Big Truck Energy - A Closer Look at the Irritating, Upsizing Trend

August 2023
Written By: 
Ashley Daniels
Photographs by: 
courtesy of shutterstock and Wiki Commons

Research shows that pickup truck drivers are more likely to be involved in road rage situations than drivers of other vehicles.

For this issue, I’m going to discuss what I’d like to call “Big Truck Energy” (BTE). If you drive a pickup truck, commercial or personal, I’m not necessarily grouping you into this label, I am just merely writing my View from Here from what I see on the roads. 

What is BTE? It’s the natural correlation between big pickup trucks and big, aggressive attitudes from those that drive them. I often experience pickups zooming up behind me in my lane to tailgate, weaving in and out of traffic, and hurdling recklessly through intersections. 

In fact, research shows that pickup truck drivers are more likely to be involved in road rage situations than drivers of other vehicles. Is it because they need to prove their strength and masculinity behind the wheel matches the truck’s power under the hood? Are they trying to compensate for something in their underlying insecurities? Because trucks are larger and heavier than their competition on the road, does that sense of control trickle over into their behavior?

Experian Automotive reports that pickup trucks make up 20.57 percent of vehicles in the United States. People claim the reason is for a truck’s versatility to haul off-road equipment for work or play, bulky items, or sports gear, or towing trailers or boats – actions that cars aren’t built to do. However, survey data from Strategic Vision shows a third of today’s pickup owners rarely or never use their truck for hauling and two-thirds rarely or never use their pickup for towing. Instead, the findings say the pickup craze is fueled by the consumer’s self-image.

Since the 2010s, small pickups have been replaced by bigger, bulkier, more high-tech trucks.

For more than 40 years, the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States, but a lot has changed for pickups over those decades. In the 1980s, about half of pickup trucks fell into the small or midsize category, and by the 2010s, small pickups were practically nonexistent, replaced by bigger, bulkier, and more high-tech trucks. They evolved from hard-working trucks to lifestyle vehicles, with the designs shifting from larger beds to larger cabs. In the early F-150 days, it was 36 percent cab and 64 percent bed, as far as length. By 2021, the length ratio was the opposite.

But size is just the start to today’s monster trucks. There are all the bells and whistles of modifications that drivers add, like injecting these steroids: lift kit, knobby tires, adjustable trailer hitch, and more. 

And then there’s the Carolina Squat that raises the front end of the pickup to the point that the driver only sees the sky, leaving the stock back half and bed practically dropped to the ground. Thankfully, this mod will finally be illegal in South Carolina officially in November this year, following suit behind North Carolina and Virginia, where these squatted trucks are also outlawed. 

Because a squatted truck struck and killed a pedestrian crossing Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach two years ago, a bill made its way to South Carolina’s House of Representatives, which voted unanimously to ban the modification. Offenders will be charged $100 for their first violation, $200 for the second, and $300 for the third, with their license suspended for a year.

It’s a slight blow to that BTE tearing up the roads, but there’s still a long way to go until it’s a speck in the rearview mirror.