Pickup trucks are getting larger, creating hazards for other drivers and pedestrians
TORONTO -- Pickup trucks have always been popular in Canada and that's been especially true during the pandemic, with some people buying them to haul boats, trailers and other recreational vehicles.
Whether you own a pickup truck or you’ve driven by them on the highway, you've probably noticed they've gotten much larger. The increase in size is causing safety concerns for some.
That’s because pickup trucks have steadily gotten taller, longer and heavier over the past two decades and research shows they could be a hazard for other drivers and pedestrians.
Pickup trucks now account for one of every five new vehicles sold and the Ford F Series is currently the best-selling vehicle in North America. They're often sought after by drivers because they're luxurious, safe and powerful.
When studying the hidden danger of big trucks, Consumer Reports found the height of passenger trucks has increased 11 per cent since 2000 and pickups have become 24 per cent heavier on average from 2000 to 2018.
With that increased heft comes increased dangers as data found big trucks have poorer front sight lines and bigger blind spots that can hide a pedestrian or smaller car right in front.
“Because of their height and long hoods, we found that some trucks had front blind spots 3 metres longer than those in the average sedan and 2 meters longer than in many popular SUVs, which increases the risk of the driver running over someone in front of them that they cannot see,” Keith Barry, Auto Editor with Consumer Reports, told CTV News Toronto.
Advocacy group KidsandCars.org studied fatalities in drive-over deaths and found the average victim's age was between just 12 months and 23 months.
A pickup's tall front end and higher bumper are also more likely to cause serious injuries upon impact than the bumper of a lower vehicle and trucks are more likely to push a pedestrian down and run them over.
So why have manufacturers made them so tall?
The makers of RAM trucks declined to comment. Ford and GM told Consumer Reports said the changes were driven by consumer preference and that the big trucks needed larger grilles to support engine cooling.
But there may be another reason—the trucks make automakers a lot of money.
“Despite these risks, automakers are reluctant to make changes to a vehicle that is a major source of profit. An automaker might make four to five times more money from selling a pickup than a sedan,” Barry said.
Can anything be done to make these trucks safer?
Mandatory advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking could help. If vehicles continue to get larger, it may also be necessary to reduce speed limits and design roads that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists to share with big trucks.
While there are some jobs that really do require a large truck, if you only need one occasionally, you can consider renting one. Some rental companies offer pick-up trucks, as well as home improvement stores.