Tag Archives: transportation

Why RoadWhale?

I’ll make this pretty quick since this is the very first posting on the site.  To make it simple, I’m not a fan of the American full-sized pickup truck. While I will fully acknowledge that there are many who have valid uses for them, they simply are too much truck for the vast majority of those who currently drive them. When you consider the fact that they are among the least maneuverable, least economical and ultimately the largest personally-owned vehicles on the market short of RVs that serve a completely different purpose, it seems ridiculous to use a full-sized truck as an everyday, casual or formal vehicle.

That said, I currently own a 1990 Ford F-150 XLT Lariat I picked up used almost two years ago. (see note below) Remarkably, for the region in which I live (between Baltimore, MD and Philadelphia, PA) finding a 25-year-old pickup truck that’s not flat rusted out is remarkable. I bought it cheap and spent as much as I paid for it originally to make it roadworthy–and it still needs various repairs to make it safer and more reliable.


Why did I buy it? I had an urgent need for a large load bed to carry a number of tables for a charity event and to be quite blunt an SUV simply can’t carry them; the cargo area is too short, too low and you’re forced to leave the rear hatch open to carry anything longer than 6′ Since these tables are 8′ long and I needed to carry 24 of them, I needed a large open bed. The F-150 I found could carry them all with room left over and the tailgate closed. BUT…

At over 18 feet long, even this old truck is too big to maneuver in many of these tight Northeaster towns and cities comfortably and they’re next to impossible to park in a crowded parking lot. Worse, newer trucks are longer, taller and wider even than this 25-year-old whale of mine. And that’s why I call them Road Whales™.

When you look around on the streets today, pickup trucks make up almost half of all vehicles sold in the US–or at least appear that way. The Ford F-150 is currently the most popular vehicle sold in this country at 3/4ths of a million in 2013 alone  and a total of almost 2.2 million of all brands and sizes.  And we’re supposedly still in a somewhat depressed economy. The Toyota Camry is the single most popular CAR sold in the States, and it falls almost 1/3rd short of the F-150’s mark. If you bother to look at those trucks, very few of them are actually used for towing or hauling, a large proportion used as a status symbol and decked out with a fiberglass tonneau cover over the bed making it almost impossible to carry anything in that bed. Add to this that the now-common crew cab models frequently only carry a 4′ bed–half that needed to carry those tables with the tailgate closed and honestly too short to carry almost any typical load of lumber or construction material for the Do-It-Yourselfer.

So these Road Whales™ are both too big and too small and relatively impractical. A working pickup usually has at least a 6′ bed, open to the elements, though probably with a liner to help protect it from rust and damage. Most working pickups also carry a standard cab with a bench seat or maybe an extended cab with jump seats for the rare occasion that you carry more than two passengers but which the added interior space is used to carry tools and articles in a more secure location.

However, as I acknowledged up top, there are those who need a full-sized pickup truck. These appear to be farmers and ranchers who carry feed, crops and tools for their jobs; contractors who carry lumber, stone and other materials for building and landscaping and of course community utilities who use them for almost any typical work project that involves carrying tools, materials and supplies to perform their tasks. Again, the majority of this type use a standard or extended cab to make room for a sufficiently large bed for the load carried.

What I’ll be doing in this blog is noting the changes to the pickup truck market in the coming years and the trucks themselves to fit that market. We’re already seeing that every brand is going out of its way to make their trucks lighter in weight and improve their economy. Two brands already offer what they call mid-sized pickups using smaller bodies and smaller engines and a third brand is re-entering this mid-sized market. The problem with most of these for now is that the engines are too small for the size of the truck and as such their best fuel economy is little better than their full-sized cousins. What this means is that smaller size and smaller engines aren’t really enough. On the other hand, these smaller, lighter trucks offer a different benefit that–with improved economy–could replace the casual-use full-sized truck.  I’ll discuss this later.

(Note: As of November 2014, I no longer own this truck, having sold it to buy a small car that my wife is willing to drive. Over the course of three years, I put a grand total of 4,000 miles on the truck, which pretty well emphasizes how useless something like this is as a daily driver. Even my 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited gets better gas mileage and is more functional as a daily driver due to its shorter length and slightly narrower body and wheel track.)