Jalopnik has written about the danger of growing pickup trucks for a while now, but yet another in-depth report from Consumer Reports has highlighted the dangers of our eternally-growing pickup trucks.
CR measured front visibility for 15 new full-sized and heavy-duty trucks and found that some trucks could have blind spots that measured 11 feet longer than the blind spots in sedans and seven feet longer than a lot of popular SUVs. The site didn’t offer numbers, but it did note that children are particularly susceptible to being hit by larger trucks. Even adults can be hard to see in a truck.
From my own personal perspective, I had the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax for a week, and I had trouble seeing over the hood, to the point where the head-up display was cut off. Most people are not as short as I am—but even after parking the car and lifting myself up, I still felt like I didn’t have enough of a sight line to make a rapid-fire decision if someone were to dart out in front of me.
And I’ve been on the other end of it, too. In 2017, I was crossing the street heading to class and was hit by a pickup truck that didn’t see me. He’d failed to stop at a stop sign and didn’t see me; it wasn’t until he felt a thud that he realized a person was there. I was lucky he even felt that. And I was luckier that he didn’t seem to know where he was going, because he was driving slowly.
There’s another problem, too. As pickup trucks grow, safety features don’t grow along with them. It’s kind of crucial that trucks offer features like pedestrian detection, blind spot warnings, and automatic braking—but at this point, those things remain optional for most trucks, meaning you have to pay more to have them. On other trucks like the Chevy Colorado, the GMC Canyon, or the Ram 1500 classic, those features aren’t offered at all. And if you ask folks to pay more for something, you can imagine a lot of people will forego something. It is, after all, deemed optional.
One passage from CR’s report is particularly telling:
We also asked the biggest manufacturers of pickups—Ford, GM, and Stellantis—why their trucks have grown so tall. A Stellantis spokesperson declined to comment. A spokesperson from Ford said the automaker had “shifted from softer lines” because “customers prefer more purposeful looks.” A GM spokesperson said buyers want more ground clearance for off-roading, greater towing capability, and more cargo space. (Those changes add weight and volume.) GM and Ford said their big trucks needed larger grilles to support engine cooling when towing trailers.
On top of that, buyers really want bigger trucks. I can speak from personal experience that it does feel nice to drive something larger. You, the driver, feel a hell of a lot safer. Bigger trucks can also be loaded with amenities that turn them into a luxury hotel on wheels, and you can guarantee everyone in the back has more than enough legroom. They’re capable vehicles that can take the family to school and also haul the boat out to the lake. It’s hard to argue with that.
But they also come with concerns that definitely need to be addressed, especially when it comes to pedestrian safety. If people want to go big and beefy, they’ll need to come to terms with the fact that pickups need a safety overhaul to make them fit for daily use.