaft as with a semi-floating axle.
Heavy-duty ¾ tons, 1 tons and larger will have heavier springs, shocks and generally thicker, stronger frames. The majority of the time, if you compare a ½ ton to a HD ¾ ton pickup with the same gas engine option, the price is very close. And the ¾ tons will usually have more rear axle ratio and tow package options. Because of the resale value of a ¾ ton verses the price of a ½ ton, I usually recommend a heavy duty ¾ ton. But keep in mind because of a slight weight difference and the higher axle ratio in a ½ ton pickup, a ½ ton can have better gas mileage. The EPA doesn't test fuel mileage on ¾ ton trucks if they are over 8500# GVWR, (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating,) so you won t find a fuel mileage rating on HD ¾ ton and higher trucks.
Here is the break down of manufacture models.
I eventually went to duals, mostly because I pulled my trailers on dirt roads. Dirt roads are hard on the electric trailer brakes magnets. I soon discovered not to count on the trailer brakes. And duals on the truck will surprise you on their ability to stop you. On a factory dually the inside tire matches the front tire. When the snow got deep I would take off the outside duals and they would track fine. On a factory cab and chassis the rear duals splits the front track until you go to a class 6 truck which are matched to the outside dual. Those wide front axle trucks can be tricky on dirt roads as you can get sucked into the ditch of soft shoulders. With duals you also need to carry your hammer or bat just like the big boys to check the air pressure more often. You won't be able to look duals to see if they are low unless you're loaded. So get in a habit of tapping the tires before you roll. If you have a flat on one of the duals they can loosen up the lug nuts.
Author H. Kent Sundling writes for AgWeb.com via a special agreement with MrTruck.com.