How pickups got so big: size, weight and safety

    A 1970's Ford F-150 compared to a modern version.

A 1970’s Ford F-150 compared to a modern version. Graphics: Will Chase/Axios

Sales of huge pickup trucks are propping up automakers and bringing in record profits — yet pedestrian and road safety advocates say today’s massive trucks pose a hazard to drivers because of their size, weight and blind spots.

Driving the news: America has a unique love affair with pickup trucks – the Ford F-150 was the best-selling vehicle in the US for more than 40 years. But in that time, pickups have gotten bigger, heavier, and more sophisticated.

  • In the 1980s, about half of pickup trucks were classified as small or medium-sized. But by the 2010s, small pickup trucks had all but disappeared as Americans increasingly embraced the big truck lifestyle.
  • As pickup trucks went from workhorses to lifestyle vehicles, their design changed accordingly: cabins expanded to accommodate more passengers while beds shrank.
  • The first generation F-150 was 36% cabin and 64% bed by length. By 2021, the ratio had reversed, with 63% cabins and 37% beds.
Graphics: Will Chase/Axios
Graphics: Will Chase/Axios

Between the lines: Survey data from vehicle research firm Strategic Vision shows that one-third of today’s pickup truck owners rarely or never use their truck for hauling, while two-thirds rarely or never use it for towing.

  • Instead, experts say, much of the big pickup mania is being driven by consumer self-image.
  • “Today, personality and imagery play an even more important role in consumer decision-making about the right truck,” Alexander Edwards, researcher at Strategic Vision, told Axios.
  • The company asks owners every year about the characteristics that they associate with their vehicle. Two words distinguish F-150 owners: “capable” and “robust”.
Data: Strategic Vision.  Diagram: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Strategic Vision. Diagram: Will Chase/Axios

Yes but: A consequence of oversized trucks: higher risks for pedestrians and other drivers.

  • Today’s truck drivers sit much higher, creating a blind spot where small children or wheelchair users cannot be seen.
Graphics: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios
Graphics: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios
  • Furthermore, Pickup weight increased by 32% between 1990 and 2021, meaning they hit pedestrians with more force.
  • Also, the high front of a truck hits pedestrians in the torso or head – home to vital organs – while the lower hoods of cars usually hit pedestrians in the legs.
  • Pickups also tend to be more dangerous in collisions between vehicles of different sizes — motorists are 2.5 times more likely to die when colliding with a pickup compared to another car, according to a 2019 to learn.

The other side: Ford says “safety is the number one priority” and points to safety-related technologies such as Pedestrian detection sensorsautomatic emergency braking, 360 degree camerasand more, some of which are now standard.

  • Other pickup manufacturers have added similar features.
  • The 2022 F-150 deserved Rated a “Top Safety Choice” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and rated “Good” or “Superior” in various crash tests including those with other vehicles and with pedestrians by children and adults.

What’s next: Though they’ve probably peaked in terms of size, pickup trucks are still evolving to keep up with Americans’ changing lifestyles.

  • And now that they are go electricoffer many features and bonus features not available on petrol or diesel trucks such as B. better torque and faster acceleration, as well as the ability to power a construction site, campsite or tailgate party without burning gas.

Methodology: US truck sales data is from the Office for Transport Statistics. All survey data, including truck usage and image data, comes from the Strategic Vision New Vehicle Experience Study. Data on collision fatality rates and curb weights are from Monfort and Nolan (2019). Aggressiveness and Driver Risk Trends for Cars, SUVs, and Pickup Trucks: Vehicle Incompatibility from 1989 to 2016. Traffic Injury Prevention. 3D models licensed from Ford through TurboSquid.


Hey, I am Sakib Hossain Sojib, an entrepreneur known as an SEO Specialist, Digital Marketer, Blogger, and Content Creator. I have a team of researchers who guide and review products for our audience to help them by providing valuable information to help our audience makes the best decisions for their needs. I love to take care of my cars. So, I like and enjoy car maintenance and automotive research. The provided content is based on my learning, research, and understanding of the topic and its concept. Our extensive experience in the industry allows us to offer unique insights and perspectives on the latest trends and products. We aim to educate and empower our readers by providing them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their needs.

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