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Pickup Lines - Whale Watching

What Makes A Truck?

G.R. Whale
Apr 21, 2015
Photographers: Robert Guio
When the tariff-driven proliferation of four-door sport-utilities began in the early ’90s Car & Driver magazine drove a bunch of them to the Arctic Ocean where, if memory serves, at least one of their pilots fell in. Reader-protest letters to the Editor said if they wanted to know about such vehicles they would read Four Wheeler, which C&D kindly printed while we at Four Wheeler enjoyed the recognition.
Four Wheeler had already split Four Wheeler of the Year and pickup awards in 1990. Motor Trend had done cars for decades and trucks a year earlier, but didn’t separate SUVs until they began replacing sedans in 1999. Now Truck Trend is divorced and has its own unique truck of the year program, and others are added yearly, so Motor Trend is reminding us they test trucks because someone has to.
Which makes me wonder what a truck is and how it’s to be used.
""Can you use government’s definition for light truck? Absolutely not.”"
Does a truck need to be a pickup? The Explorer SportTrac and Escalade EXT were both included in previous Motor Trend truck of the year competitions, which Cadillac didn’t like because they insisted it was built on a utility chassis (Suburban), not a pickup chassis. Perhaps Cadillac was unaware the Suburban was derived from a pickup, as the SportTrac first came from the Ranger-based Explorer.
Does a truck need to be a commercial vehicle? No. There are commercial vehicles from every segment—which is why your car warranty might not work with your Uber services—but a truck certainly needs to be suitable for commercial use. Some states automatically assume a pickup is commercial and your tags cost much more because of it.
Does a truck need a frame? Honda, Ford, and Ram would say no (Ridgeline, Transit, and ProMaster, respectively), but does selling them as commercial vehicles make them trucks? Easy modification is a truck hallmark and little is easier to fiddle with than a steel frame to mount hitches, winches, racks, and deer-resistant or surf-fishing bumpers.
Photo 2/2   |   2015 Toyota Tacoma And Tundra
Does a truck need a separate bed section of bodywork? This implies the truck has to be a pickup to which you could attach hardware or a camper that won’t affect the cab bodywork, but what about a cab-and-chassis van? Or pieces like the HUMMER H1 pickup (two- or four-door) with integral bed/cab bodywork but a separate frame?
Does a truck need to drive all its wheels, or does it merely need to offer that choice? If it drives all the wheels, must it be able to do that on pavement and off, and must it offer low-range gearing? Regardless of drive, does it need to be able to go “off road”? Motor Trend’s research said the “majority” of owners “seldom go off-road,” yet 70 percent of their Truck of the Year field was 4WD, and for retail sales, the percentage is even higher.
Does it need to tow or have a hitch? I have friends who use hitches for mounting a vise, rack, or clevis for recovery but never tow anything. And if it does need to tow, how much? Do you use rated maximum for the line or particular model you want, the average for the segment, a percentage of its rating, or what?
Can you use government’s definition for light truck? Absolutely not. I don’t think ground clearance, folding rear seats, driven wheels, the chicken tax, or GVWR changing (until 5 years ago a compact truck was less than 4500 pounds GVWR, but now it’s 6000) has anything to do with it. And you can’t ask the manufacturers either, since they are complicit in coming up with many of the stupid classifications of “trucks” we have now.
So, disregarding the standard definitions about moving freight or personnel or the top of a flagpole or staff, now’s your chance to tell us how you define truck. We’ll not say if you’re right or wrong, only that we’ll be more relevant for people who use trucks as trucks and know one when we see one.
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