Are Heavy-Duty Trucks Still Necessary?

March 2, 2010
2010 Dodge Ram 2500

2010 Dodge Ram 2500

With a constant emphasis on "green" vehicles dominating automotive culture these days--there were even a few hybrid supercars revealed at this week's Geneva Motor Show-- some folks might be wondering what the future holds for heavy-duty full-size pickup trucks. Some might even question whether it's still necessary for automakers to sell these large trucks.

The answer is: Yes. Eco-minded folk might not like to hear that, but many of those same folks live in big cities and they don't need to tow anything. While I agree with green-tinted car enthusiasts that it can be a waste for single urban-dwellers to tool around Manhattan or Chicago in large trucks for no reason other than looking cool, I also understand that there is a difference between the future reality star behind the wheel of a Hummer or Harley-Davidson Edition Ford F-150 and the boater who needs to a heavy-duty truck to get his watercraft to the dock. And let's not forget the business owners who can't get their work done without these beasts.

Farmers, ranchers, utility workers. Those are just three types of workers who use these trucks in their daily routines. Towing is major reason for their existence--I can't imagine a smaller truck pulling a horse trailer--but the fact that these trucks can be converted for other uses is important, too. Such as the utility truck that has a cherry-picker crane mounted in the bed.

I am all for anything that makes our automotive fleets greener. And if automakers are able to improve fuel economy and cut down on emissions without sacrificing the capability of big trucks, more power to them. In fact, indications are that the Detroit Three is doing just that. Whether it's improving aerodynamics to improve mpg or working on diesels that pollute less, all three of the Detroit automakers are attempting to improve their truck's green abilities. Since these automakers dominate the market, that's a good thing.

The government regulators in Washington are focused on Toyota's recalls at the moment, but in the future, as ever-tightening fuel-economy regulations take effect, large trucks will fall under more scrutiny. Regulators will ask if there are other ways that we can haul goods to market and boats to water.

And the answer, at least in most of the country, will be no. Find me another way to get my trailer through the mountains, and I'll listen. But right now, for a large segment of the population, these trucks serve a purpose. And indeed, for most folks, that's the only reason to buy these trucks. Few buy a truck this large for personal vanity. Yes, some trucks are purchased to haul toys, like boats. But many others are bought with a life of hardship in mind.

If you don't believe me, spend a day on a ranch. See how far your Prius gets you then.

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