Foreign Pickup Trucks – Successes and Fails

Mercedes X-Class

What makes an ideal pickup truck to buy and what makes a truck that no one will buy?

Kei Truck

To look at the Kei Truck first; it is called a mini-truck, a very small, but practical, pickup truck. It is built very small and is classified as an ATV in some states. Subaru, Honda, and Suzuki, among others, manufacture the Kei Truck. It was developed from a three wheeled truck which could be seen in Japan even before WWII. It weighs less than a metric ton – about 1,500lbs (700Kg) and has a maximum speed of 75 mph. They are produced outside the US and are used in the fishing and construction industries. Unless you’re in one of a handful of states where they’re classified as an ATV, only Kei Trucks older than 25 years may be imported into the US.

The Isuzu V-Cross PCP is designed for both off-roading and traveling on country roads. There are several features you don’t immediately associate with a pickup such as leather seats, a gun-metal exterior, and heated front seats – just the thing for journeying through the colder states. There’s also a touchscreen and a back-up camera to aid your parking.

Unfortunately, a number of pickups didn’t succeed, like the Mercedes X-Class. This was only used between 2018 and 2020. Although Mercedes tends to make waves all over the car market this was a new area for them.  The engine had two different levels of power and had a design based on the Nissan Frontier. Ultimately it had some problems – it was tricky to turn, requiring an excess of 42 feet (13 meters) and was thought too expensive for most customers, not even reaching 17 thousand sales.

Did you know that a Toyota Hilux features in Back To The Future? If so, you are not alone. This bulky pickup has been available since 1968. It has “sports bars” at the front and a strong towing capacity at the back with the additional robust frame and why not take advantage of the cruise control and a collision prevention control. The music tech is also worth mentioning, the Smartphone integration. There are also test drive available from the website. 

The story of the Mahindra is a whole different affair. Its lack of fuel efficiency held it up during production, although it duped hundreds of US audio dealers into investment. The parent company, Global, was selling utility vehicles in 2004. It managed to obtain 350 potential buyers around this period. Unfortunately, it never got to launch.  Despite being planned for a number of years, the fuel emission certificate was only signed in 2011. Dealers paid to get the franchise but it all came to naught.  Several millions were syphoned into branding the product and even creating showrooms. The company later admitted the pressure was too great.

There are so many brilliant pickups out there it would be surprising if some different fall by the wayside. The working nature of the vehicle is important but so is comfortability and style.

Are Female Truck Drivers the Answer?

Clearly there is a worker shortage in many fields and as truck drivers are a crucial link in the struggling supply chain of goods to customers, there is a huge need for truck drivers in general. As an industry they are trying to hire ten thousand drivers immediately.

Even before the global pandemic logistics companies were being squeezed and they were running out of drivers. One reason is the number of accidents caused by tired drivers, or those suffering heart attack or stroke while behind the wheel. As a result, new health standard made trucking an industry likely to retire you at an earlier age. While the average nurse is over 50 the average truck driver is now 46.

New Truck Drivers

The average age of someone becoming a truck driver is 35, and a number of them are women—more than ever before. It seems many men have left the profession before the pandemic have yet to return. ZipRecruiter says that 83% of drivers are men probably because women don’t consider it a good industry for them, but this may be subject to change.

It isn’t just men leaving that creates extra demand for drivers. Home delivery is up as much as 43% over pre-pandemic days.

One of the main reasons that women might be attracted to the job is that it is fairly well paid. While many careers still require a college degree in order to achieve a well-paid position driving truck falls more into the category of a trade, where a short time of special training and a couple certifications can get you started and additional certifications along the way will open doors to increased opportunity. In other words it can be a faster change than say joining the medical field.

Another reason is that traditionally female dominated industries, like supermarket, retail jobs, and restaurant jobs were hit hardest by the pandemic which put a lot of women into the job search right when trucking needed to hire. The economic instability created a good environment for many people to consider a change of industry.

Yet another reason for women to switch to truck driving is that women already filled a bigger percentage of other CDL (commercial driver’s licence) positions. For those women who already drive minibuses or coaches, a truck isn’t that big a leap.

Short Haul vs Long Haul

Traditionally, male and female workers have shown different priorities in job selection. For example, women doctors are sometimes hesitant to pursue medical specialties, like plastic surgery, instead choosing to stay with family medicine, in order to leave the door open for family planning.

So as women enter trucking driving they are opting for short haul jobs, which keeps them near their families. It’s also a more competitive arena.

Long haul, or OTR for over the road as it’s often called, can make more money and is better suited to Owner Operators. The downside is that your are gone from your family most of the time. In other words because it’s lucrative but difficult and uncomfortable so it attracts drivers willing to buy their own rig instead of working as an employee.

The net effect is that it’s unlikely for women see the most money in their industry. Situations like this are what skew the statistics and make the pay gap between men and women seem larger than it may actually be.

It’s not just family consideration at play in their preference for local routes. While many women are adventurous and tough female truckers rated their safety as 4.4 out of 10 (which may be thought as the equivalent to “fairly unsafe”) in a recent survey. Long haul routes carry a greater potential risk and may be less desirable to anyone who is motivated by security. We’re not saying women are risk averse as a gender, actually statistics indicate it. Women get in fewer accidents which is attributed to a more cautious approach to driving, which is correlated to a lower tolerance for risk in general.

While there is no reason a female truck driver couldn’t do the OTR work they may not find it worth the money.

The Bad News for Any Driver

The bad news is that driving all day is a sedentary lifestyle, sitting in one position all day may lead to blood clots. It can also lead to injuries and fatalities due to accidents of some sort. Not everyone is well suited to driving for ten hours in a 24 hours period, and it’s easy to lose focus. Not that the truck driver is to automatically blame. Driving carries the risk of getting in a wreck so the more you drive the more likely you are to be involved in one, and the more likely you are to be injured in one.

Less drastically, It’s also quite a lonely job with irregular hours. Drivers are more likely to smoke or be obese but there are fitness companies out there which market themselves to truck drivers.

Still the Trend is Changing

In most employment fields, women are growing in numbers and trucking is following suit. Sexual harassment may be a problem since they are still a minority and it’s been a male dominated occupation for a long time. A smart trucking company would implement some training and policies to insulate themselves from potential actions taken by their employees.

A smart female truck driver who became an owner operator or one who took on OTR routes consider taking some self-defence.

Most female truck drivers we’ve talked to tell us it’s not too bad if you have a thick skin and set boundaries. They do not feel they are treated the same as men but acknowledge that it is getting rapidly better.

The practicalities of driving a cab for women is a trending topic of discussed online. It’s no longer difficult to find decorations that might appeal to women to customize the cab. Many designs can be seen on TikTok and Instagram.

As a side note, women are also applying for jobs such as driver managers and have excelled as CDL trainers. Some female truck drivers do earn an income north of six figures.

Time will tell if they take on training for specialty endorsements like hazardous waste or oversized loads in larger numbers, but it’s it’s likely that the trucking industry as a whole is heading toward a 50/50 workforce.

A Look Into Construction Trucks

There are many different vehicles involved in construction and related industries such as mining and transportation repair including items such as bulldozers, cranes, excavators and so on. Many of these vehicles can be hired (assuming you have proper endorsements to drive them) for short term, long term or alternately for a fixed period. Any piece of heavy equipment may be referred to as a “plant.”

This article is focusing on the heavy vehicles suitable for the highway such as dump trucks and dumper trucks. They tend to be used for moving sand and gravel to specific locations.

First to look into safety

Definitely the more important aspect of heavy vehicles. When a dumper truck reverses it’s more likely to hit a person, object or vehicle. Indeed, any vehicle reversing should be treated with suspicion, the “skip” tends to be the cause of most incidents. A “skip” is an open container, common to dumpers & side dumpers. This large object creates massive blind spots. Obviously, a dumper is designed to be able to back up accurately, not just for travel, but to deliver a load to exact right spot.

To assist with reversing a spotter is advised – someone who can tell you whether it’s safe to go backward.

Next there’s a problem should the dumper truck tip over. This can be avoided by keeping it under a safe load – it’s vital to know how much a dumper truck can carry. When you drive on an uneven road you will definitely encounter slopes and other areas of uneven ground. This type of environment is more likely to lead to vehicle upturning. There are special manufacturer’s guidelines which will tell the highest gradient that the truck can operate.

You should never drive when the skip has not been lowered as it will be especially likely to tip over due to a weight change, which could be even a small blast of wind. It’s not designed to be driven like this; the tip mechanism should only be operated when the truck isn’t moving.

Inexperienced drivers are less likely to follow a set of operating instructions and may cause accidents, even fatal accidents.

Rollover Protection

Some trucks have roll over protection which is used in case a vehicle overturns or rolls over – either roll cage or roll bars. The first vehicles to use this type of protection were tractors in the 1920s. It may interest you to know that these are tested to destruction, in other words they face a destructive test including working at a lower temperature. Even if a vehicle has a roll cage it is still extremely hazardous.

Types of Dump Vehicles

A high skip dumper is useful if there’s not much space. They are approximately a tonne in weight. A heavy-duty front tip dumper is similar, but they are for larger tasks.

A dump truck has the material stored in the trailer box at the rear. Various types include:

A rigid dumper truck which is both durable and fast but can operate on the open road.

An articulated dumper truck is for the harder type of terrain, but they aren’t very good with heavy terrain.

The tracked dumper truck works by flattening the ground and means you don’t have so many problems with difficult terrain.

You can purchase a mini dumper truck for garden projects and items like extensions and so on, but you may be better served by a tractor with a trailer attachment. They’re are much more user friendly than the bigger trucks.

Many children have a fascination with these types of vehicles, but it is important to teach them to be wary, they are after all, not toys.

What’s News Truck Driver Shortage

Vaccine Mandate Threatens Major Trucking Disruption, Industry Insiders Say

BY JACKSON ELLIOTTCARA DINGALLAN STEINSTEVEN KOVACJANNIS FALKENSTERN AND NICK CIOLINO October 24, 2021 Updated: October 25, 2021

President Joe Biden ordered his administration to mandate vaccines for private companies with over 100 employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was charged with developing the rule, and the Office of Budget and Management is currently reviewing it. The review process can take as long as 90 days.

Most truck companies have six trucks or fewer, according to the American Trucking Associations.

For mandate-affected companies, Biden’s decision may drive away employees at a time when America needs them most. The American Trucking Associations estimates that America needs 80,000 more truckers to meet transportation needs.

Recently, supply chain crises have left many Americans in need.

Polls by trucking publications Commercial Carrier Journal and OverDrive indicate that up to 30 percent of truckers will seriously consider quitting if required to vaccinate. If they quit, the consequences for America may be massive. US Transport estimates that 70 percent of American freight goes by truck.

Link to Original Story

The Origin Of Trucks

Benz-Gaggenau BL 10 platform truck

Firstly, where does the word truck come from? It appears it was first used for the wheels on a ship’s cannon and was extended to carts carrying heavy loads. Before gas powered trucks were steam trucks, though they weren’t that widespread.

While vehicles remained expensive, luxury items, the truck wasn’t that popular either. There were many cheaper ways to transport goods – carts, canal boats, railways and so on.

The first trucks had wooden wheels clad in iron. The Phoenix was a later model, a converted car that ran on coal gas, lamp oil as well as gasoline.

Early Trucks

Karl Benz came up with the first truck in 1895 which was in turn altered to become an autobus. In 1896 Gottleib Daimler produced a horseless wagon with 4hp. Although it was said to carry 3300 pounds many disagreed – presumably this was too much for them?

Because of the lack of interest in Germany Gottleib Daimler tried selling the product in England, as coke and coal was cheaper than in Germany. There may have been a speed issue too. Up to 1896 the speed limit was 4mph. It was advertised as being able to transport 1500Kg but it wouldn’t be until 1901 that a truck could outdo the steam alternative as a test run between a motor truck and a steam truck in Liverpool proved.

They would also be promoted in Paris by the French Automobile Club in 1898. The wooden wheels referred to above were a hazard as they were liable to catch fire.

Süddendeutsche Automobilfabrik’s truck used a steel frame and steel wheels along with wheels and pistons. Before that German trucks had used a belt drive.

Other versions were created by Peugeot and Bussing. Only after the Second World War were things like pneumatic tires and power brakes introduced. The diesel engine was introduced in 1923. All of these were styled as large delivery vehicles, not pick ups as we think of them today.

The First American Truck!

Autocar created the first truck in the US with a choice of either 5 or 8hp and two-cylinder engine in 1899.

The first pickup truck was “vehicle no 42” in 1896. After that a modified Ford Model T called The Runabout had a similar design. The first Chevy truck was created in 1918 also using the Model T chassis. The chassis would continue for some time, in 1935 the same chassis would be used to create a station wagon for Chevy, though they did need to alter the load bearing capabilities of the vehicle and remove some of the body panels. These were open-cab vehicles and included such items as specialist hickory wood wheels.

EV Trucks?

There were a number of electric trucks being produced as early as 1907 with strong suspension and gears, such as a 5-ton truck produced in Indianapolis.

Model T Tow Truck

Tow Trucks

The tow truck was created in 1916, basically from necessity. Created by Ernest Holmes in Tennessee it hooked up cars (either broken or crashed ones) using chains and pulleys to take them to the wreckers. The tow truck company and the associated wrecking business was taken over by Miller Industries.

The Volvo’s first truck in 1928 had a four-cylinder engine and although it was said only to allow 1,500Kg many people overloaded it with little side-effect.

The truck, like all early vehicle styles, was only finding its way at that point since there were no huge freeways and has come a long way since.

Why Semi-Truck Turning Is So Hard

For trucks, turning can be one of the hardest things you can do. Why? Read on and find out.

If a truck wants to u-turn (180 degrees) for example, a truck park must allow for a minimum turn path, a truck of 18 wheels needs about 20’ to turn, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels.

Because a truck cannot make a turn in a small radius, they need to swing wide, meaning they must start the turn in the second lane to the left. There is an increased risk of a tip over or roll over if a truck tries to turn in too small a radius.

During any turn there is an increased risk of accident, and if there are only two lanes, trucks should avoid turning left. A truck may collide with a vehicle heading toward it from the front or there may be a right turn squeeze play accident from a vehicle trying to turn alongside it.

Squeeze-play Accidents

Squeeze-play accidents can happen in two ways. First because the trailer turns tighter than the cab and cars tend to assume they are safe if the cab isn’t going to hit them. However, the rear tires on the trailer can strike and even climb over a small car that is overtaken on the inside of a turn. It’s never a good idea to attempt a turn at the same time as a truck even when there are two turn lanes.

The second type of squeeze-play happens when drivers are lured into it. Because trucks need to swing right in order to turn left the truck gives the illusion it is turning right. Car drivers see the left blinker on, but assume the driver really meant to go right.

Trucks also have a larger blind spot than cars which means if they put their left turn signal on a car may feel safe pulling up next to it on the right. When the truck driver turns right to begin his left turn any cars in the way would be crushed, generally at the roof but it can be squeezed against a barrier.

How to Turn a Truck:

If you’re driving the truck, it is important to use signals when turning. It’s important to use windows and mirrors to check what is happening and do not move too quickly. It’s vital that you not put yourself in a position to have to back up the vehicle in the middle of an intersection.

To enter into a right turn, ensure that you have enough space from the curb and do not swing into the far-right lane. Conversely, if a truck makes a left turn it needs to first move right.

Different truck turns can be performed in different gears, right turns should be done in third gear, while left can be done in fourth gear. If it is a big right-hand corner with a turning lane (also known as a slip lane) it may be done in fifth gear. A slower vehicle turns more sharply.

Turn signals need to be up-to-date, mirrors should be correct for the size of the vehicle. The driver needs an adequate level of experience, qualifications and training. Unfamiliarity, such as a new route and different conditions may change things. Or the driver could be distracted which includes being tired.

This is just a simple guide, and it should be noted that you need a considerable amount of training to drive a truck, fortunately for other users of the road!

Avoiding Accidents:

It is vital not to overtake a turning truck.

If you’re driving a vehicle near a truck, to prevent accidents always stay away from a truck’s blind spots, especially if it is an 18-wheel truck. Only pass one when there is a great deal of room and do not pass on the right. Should a truck be indicating, give it a wide berth.

Car drivers shouldn’t think of a truck operating like a regular vehicle and just be more patient.

11% of all crash deaths in 2019 involved trucks but 74% of them involved a large trailer, while 24% involved single unit trucks. It is vital as a car driver to stay a safe distance and only pass when there is a great deal of room, especially if it is indicating.