Canyonero time


This past week has been Stevens County Fair week, and you know what that means: we strolled around looking at cute bunnies and ducks!

Also, unfortunately, all the trucks. This is a red county, with so many people who think the mega- (or MAGA-) truck is a status symbol. A dealership was selling trucks at the fair — $91,000!!?! Who spends that much on a basic vehicle? I think back to my aunt and uncle who had a working truck on their ranch. It was a battered near-wreck that they got used and cheap, and used to roll about the ranch, dropping off bales of hay or salt blocks. It was dented and dirty, and looked like a vehicle that saw daily hard use.

The ones I saw at the fair and parked around town on my daily walk are shiny and well-washed. They’re used by their owners to drive into town, where they can pick up a dollar cup of coffee at McDonald’s. I get to be a typical Liberal and walk, not drive, to the coffee shop for a two dollar French Roast, sneering at all the red-staters in their obviously pampered big pickup trucks.

Also, though, I’ve had the distinct impression that the trucks have been growing over the years. While I’m sneering, I’m also kind of appalled at the size of these monsters…and it’s true! The trucks have been expanding and becoming more lethal!

Trucks have gotten bigger, taller, gotten larger blind spots, and become much more powerful, luxurious, and expensive. Almost nobody even makes small pickups anymore, like the 1986 Toyota Hilux that I drove in college. The Toyota Tacoma, which used to be in that segment, is now almost as big as my old F-150.

This behemoth design trend — particularly the very tall, square front end seen in so many SUVs and trucks today — is both pointless and dangerous. Manufacturers have known for years that this style of vehicle is much more dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists, yet they keep making them bigger, taller, and heavier. Trucks and SUVs now make up fully 70 percent of all new cars sold in the U.S. Their bloated design is killing people, especially pedestrians.

When I made this observation on Twitter (in somewhat hyperbolic fashion), conservatives got steamed. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) accused me of being “afraid” of pickups. For the rest of the day, I got to enjoy good old conservative facts and reasoned debate: sexist and homophobic slurs, lurid fantasies about vehicular homicide, and repeated assertions that I drive a Prius — which appears to be the automotive equivalent of soy in the conservative mind palace. (I do not currently own a car of any kind, for the record.)

Rousing Cruz’s ire is a point in the author’s favor, but that 70% of the vehicles sold in the US are gross, heavy, oversized trucks and SUVs is a great American shame. And it’s killing people!

It does seem rather far-fetched to think that automakers are consciously building their biggest trucks to be more dangerous to pedestrians, but that is actually the case. To see why, let’s start with some data. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there were 6,283 pedestrian fatalities in 2018, an increase of 53 percent compared to 2009 and the highest figure since 1990. That gives the U.S. a figure of 19 pedestrian deaths per 1 million population. By contrast, France and Denmark had rates of 7.0 and 5.2 that year — especially remarkable because walking around in Paris and Copenhagen is far more common than it is in most American cities. Indeed, not long ago the European Union had a considerably greater rate of pedestrian fatalities than America, probably because walking is so much more common there. But the E.U. has cut pedestrian deaths by about 40 percent between 2007 and 2018 (from over 8,000 to about 4,900), while the U.S. has gone the opposite direction. Oslo and Helsinki did not have a single pedestrian death in all of 2019.

That’s nuts. We’ve owned, I think, 3 cars in the 40 years we’ve been driving, and the trend has been getting smaller and smaller cars each time. That probably means that at some point our matchbox is going to be crushed on the road by a massive Canyonero.

Comments

  1. mnk7 says

    I like to call those types of trucks ‘assenger vehicles’ since they are only used to haul the one ass around.

  2. llyris says

    A question has been bothering me. Considering that McDonalds coffee started in Melbourne why does it taste so awful?

  3. weylguy says

    Former VP Dick Cheney must’ve been a prophet — his “Drill, Baby, Drill” oil mantra of the early 2000s accurately foresaw conservatives’ lust for these massive gas hogs. I remember driving through Fort Collins, Colorado (a supposedly progressive city) in 2002, marveling at all the pickups and SUVs being driven by tiny blonde 30-something soccer moms, and reflecting on the huge per capita gasoline usage in that state. Looks like things have only gotten much worse.

  4. says

    I’ve owned several cars.most of them second hand.until the days of computer chips taking over so many of the functions I kept most of them for way over the 100 thousand mile mark. The last one of these I kept ticking like a clock for over 500 thousand before some idiot parked his Land cruiser into it at about 40mph. I did all my own maintenance until manufacturers had the bright idea of making it ever harder. The classic was shifting the water pump from being bolted to the front of the engine to needing the exhaust and head removed to replace it. Until then I’d only ever had to rebuild one. Thanks to this drive to complexity cars need dealer service at vast expense, I no longer service them myself and replace them when the warranty expires. Until recently all my cars were large sedans because I’d go camping most weekends and needed room for passengers and gear. Proper miamtenancexqmd tunig kept them relatively cheap to run and the machanical skills I developed got me and others out of trouble when we broke down in remote areas. Today I’m largely confined to a large megacity with traffic choked toll ways so I own a small hatchback. Sadly with tollways cars and congestion the city is very pedestrian unfriendly and I can no longer enjoy my walk to the local shops and only drive there out of necessity.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    Then there are the redneck (or wannabe rednecks) fascist fad of modifying their diesel pick-em-up truck’s exhaust system so they can “roll coal” (i.e. blast huge amounts of black, chocking smoke) on bicyclists; drivers of foreign cars, hybrids, and EVs; or anyone else who they wish to show contempt for while on the road.

    Burning fossil fuels in spite of climate change is all about paranoia and power to these drooling rubes; You prissy, Earth-worshiping, tofu-eating libs don’t tell THEM–the REAL ‘MURICANS–what to drive! That’s tyranny and ‘MURICA is about FREEDOM! You closeted commies are only using made-up environmental “crises” to make all serfs to Hillary, AOC, Bill Gates and their ultimate master, Satan! Besides, electric cars are weak, glorified golf carts, unlike their MUSCLE machines. Mass transit is for sheeple and dirty brown people, not freedom-loving “Patriots” who go when and where they please.

    Whether it’s by ecological catastrophe caused by their stupid antics, a genocidal Christo-fascist police state, or both, these dumb right-wing hicks are going to be the death of us all. I’m far more afraid of these goons than I am of the 1%. The elite are a tiny fraction of the world’s population while these knuckle-draggers are legion.

  6. imaginggeek says

    I live on a farm (my wife is a full-time farmer, while I’m a stodgy prof), and as you can imagine, a truck is actually a necessity for us. We’ve been wanting to replace ours for a while, but the trucks of the last 5 or so years are nearly useless for actual work – visibility is poor, the height of the box makes getting stuff in and out harder (the forks on our smaller tractor don’t even go high enough to pull a bale from the current Rams), and their interiors are not designed for mud.

    Anyways, we just dropped $3K to keep the old truck running a few more years. Hopefully some sense will return by then.

  7. loop says

    I remember reading an article once (so it must be true!) that market research by manufacturers showed that the main reason why people bought SUVs when they had no practical need for them was fear. The average driver was scared, and felt safer in a big pointless vehicle. So design and marketing for the last 20 years has largely been aimed at that demographic, which is probably your average Republican. And as can be seen, it’s been an immensely successful strategy.

  8. says

    #5: My father was an auto mechanic. He loved puttering about with his car, until they started becoming rolling computers. You can’t tune up modern cars in your garage at home any more!

  9. flex says

    It’s all about profit.

    The Big-Three (well, big 2.5 now), have largely ceded the small car market to imports and focused on truck and SUV production.

    Why? Because a single truck sale brings them around $10,000 profit. That $91,000 truck costs about $80,000 in parts, labor, and overhead. 12% profit.

    With fewer options from the “native”(?) automotive companies, the “buy American” crowd mainly buys trucks and SUVs, often rationalizing their decisions rather than recognizing that A) The Big-Three are not offering as many options and B) Most “foreign” automobiles are actually manufactured in the US (while a lot of “native” automobiles are manufactured in Mexico).

    I’d say let the price of petrol raise up to discourage people from purchasing these monstrosities. But that would really hurt a lot of low-income people. Now that I’m working from home 3 days a week, I would only spending the same amount on petrol as I was a few years ago if the price hit $7.50/gal. But I recognize that I’m in a special situation, and there are many people who make less than I do who cannot work from home.

    Maybe hit them in two places.
    1. Increase/introduce a road-weight tax. In my state, the cost of vehicle registration, getting my license tags, includes a factor for vehicle weight. Vehicles with higher weight cause more wear on roads. Every state should do this (and maybe they do), and increase it as a means to collect money to repair roads. Adding an exemption for vehicles used on a commercial farm may be useful. Repairing roads is always a popular cause with the voting citizens. When it costs them $500/year for their license tabs
    2. Create a sliding scale on state income taxes based on vehicle rated MPG. People who own vehicles which get, say, 30-35 MPG are neutral. Owning a vehicle which gets 20-30MPG gets a multiplier to their taxes of 1.05, owning a vehicle which gets less than 20MPG would get a multiplier of 1.10. On the other side, if you own a vehicle which gets 35-45 MPG you get a benefit of multiplying your taxes by 0.95, and above 45 MPG, 0.90. This would need to be managed by the states as they have the vehicle records and ownership information. Again, exemptions can be made for genuine farm vehicles.

    Not that these incentives are likely to be considered by any legislature.

  10. flex says

    Missing ending to a line in incentive one:

    When it costs them $500/year for their license tabs they might re-think about buying a vehicle which they don’t need.

  11. says

    I’ve owned several cars.most of them second hand.until the days of computer chips taking over so many of the functions I kept most of them for way over the 100 thousand mile mark. The last one of these I kept ticking like a clock for over 500 thousand before some idiot parked his Land cruiser into it at about 40mph. I did all my own maintenance until manufacturers had the bright idea of making it ever harder. The classic was shifting the water pump from being bolted to the front of the engine to needing the exhaust and head removed to replace it. Until then I’d only ever had to rebuild one. Thanks to this drive to complexity cars need dealer service at vast expense, I no longer service them myself and replace them when the warranty expires. Until recently all my cars were large sedans because I’d go camping most weekends and needed room for passengers and gear. Proper maintenance and tuning kept them relatively cheap to run and the mechanical skills I developed got me and others out of trouble when we broke down in remote areas. Today I’m largely confined to a large megacity with traffic choked toll ways so I own a small hatchback. Sadly with tollways cars and congestion the city is very pedestrian unfriendly and I can no longer enjoy my walk to the local shops and only drive there out of necessity.

  12. whywhywhy says

    I grew up on a farm and we had a rear-wheel drive beater of a pickup that was more rust than original finish. It worked fine and was immensely useful. A couple times each winter we would have someone ring our door bell (which was weird at any time of year since only strangers used the front door and strangers never came), these folks were out bucking snow banks in a fancy 4×4 pickup or SUV and had gotten their truck buried. We would fir up our tractor and pull them out of the bank. All the while, we would be thinking: Why in the hell does anyone need 4×4 vehicle in farm country? Most folks don’t know what to do with that kind of power and those who have the disposable income to buy a 4×4 rarely leave flat, paved roads.

  13. Bruce Fuentes says

    Here in rural NW WI, I see the same thing as you. Some of the country folk need and use their trucks. They are the ones with the older more used-looking trucks. Then there are the people that drive their big new 80k truck back and forth to town for their desk job or nursing job.
    In the interest of full disclosure, I have an SUV. It is a 2019 Dodge Durango. Not the biggest SUV but big. It is always a moral quandary when I buy a big vehicle. We have a household of 5, my wife and our 13-year-old son, plus my mother-in-law and her 16-year-old son. We travel a bit and we have a camper. The camper is not big. About 4k lbs loaded. I have tried towing the camper with a smaller SUV and wore out the transmission. I also do not want another vehicle just to tow.
    My wife drives a Subaru Legacy. Perfect for winter to get through the snow-covered, dirt roads we live on.
    The point of this is to say some people have a use for a large vehicle. Not many, but some.

  14. says

    I was looking for a basic pickup with a full-size bed. They’re rare as hen’s teeth and when you find one, it’s still ludicrously tall at the tailgate. Most pickups now have a 5′ or less bed with a lowered tailgate that hits me chest high. I ended up with a Honda Passport, essentially a Pilot sans the 3rd row seating. With the rear seats down, it has more cargo space than most of the “small” trucks I looked at and a waist high lift.

  15. says

    Also, I got rid of a motorcycle mostly because of these assholes. They don’t pay attention and don’t see vehicles lower than their rear-view mirror. For my fun vehicle, I got a Miata. I still occasionally have to slam on my brakes cause these fuckers don’t see me. During one incident, I clearly had the ROW in a merge situation. Blared my horn at the guy when he almost took off my front fender. At the next signal, he started yelling at me that he had the right of way cause he’s bigger. Fuck these people. Fuck them right to hell.

  16. raven says

    It has to hurt right now to own a giant truck or SUV.
    “The F-150 has a 23-gallon fuel tank size, just in the Regular Cab and SuperCab versions”

    So if gasoline is $5.00 a gallon right now, it costs $115 to fill up the tank.
    The miles per gallon isn’t great. The dealer has it as 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway.

    Even if you can afford it, I don’t see the point.
    It’s a zero sum game.
    Money spent on fuel isn’t money spent on Trump’s scam PACs, trying to overthrow the government, or making your mega church pastor even richer.

  17. moarscienceplz says

    “I get to be a typical Liberal and walk, not drive, to the coffee shop for a two dollar French Roast”.
    Why not eliminate the middleman: just drop a charcoal briquette in your coffee cup and pour boiling water over it.
    I prefer coffee beans that have most of their coffee aromatics still in ’em.

  18. charley says

    Agree about pickups. The six-cylinder manual shift long bed F-150 we used on the MSU farm when I was there did everything we needed. Disagree about working on modern cars, though. They don’t really even need tuneups, and most problems can be diagnosed with a relatively inexpensive device. There are YouTube tutorials on most repairs. I do not miss carburetors and distributors.

  19. daulnay says

    As a previous commenter said, Detroit pushes trucks because they are profitable.

    They are profitable because decades ago, the U.S. and Japan inked a trade treaty that put quotas on truck and car imports, setting the tariffs on trucks at 25%, 10 times the 2.5% of the car tariff. No competition lets the U.S. companies make big profits on the trucks, and decades of heavy advertising shifted consumer preferences there.

    Let trucks in at 0% tariff, and no import limits; you’ll see prices drop sharply, and advertising will shift preferences away from trucks. Put a tariff on fully electric cars, and in a decade everyone will be buying electric.

  20. Ada Christine says

    I much prefer the rugged femininity of a train to the sleek masculinity of an oversized toy.

  21. Ada Christine says

    @flex 11 owners of these things are willing to pay $500-700 a month for their loan, whatever obscene amount for fuel, insurance, tires, maintenance. $500 a year for registration fees is nothing to them.

  22. Ada Christine says

    @flex 11 owners of these things are willing to pay $500-700 a month for their loan, whatever obscene amount for fuel, insurance, tires, maintenance. $500 a year for registration fees is nothing to them.

  23. rockwhisperer says

    To be fair, crossover SUVs have a fairly big market, judging by the vehicles on the road in my spread-out city. Many are hybrids, and a few are even electric. But I’ve certainly noticed the newer pickup trucks on the road being taller and taller.

    I took several university geology class field trips in the 2006 to 2012 time frame. Our travel vehicles were 90s-era full-size SUVs, two Chevys and a Ford, though we referred to them collectively as “the Suburbans”. They worked amazingly well for hauling students and camping gear around, they sat higher than my passenger car but not outrageously so, and they were easy to work on and repair by an independent mechanic. I was driving home from errands the other day and stopped in traffic behind a newish (judging by the license plate) full-size SUV, and it sat so high, it occurred to me that my shortest classmates would have had trouble lifting their gear up into the rear hatch!

  24. Jazzlet says

    My 20 year old Volvo V70 estate (station wagon) still does 38 mpg round town. I’ve not checked the mileage on the V70 recently, but we gave our last car a Volkswagon away to an apprentice VW mechanic becuse the wiring loom was failing, the rest of the car was fine despite having a mileage over 300 000, but it was doing things like lowering the windows when you locked it which wasn’t helpful.

  25. fentex says

    It’s all a symptom of the fact the U.S.A is full of paranoid cowards. Scared of what’s around them and easily insulted into compensating for their small minds and character by buying BIG THINGS.

    And those who profit from this don’t want them to have a world to relax in – health MUST be expensive, employment MUST be tenuous, the military MUST be powerful because EVERYONE wants to attack you, pay us to protect you.

  26. silvrhalide says

    @5 ” I did all my own maintenance until manufacturers had the bright idea of making it ever harder. The classic was shifting the water pump from being bolted to the front of the engine to needing the exhaust and head removed to replace it. Until then I’d only ever had to rebuild one. Thanks to this drive to complexity cars need dealer service at vast expense, I no longer service them myself ”
    I KNOW. Argh.
    My last car was a 23 year old K car. The car I had previous to that was also a K car. It ran beautifully for 15 years. It was also relatively easy to maintain. Then some managerial halfwit got the bright idea of turning the entire engine 90° aka the transverse engine. An effing nightmare. And the assholes at Chrysler/Dodge didn’t even retool, a thing I discovered when the second K car got wet… and the serpentine belt fell off. I’d replaced the belt because the edges were getting ragged, largely because there was a wobble in the belt when it ran–Chrysler/Dodge didn’t align the wheels/pulleys on the serpentine on the transverse engine. Oh, and the transverse engine meant I would have needed arms like Reed Richards to run the serpentine belt over the lowest pulley, which was literally about 8 inches off the ground. Which is why the dipshit designers eliminated the edges/lip on the pulley, because it was too hard to change the serpentine belt. Which is why the belt fell off in the rain.
    WTF?
    How did this halfassed design ever make it out of autocad and on to an assembly line?!
    $150 bought an aftermarket fix for the serpentine belt issue but it’s ridiculous that that was ever necessary in the first place.
    It’s ridiculous that a vehicle that you used to be able to fix or at least do minor repairs yourself is now a repair-shop-only option.
    American automakers piss and moan about how American consumers don’t buy American autos.
    Have you considered not crapping all over your customer base with your products? Just saying. It’s not like American auto buyers don’t have other (better) options.

    As for the pedestrian issue… any chance your city will create pedestrian-only zones? Baltimore has the elevated pedestrian walkways and NYC has the High Line. Both are genius.
    https://ayerssaintgross.com/work/project/johns-hopkins-university-san-martin-drive-pedestrian-experience/
    https://www.thehighline.org

  27. silvrhalide says

    @7 I was wondering how anyone actually hauls anything with the newer Canyoneros. Sure, you can kind of tilt a boat trailer (not great if you have to cross railroad tracks or similar road hazards) but how does one hitch a horse trailer to some of the newer trucks? The higher undercarriage makes for a higher trailer hitch. Horses generally don’t enjoy trips in a horse trailer and they really won’t enjoy it at a noticeable angle. Plus dangerous for the horses. What’s the fix?

  28. Ada Christine says

    @30

    there are brackets that can be mounted in the receiver hitch for a lower ball hitch.

  29. antigone10 says

    My spouse and I live in the city. We really WANT a small truck. Like, old school Rangers or S-10s. But the new “ranger” is twice as heavy as the old Ranger, and about as big as an old F-150. The car companies say there’s no market for them in the US but I’m pretty sure the parks service alone could keep them profitable.

    So, so irritating.

  30. magistramarla says

    Akira @ #6
    I’m a disabled retired teacher who drives a Prius with handicapped plates.
    I experienced rolling coal several times while we were living in Texas, as well as witnessing it being done to bicyclists.
    I am so very, very glad to now be living on the coast of California. Most of the people who live in our area have no idea what “rolling coal” is. I’ve had to explain it a few times.
    I am seeing more and more big trucks around here, though. Hopefully, they are mostly owned by the military members who are only here for a short time, and mostly try to avoid doing anything that might get them into trouble.

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