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Old Jan 21st 2009, 12:45 PM   #1
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Real World Physics Question

Hi. I hope this is the proper forum for a non-student. I am trying to figure something out from work.

You have a pickup truck with the tailgate down. No one knows the maximum amount of weight that the tailgate can hold.

Someone says to get a single large piece of plywood, such as 4' X 8', that will cover both the tailgate and the floor of the pickup truck bed.

You put a 500lb object on the tailgate (on the end of the piece of wood).

Since the object is sitting on the piece of wood, is the object's 500 pounds spread evenly over that 4' X 8' piece of wood? Spreading the load evenly to the area of the truck under the piece of wood?

Or, is the weight spread out over the piece of wood, but not evenly? Any formula, or rule of thumb I could use to calculate it?

Thank you in advance for any answers. Jim
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Old Jan 22nd 2009, 09:01 AM   #2
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I don't think 3/8 ths inch plywood would spread the load! It would be more plausible that a 1 inch sheet migh help, but I doubt it would spread a 500 lb load evenly. There are ways to do this calculation, but they must take into account how much the plywood resists bending. I don't know any rules-of-thumb.

The internet agrees with what you said about tailgates not being rated for any particular load. I found some motorcycle and ATV sites where people complained that truck manufacturers refuse to guarantee what load the tailgate will stand.

One possible experiment: Mark a sheet of plywood with a line that indicates where the tailgate joins the bed. In the center part of the sheet that is on the bed, cut a small hole so you can read the dial of a bathroom scale that will be placed under the sheet. Put the sheet on the truck bed and use boards to raise up the the part of the plywood that is over the bed till it is the height of a bathroom scale. Put a bathroom scale under the center of the sheet that is over the bed and let the scale be the only thing that holds that part of the plywood up. Start adding weight to the part of the sheet that is over the tailgate and see how much weight is transferred to the scale. If the tailgate is not perfectly level with the bed the added weight might lift up the part of the sheet over the bed. That would indicated that the plywood over the bed accomplishes nothing.
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