Why US Pickups Need More Style Regulations
I do not remember the first time I ran across Treehugger. It was probably at Slate where I was writing in Moneybox and The Best of The Fray. Slate was featuring Treehugger in a series called “Go on an eight-week carbon diet” as written by Meaghan O’Neil in October 2006. Time does fly, doesn’t it?
Not everyone gets satisfaction with Treehugger’s offerings as Jack Schafer at Slate points out. But then, maybe he was agitating? You know, stirring the pot so to speak to attract more readers. A sampling of one of his commentary at Slate:
There’s not much in the TreeHugger-Slate package we haven’t heard a million times since the first oil embargo: Install storm windows. Insulate. Weather strip. Keep the furnace settings low and the AC settings high. Turn things off. Buy energy-efficient appliances and cars for which we recommend this Delphi Perkins injection pump. Avoid unnecessary trips. Carpool. Don’t waste. But that’s not good enough for the green worshippers at TreeHugger, whose aesthetic is ascetic.
The series counsels’ readers to decarbonize by resisting new purchases of cotton clothes—unless of the organic variety—and to seek fibers made of hemp, bamboo, ramie, linen, silk, and lyocell (wood pulp). In greenifying Christmas, one must give up the carbon gluttony of Xmas cards, Xmas wrapping paper, Xmas trees, and electrified Xmas decorations. “If you’re decorating with candles, choose the ones made from soy wax or beeswax,” the article seriously advises. And, if you must eat, TreeHugger says, eat locally and organically, and avoid processed food and meat.
As the temperature of the world keeps rising and the accumulation of CO2 keeps increasing, the US keeps running short of the goal of minimizing each. Maybe it is just waiting until things change and reverses? Even so, we could conserve, yes?
This article is not about the gas-burning hogs these SUV trucks are. Neither is it about driving the TooBigTooFastTooLoudTooOften or TBTFTLTO. We wouldn’t touch any of that stuff, will we? The article by Treehugger is about the new design of SUV trucks which are imposing an increasing threat in accidents with cars and pedestrians. If you read the comments, you will see the same old arguments on imposing on their rights conveniently forgetting the rights of others. Oh and if you have not seen them yet, squat vehicles are out there too. Lower back end so you can see the stars and a little less upfront unless it is 6 feet tall including your car. Enjoy . . .
“A Tale of Two Trucks: Why US Pickups Need European-Style Regulations,” Treehugger, Llyod Alter
Safe streets and walkable communities are key to reducing our carbon emissions from driving, which is one reason we complain so often about the trend away from cars and to SUVs and pickup trucks. The latter, officially known as light trucks, is disproportionately likely to kill pedestrians and cyclists. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) noted in a report,
“The data suggest that the elevated danger to pedestrians from SUVs in these crashes may be largely related to injuries caused by impacts with the vehicles’ leading edge: the bumper, grille, and headlights.”
Many studies conclude the increasing weight of these trucks contributes to the carnage:
“First, the additional weight means the vehicle will take longer to come to a stop and will strike with more force as compared to a lighter vehicle. Second, large vehicles have higher front ends, affecting the point of impact on a pedestrian.”1
European light trucks have far more sensible designs because they have to meet Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) standards that protect pedestrians. I got particularly excited about the Ford Transit, which has a low sloping front end and great visibility. Pedestrians are more likely to be seen when they are hit and they are likely to roll up on top rather than having to be picked out of the grill.
When I was recently doing a lecture in North Bay, Ontario, I saw a big Chevy Silverado parked directly next to a Ford Transit. I got close to the pickup, close enough to somehow set off an alarm—I didn’t touch it! Really!—to notice the top of the hood was at about my nose level. I could look straight into the Transit. Of course, I tweeted out the photo and got more likes and comments than I have had for years.
The tweet also got picked up on Reddit, where it got 4500 comments.
There were a number of comments from people who use them for work. Of course, work is what they were originally designed for. But as Ryan Cooper wrote in “The Case Against American Truck Bloat“:
“Trucks and SUVs do not make up 70 percent of automobile sales nowadays because Americans are now 70 percent contractors and HVAC repairmen. Nor has the average pickup gained 730 pounds since 2000 because 100 million people have taken up cattle ranching. The vast majority of SUV and truck drivers would have driven a sedan in previous ages, and for these people it’s about looks, power, speed, and perceived safety for drivers. Thinking about pedestrians might upset this comfortable arrangement.”
People are still commenting on Twitter. But they are getting increasingly nasty and personal, with soy latte type comments just the start of it, because, in the U.S. and Canada, pickup trucks have become part of the culture war, the real working man versus the city boy who doesn’t.
In fact, Ford offers real working vehicles that can do the same job, which still can be designed for good visibility and greater safety. One would think that people who work all day with their trucks would care about this.
In Europe, every vehicle has to meet standards for pedestrian and cyclist safety. They now have Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) that apparently works. They write about the Ford Transit:
“The system also detects vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists, and here it scored well. Even in the most challenging of Euro NCAP’s pedestrian tests—a child running from behind parked cars into the path of the vehicle—the system responded well up to around 40 km/h and, in general, collisions were avoided or mitigated for pedestrians and cyclists.”2
After a week of being asked “You’ve never done an honest days work in your life have you?” or being told I don’t know the difference between a truck and a van. They are both legally light trucks under U.S. regulations. I come to the same conclusion that I have in earlier posts: Make light trucks as safe as cars or ban them from cities. It’s obvious this is doable; every new European light truck does it.
These massive American pickup trucks and SUVs are killing kids and older people at twice the rate of regular cars. So many of the commenters suggest they need a pickup for work or for towing, but there is no reason that they need to have those deadly front ends and terrible visibility. Why not regulate this?
Average age of US pickup truck on the road
11.2 years in 2009, 13.6 years in 2017.
(Graphs at the link.)
Only ‘other light trucks’ tend to be older.
If purchasers hold on to them that long, style changes may not matter much.
I own my pickup …
I think the problem is that people are stupid. I remember a time not so long ago that the only people that drove pickup trucks were people that needed them for work. Those days are long past, and made more frightening by the high cost of such for transportation.
I moved to WA 2 months ago. There is a public golf course around the corner that I pass on a regular basis. Inevitably 60% of the vehicles are pick up trucks. Not a chance in the world that all of them are functional whatsoever. The wasted money on purchases and operating expenses are staggering.
We just be stupid.
Dudes drive pickup trucks because the gals love ’em.
(But do they love electric trucks?)
New Breed of Pickups Mixes Horsepower and Battery Power
NY Times – May 7, 2020
yep. i be stupid. i am the proud owner, or almost owner of two pickups. Because I need the cargo space more than the extra seats. Meanwhile my proud VW bus languishes, because it is a 1985, not a good year for VW buses, gets worse gas mileage, and drives like a truck. The small pickup i drive gets reasonable mileage and drives like a sports car.. which I don’t. the bigish PU i bought for my daughter because I thought she needed the cargo space for her business gets reasonable mileage and drives reasonably well. Trouble is, she decide a honda sort-of station wagon/suv was better for her kind of cargo. So her husband drives the big pickup i bought for her, and i wouldn’t trust him to drive a tricycle. yep, i be stupid. but sometimes stupid is hard to fix in hindsight, especially if you keep your cars for 37 years.
But. on another anecnote, I worked for a house carpenter once, and i was just about to throw some lumber into the bed of his son’s pickup, when his son leaped down three stories to stop me from ruining his baby by actually, gasp, putting cargo in the cargo bed.
Could the Ford F-150 be the answer?
Consider the F-150® Lightning™
Due to high demand, the current model year is no longer available for retail order. Contact your dealer for more information.
Ford engineered its F-150 to be constructed with an aluminum alloy cab and bed (the frame is high-strength steel) to take advantage of aluminum’s durability and weight savings. …
I read somewhere not too long ago (this year) that the intimidatingly tall front-end’s are a design feature, designed to intimidate pedestrians and small vehicles. Makes sense to me, we’ve been on this bigger gas-guzzler curve since the turn of the century, the whole bullying, blatant disregard for anyone other than themselves bull in a china shop culture around all of that.
Speakin’ as the proud owner of a stock thirty year old one-ton Chevy four-by-four pickup, gets ten miles to the gallon … just your average everyday two door, eight cylinders, six speeds, four sixteen inch wheel drive eight foot bed pickup; good day, bad day, uphill, downhill, load/no load, headwind/tailwind ten miles to the gallon. Eight if you’re runnin’ in four-lock. Of course, it’s not a car. Sits out there in the drive just waiting for me to need a pickup, of late about a thousand miles a year … otherwise I drive a SmartCar, gets thirty-five miles to the gallon. The top of it is about even with the front of my neighbors car/pickup.
Yeah, he’s a dickhead but he keeps his distance, that’s good enough.
It’s a lot like that “loud pipes save lives” motorcycle canard. NO! The bozo in the car in front/coming from the side/behind you talking on the cell phone with the windows up and the stereo and air conditioning blasting full blast IS NOT going to hear what’s coming out of your pipes. It’s not about safety, it’s about being obnoxious. Same thing with these damned “trucks” ~ it’s a salespoint, like a beer cooler in the fender-well.
I’ve had people “roll coal” no me, other assorted such nonsense. Some of them have afterward crossed my path when in my pickup. Did you know you can smell sheepish? Oh, and, uhh … can’t sneak up on somethin’ if you’re making all that noise …
obnoxity rules but once.
Escape 2013 with 112,000 miles and a 2015 VW Passat with 64,000 miles. Both in good condition and maintained. The Passat is a great road car.
You are correct on the: my “vehicle is bigger than your vehicle” imagery and attitude. Some how, someone is trying to compensate for something. Not sure what.
With the gearing available in rear ends, transmissions, and the power available in smaller engines; the need for big, boisterous, intimidating are long gone. It is not the sixties anymore when cars were king and pickups had an inline six offering a pickup’s power coupled with a three on the column or four in the floor shift.
The newer vehicles are there because they sell, margins are high, and higher now due to demand and a lack of inventory. They are dangerous by design. There lights sit at eye level if you are in a car in an opposing lane. The sit too high and many are made to sit higher which represents a greater threat to pedestrians, bicyclists, and autos.
Too many people are reliving the childhoods when they had Tonka trucks and could go vroom, vroom imitating engine noise. Now most of them are adults and we have set aside functionality of a vehicle to secure those childhood years in a vehicle similar to what we imagined as children.
Automotive companies (truck companies) have set aside safety and functionality concerns to embrace what sells. Not sure what police are doing; but, they appear to be more concerned with people in the left lanes rather than with the speed people travel at today. The faster one goes the higher the fatalities in that vehicle and in whatever they hit. That is a different topic.
This post mostly taken from Treehugger address those design issues.
Good to see you Ten Bears.
I first moved to a SUV to get 4-wheel drive. Since then there are lots of cars with it as well, but the convenience of getting in and out plus the better visibility from a little extra height mean that cars just are not an option any more.
here’s a question for you: would you endure the inconvenience if it saved the planet?
Maybe we should just let pedestrians exercise their Second Amendment right to self defense and fire RPGs when they feel threatened by SUVs? That would satisfy everyone. Freedom to use SUVs. Freedom to use firearms. It’s win-win.
Pickups aren’t bulletproof, pump a couple of rounds into the radiator it won’t stop right away, but it’ll stop soon, and take a bunch of money to get it going again. No telling what could get destroyed under the hood ~ be a lot like shooting a human with an AR …
There used to be a principle in law that distinguished between the ordinary and the extra-ordinary. The usual statement was in the case of battery. If Joe Blow, some walking around guy, punched some guy in the nose, that was a serious crime, but if Joe Blow, the professional boxer, punched some guy in the nose, that was a more serious crime, assault with a deadly weapon. No one proposed outlawing boxers and their fists, but it allowed the law to treat more dangerous things differently from less dangerous things. No one should be punching anyone else in the nose, but people who are experts at punching people in the nose have to be judged differently.
It should be like that with SUVs. If a large vehicle with limited braking and visibility hits a pedestrian, that should be considered a much more serious matter than if a small car with good brakes and visibility does so. Driving drunk was once an excuse for getting into automobile accidents, but now it is considered a crime in and of itself. We don’t need to criminalize more dangerous vehicles, but we do need to adjust the laws to recognize their increased danger and make sure the consequences of careless operation are more serious.
I think this is covered adequately by damage recovery. If your small car runs over a kills someone, why would you get a break versus a large vehicle bumping someone? The larger vehicle may have a bigger chance of creating serious injury than a small one, but the distributions will overlap and it is the damage done that needs to be offset.
For families, child seats added to the size of vehicles. Child seats are critical, so not suggesting going back to my childhood of one child between the parents in front and three in the back, but there isn’t a 2 row solution that works reasonably for 3 kids, let alone the 4 I grew up with.