SAN ANTONIO – Maybe you’ve noticed them on the highway or in a parking lot and wondered: Are pickup trucks getting bigger and bigger? Yes, they are. Consumer Reports’ data analysis found that increased size increases blind spots and risk to pedestrians who may not be seen.
Pickup trucks account for every one out of five new vehicles sold. In fact, the best-selling vehicle in North America is a pickup truck. But a Consumer Reports analysis of industry data from 2000 to 2018 found passenger trucks to be 11% taller and 24% heavier.
With that increased heft, Consumer Reports data found these big trucks have poorer front sightlines, 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 11 feet longer than those in some sedans and seven feet longer than in many popular SUVs, which increases the risk of the driver running over someone in front of them that they cannot see,” explained Consumer Reports Auto Editor Keith Barry.
An analysis from advocacy group KidsandCars.org found most fatalities in these kinds of crashes were children between 12 and 23 months old.
CR found that 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 Consumer Reports asked manufacturers: “Why have your pickups grown so tall?”
Stellantis -- the parent company of Ram -- declined to comment. Ford and GM said the changes were driven by consumer preference, and the big trucks needed larger grilles to support engine cooling when towing trailers. But Consumer Reports claims there might be another reason --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. Trucks with luxurious amenities have prices that are far above $60,000, and 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? Consumer Reports says mandatory advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking could help, as could reducing speed limits and designing roads that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists in the first place.
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