With today’s auto finance rates and fuel costs double that of 2016, contractors have tough decisions to make if considering fleet or individual purchases of pickup trucks.
While there is an enormous range of vehicles from which to choose, the cost of ownership and operation has become very high. Matching the truck to the required purpose will be important in order to maximize utility while minimizing the financial burden.
Choices can be roughly divided into three categories. First is the traditional gas/diesel pickup. Second is the increasing array of EV pickups. And third is what could be termed the PV, or Personal Vanity pickup.
One thing is clear when it comes to pickup trucks in North America. They are getting bigger, much bigger. Engine size has increased to levels of horsepower and torque never considered 10 years ago.
The 2023 Ford Super Duty is an example. Its 6.7-litre V8 high output diesel engine will reportedly produce 570 hp, and 1,260 lb-ft of torque, delivering a towing capability of 40,000 lbs.
Are those specs realistic for most contractors? It’s a question that needs to be asked. Engines that size are fuel guzzlers, even when not towing.
Chevy and Dodge are in the mix as well when it comes to massive power.
The 2023 Chevy Silverado ZR2 Bison comes with a gas-powered 6.2-litre, 420 hp/16-valve V-8 engine that develops 460 lb-ft of torque, governed by a 10-speed transmission. If higher torque is required, a Duramax diesel is available, albeit with slightly less horsepower.
The RAM 2500 Rebel can be spec’d with a 6.7-litre Cummins Turbo Diesel I-6 engine that delivers 850 lb-ft of torque in a 370 hp power plant.
However, what makes truck selection confusing is how all the leading manufacturers, including Toyota, are ratcheting up engine and transmission specifications as part of their “Off-Road Packages.” Advertising is often aimed at those with no intention of driving across rock-strewn worksites or through virgin forests.
Here we see the growing realm of PV trucks. As engine sizes increase, the technology and luxury detailing of appointments that have little to do with worksite efficiency grows alongside: Power massaging front seats wrapped in soft leather, 40-inch information screens, 12-speaker BOSE sound systems, aggressive front grill designs, special exterior paint-and-trims and 33-inch tires on aluminum wheel rims.
These are part of the marketing strategies employed by leading pickup manufacturers that can make the picture foggy for contractors. It’s easy to be attracted by specifications that may, in fact, have little bearing on what they truly need in a pickup to perform their job.
There are environmentally friendlier alternatives.
Contractors looking to minimize carbon emissions can turn away from trucks with litre-per-100 kilometres fuel consumption measured in the mid-teens and instead consider the growing list of EV pickups now becoming available.
The EV story is mixed, however.
Although EVs typically deliver heart-pounding acceleration, skid mark capability may not be high on a contractor’s list of priorities. More important considerations are towing capacity, tire wear due to higher curb weight and effective range between charges, particularly in colder climates like Canada. Here, EVs have drawbacks worth considering.
Towing capacity of EV pickups is limited and tire wear is high. Most importantly, effective range between charges, particularly in cold weather when at load capacity or when towing, can be quite low. One auto reviewer reported after leaving his test Ford Lariat XLT EV outside and unplugged overnight, the opening range of 150 miles dropped by 75 per cent after only 64 miles, towing nothing.
Although batteries are evolving and becoming larger, such limitations might give contractors pause, particularly when working in areas where charging stations are few and far between.
Pickup trucks first appeared in the early 1900s as farm vehicles. Many models today have been transformed into vehicles that go well beyond any utilitarian purpose. With price tags for certain “limited edition” vehicles exceeding C$100,000, contractors need to choose carefully between practicality and vanity.
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments Climate and Construction column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.