The United States is known for a lot of great things — barbeque, football, apple pie, bald eagles and Play-Doh, just to name a few. The U.S. is also known for its nearly universal love of pickup trucks. These vehicles are among the most popular in the country. Why are trucks so popular in America?
A Long and Varied History
We haven’t always been able to run to the grocery store to bring home the bacon — just a couple hundred years ago, more than 95 percent of American citizens lived and worked on farms. By the early 1900s, that number dropped to only 35 percent, but farmers still relied on wagons pulled by horses to get their goods from the farm to the people who needed it.
America is a huge country, so getting food products from farm to market before they spoiled was a bit of a challenge. Transporting food changed dramatically when the first Ford Model T Pickup rolled off the assembly line in 1925. Suddenly, farmers could carry thousands of pounds of product from point A to point B — plus, the truck’s headlights helped them drive throughout the night.
It didn’t take long for trucks to become America’s workhorses — while they couldn’t help till a field, they could easily haul food products far and wide. We built roads across the country to cater to these new trucks, something that many other countries didn’t do until later in the century. Even during World War II, Hitler’s troops used horses to transport upwards of 80 percent of their supplies.
From Farm Tool to Status Symbol
As concern about the environment grows, one of the biggest changes was to car emissions. The 1970s brought tougher emissions standards for passenger cars — but not for trucks. When the Corporate Average Fuel Economy became standardized in 1975, pickup trucks had lower standards than other commercially available vehicles. In the early 90s, there was even a luxury tax applied to new cars that didn’t apply to trucks.
There was, for a brief time, a stigma against driving gas guzzling vehicles when the price of fuel was climbing, but that faded away. Owning a truck, especially one of the luxury equipped newer models, quickly became a status symbol. While they still earn their keep on farms across the nation, only about one out of every 100 truck owners is a farmer today.
Truck Sales Still Climbing
Truck sales are as high as ever in 2018. Toyota reported selling more than 160,000 units of their Tacoma model in 2017 alone. GM sold more than 173,000 Sierras, and Dodge sold a whopping 419,000 Rams in the same year.
The Ford F-Series trucks almost always take the cake regarding popularity. In 2017, Ford sold almost 750,000 F-Series trucks, up more than 11 percent from the year before.
Why Are Trucks so Popular?
After looking at the rich and varied history of the pickup truck, why are they still so popular today? Some reasons might include:
- They’re Versatile — Need to haul food from a farm? Toss it in your truck. Need to help a friend move furniture? Toss it in your truck. Need to haul someone’s motorcycle or ATV to the shop? Throw it in the truck. You can use a pickup for just about any hauling imaginable.
- They’re Good on and off Road — Don’t stick to the hundreds of miles of roads in the U.S. — trucks, especially those with 4-wheel drive, are good both on and off the road.
- You’ll Be the Cool Person — You know which person that is — the one your friends always turn to when they need help. It’s not a bad thing to be the one with the truck, especially when you’re getting paid in pizza and beer.
- You Can Race Them Too — Take your truck to the local racetrack after you trick it out. There are some fantastic truck races all around the country, both on and off the road.
- Get Muddy — Trucks are ideal for mudding or driving in wet and muddy off-road locations designed specifically to get your truck as messy as possible.
- See More — One of the nicest benefits of driving a truck is that you’re higher off the ground, so it’s a lot easier to see and be seen when you’re driving down the road. Driving a good pickup truck in heavy traffic is often preferred to driving a Ford Fiesta.
Trucks aren’t for everyone — they don’t have the greatest fuel economy, for example — but they can be one of the most versatile and fun vehicles in your garage. It’s easy to see why so many people in America love trucks, from the tiny Ford Ranger to the massive dually trucks — there’s so much to love!
Scott Huntington is a writer and car fanatic from Harrisburg, PA.