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These Are The Rules For What Makes A Truck A Truck

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What is a truck? A question a child might ask, yet not a childish question. You’d think the answer would be so obvious that you wouldn’t even need to ask, it’d be like that famous quote from that judge who makes legal decisions based on whether or not he gets erections: you know it when you see it. But I’m not sure the status of truckitude is all that simple. I realized this a few days ago when discussions in the comments of our post about the refreshed Hyundai Santa Cruz truck got downright existential, as people wondered exactly what a truck is. I can’t stand by and let people wallow in confusion; I’m the sort that will turn on the headlights rather than curse your darkness, so let’s see what we can do to solve this problem. Let’s get to the essence of just what is a truck.

You may recall the time I ushered in an era of peace and prosperity to the Peoples of Earth by defining the Three Rules of Wagonhood, which defined what a station wagon is, finally, ending centuries of conflicts all over the world. I’m pretty sure the UN gave me some sort of medal or fruit basket or possibly cookie bouquet for this achievement, but don’t check on that. I also defined what makes a van, as well. So I’m absolutely qualified to undertake this sort of important taxonomical challenge.

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I’ve been giving the matter of what defines a truck a lot of thought lately, and trying to really get to the core of the concept. I think there’s a lot of red herring paths one can go down; for example, David was talking about a vehicle being built as a body-on-frame as a criterion for truck-itude, but I don’t think that’s the case, because unibody vehicles like the Honda Ridgeline or the Volkswagen Pickup are definitely considered “trucks.” And I’d even consider three-wheeled vehicles like a Piaggio Ape to be a truck. I don’t think the essence of what makes a truck can be found in any technical criteria or construction approach; I think it’s something different.

I think it’s about intent.

I think when it comes to what makes a truck, we have to consider why the vehicle exists. What’s the fundamental goal of a truck? To understand this, we can look at the simplest possible vehicle that still gets classified as a “truck”: a hand truck.

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Handtruck

And what’s the point of a hand truck? It’s a human-powered vehicle designed to move stuff. And that stuff is the key. Fundamentally, for something to be a truck, at its core it must be a vehicle whose primary raison d’etre is the moving of stuff as opposed to people. Trucks move cargo, or at least were designed for that purpose.

So, with this fundamental core mission in mind, I think we can define what a truck is like this:

A truck is a vehicle where the design of the body is defined by a means to haul cargo instead of people.

Nothing else really matters; a truck can be electric or gasoline or even steam-powered. Hell, the very first automobile in the world, the 1769 Cugnot Steam Drag, was a machine designed primarily to haul artillery:

Cugnot

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The first car ever made was a truck.

The mechanics don’t matter here, the method of construction doesn’t matter, but the body design does. The defining trait of the body design should be some way of hauling cargo, like a pickup truck’s bed, or a box truck’s box, or a flatbed truck’s flat, um, bed, or the whole rear cargo area of a van, because, yes, vans are a subset of truck.

With this in mind, the category of truck becomes very broad, but all members of the set of trucks still follow that one golden truck rule: they all have a design that is focused on the hauling of stuff. All of these are trucks:

AlltrucksAs you can see, size, design, how it’s built, what sort of stuff it’s hauling, none of that matters. All that matters is that intent to haul stuff. And the stuff has to be the priority; an SUV can hold a lot of stuff, but it’s just the stuff that the people inside want with them – the people are still the focus. Same with buses. A bus isn’t a truck, because a bus is for hauling lots of people, and I think we feel this inherently. There’s a big difference in tone if someone yells “everyone get on the bus” as opposed to “everyone get in the truck.” One is going to take you to a museum or park, the other could be dumping you out in some war zone or some forsaken patch of jungle or something.

If you’re still not with me, consider this: the government seems to agree with this concept. The infamous Chicken Tax defines a commercial vehicle, or truck as something not designed to carry people (beyond the driver and one passenger). That’s why the Subaru Brat had those ridiculous seats in the bed, so it could be considered a “passenger car.”

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Cs Subarubrat Seats

It’s all ridiculous, of course, but so is the whole Chicken Tax. But that tax says a truck is something designed to move stuff, not people.

 

The focus on cargo over people doesn’t even have to have been baked in from the start; a vehicle converted to cargo use can become a truck. Consider cars turned into vans, like what GM is referring to in this old Vega ad that shows three cars and one “panel truck”:

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Vega Ad

See what I’m getting at? The intent of the car was changed from focusing on people to focusing on cargo, and the design was modified accordingly, The Fiat Panda van is another example:

Pandavan

Fiat changed the use case of their little hatchback, removed some glass, added that squared-off replacement for the hatch, and boom, the Panda is now a truck, with as valid a claim to truckitude as any farm-use F-150.

Before any of these, there were also the “business coupes” of the 1930s and 1940s, some of which could be converted into actual pick-up-like vehicles:

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Coupe Pickup

These were cars made for traveling salesmen who needed to carry around a lot of product. They looked like a normal coupé from the outside, but had an interior configuration more like a small truck, and some, like the Coupe Pick-Up seen up there, even shoved a whole truck bed into the trunk as well. They’re trucks because they were always intended to haul stuff as their defining trait.

There are, of course, some interesting gray areas here. Take the Chilean-market Citroën Citroneta:

Cs Citroneta Ad63

This was a Citroën 2CV modified for the needs of the Chilean market, which included using the car to do truck-like hauling, sometimes. There was a lid for the rear bed, as seen above, but plenty of Citronetas had no lid, just an open, small truck bed, too:

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Citroneta 2

So, are these cars or trucks? Is that a trunk or a bed? Is the lid a trunk lid or a tonneau cover? I think we can define some of these: a tonneau cover is a truck bed cover that is not an inherent part of the vehicle’s design. If your vehicle can look “finished” without any lid over the cargo area, then it’s not a trunk lid, it’s a tonneau cover over a truck bed. A trunk lid is an inherent, un-removable part of a car’s cohesive design. So, in that context, I think the Citroneta has a truck bed, not a trunk, and its lid is a tonneau cover, not a trunk lid.

But is the purpose of a Citroneta to haul people or cargo? I think perhaps people, more so. And it’s derived from a design that was a passenger car design, so I’m not thinking it’s a truck.

But what about a luxurious crew-cab pickup truck?

Lightning

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A pickup like that Ford F-150 Lightning up there is very likely going to be primarily used to move people around. It’s luxurious and expensive and the size of the area for people commands as much or more space on that wheelbase as the area for cargo. So is it a still truck?

I say yes, because the basic design is still from a vehicle that has cargo hauling as its defining body trait: an F-150 truck. Even if it never gets used for this purpose, it’s still a truck.

Can a truck willingly abdicate its status as a truck? This is a tricky one.

Ex Trucks

Would a Lincoln Blackwood, which is basically a Lincoln-badged, luxurious F-150, still be a truck, even if it seems like Lincoln wanted to separate itself from the concept of a truck? I mean, look at the ads Lincoln ran:

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The only thing in that huge bed was a briefcase, which is even ejected at the end, and all the dude does is drive fast and do some weird telekinesis shit with a fish. You don’t need a truck for that. They never showed these hauling lumber or mulch, and that bed was far too nice to comfortably haul that kind of thing, anyway. So is it still a truck?

Same goes for those Freightliner-based SUVs; the Freightliner was designed as a big rig tractor, hauling trailers, but had an SUV body fitted to it, changing its purpose and intent, in sort of the opposite way that the Fiat Panda got turned into a truck. So if a non-truck can be converted with intent and some body modifications, why can’t it go the other way, too?

I’m going to stand by my truck definition, but I’m willing to listen. In the comments, I’d love to know what you think – is this a valid definition of a truck? Am I missing any key criteria? If you think it’s too broad, I’d love to know why, and I’d love to know how much of what we consider truckishness are based on more irrational, emotional concepts?

This is fascinating stuff, and we’re doing important work here. So let’s talk about what makes a truck.

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Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 days ago

Coming in late but you’re pretty dead on here Torch.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
19 days ago

Bumpers that can bump while protecting the vehicle from costly damage as it does it’s work. No lighting or fragile decorative stuff integrated into the bumpers.

Designed for as low as possible cost of ownership for business operators.

Jaroslaw Kusz
Jaroslaw Kusz
19 days ago

Here is what California vehicle code defines as a pick up truck:
In California, a pickup truck is defined as a motor truck with the following characteristics:

To put it simply, a pickup truck is a motor vehicle designed for transporting property, typically with an open bed at the back. It’s commonly used for various purposes, from hauling goods to recreational activities. Examples of pickup trucks include the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Nissan Frontier, and similar vehicles.

So yes, Ford Maverick, Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz are trucks.
I also agree with Torch definition. He is a good man and thorough.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
19 days ago

Way back when we could do such things we were driving back from fireworks on Lake Tahoe in our ’64 F100 crewcab. Some folks on the side of the road were hitchhiking. We stopped and “everyone get in the truck!” became 15 people into the bed and the cab. So that truck was converted into a bus for that trip as people hauling was the intent.

Henry Prange
Henry Prange
19 days ago

So, the consensus seems to be that my Ridgeline is a truck. Regardless of how you may classify it, I sure as hell have used it as a truck. OTOH, Mercedes calls my GLC a “Light Truck” which it surely isn’t.

David Mitchell
David Mitchell
19 days ago

When we used to put the top down on our 1967 Camaro convertible to load 10 bales of hay for the dairy goats. Did that make it an ElCamaro?

Jblues
Jblues
19 days ago

I think there is another defining characteristic of a truck and that is that the cargo and the people are in separate compartments. This is what separates a truck from a van.

Hoodellyhoo
Hoodellyhoo
19 days ago
Reply to  Jblues

Agreed. A van is not a truck and anyone who disagrees is wrong.

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
19 days ago

First, I gotta say: I had a 1st gen BRAT, briefly, in 1989-90. Never had chix-in-Bikinis sunning in the Chicken Tax jumpseats, but a couple buddies liked to torture-test themselves on Cold weather drives (yeah, weird friends). BRATs were 2-seat cabs, with a separate/larger bed, so = mini-Truck by that definition. Right?
I know they aren’t really Trucks, but my ’06 Outback wagon & her ’13 Jetta Sportwagen do lots of truck-type load hauling. With rear seats down, they have bigger ‘beds’ than a lot of modern pickups, albeit limited headroom. But that’s rarely a problem for us.
And just because I was raised riding around in a succession of SAAB 900 hatch/fast-backs. They qualify as a kind of truck: drop the back seats & U have a flat load floor that can swallow 4×8 sheets of plywood. I surprised many lumberyard employees back in the 80’s, getting loads of plywood for various skateboard ramps.
We all know what the common, traditional definition of TRUCK is, but lots of not-Trucks can serve most of the same utilitarian purposes.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago

No, we don’t all know what the common, traditional definition of truck is. That’s the point of this article. There are quite a few vehicles that people can’t seem to decide on, like Brat, El Camino, Ridgeline, Maverick, ect.

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
18 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Yeah, I get all that. Here in PA, Subaru Bajas are classified as trucks, even though they’re just wagons without the rear half of roof. But I’m pretty sure El Caminos are tagged as cars. Maybe the confusion is a secret plot perpetrated by the DMV’s!!

Mike B
Mike B
19 days ago

A lot of the 4Runner bros scream from the rooftops that it’s a “truck”, not an SUV because it’s body on frame.

My response would be “Is a Crown Vic a truck? How about a 69 Chevelle?”

Incidentally, they really love the BOF, which to me is kind of weird because the frame has been Toyota’s Achilles heel for years.

Aaron
Aaron
19 days ago

How about –

A truck is any vehicle designed primarily to haul cargo in a tray or compartment that is separate from the passenger area under normal use.

A vehicle primarily designed to haul cargo is one where theoretical maximum cargo volume is greater than passenger volume.

Cargo is defined as non-passenger weight and volume (parcels, bulk materials, animals) that is not integral to the vehicle and is intended to be transported between locations, fully or partially within the footprint of the vehicle.

In this case, a Maverick and long bed/single cab F-150 are both trucks because the open bed offers theoretically infinite cargo volume capacity. A box truck is a truck because the cargo area is separate from and much larger than the passenger area. A semi is a truck because the cargo area is the bobtail and/or trailer intended to be towed as a fifth wheel setup. A cargo van is not a truck because the cargo area and passenger area are not intrinsically separated. A sedan towing a trailer is not a truck because the trunk is much smaller than the passenger area and the trailer is not within the footprint of the vehicle.

Aaron
Aaron
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

I would also consider a more technical corollary where a truck must have a GCWR more than double its own curb weight. Basically it must be able to tow and/or haul at least it’s own weight or more. This could be used to exclude more car-based utes.

Black Peter
Black Peter
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

separate from the passenger area under normal use.
This is an excellent qualifier.!

Jblues
Jblues
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

I just said the same thing, then read down farther and here you are with a more eloquent version of the same thought. Kudos to you!

InTheBackround
InTheBackround
19 days ago

Minimum 7 1/2′ bed
Max seating 3
Everything else is a poser/ute/mini-truck/van/etc.

Last edited 19 days ago by InTheBackround
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  InTheBackround

7 1/2′ is awfully specific, and specifically excludes things like my long bed Comanche or long bed S-10s that have a 7′ bed. Did you want to specifically exclude these?

InTheBackround
InTheBackround
18 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

yup those are both mini trucks

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
18 days ago
Reply to  InTheBackround

Kind of weird that a 7′ bed doesn’t count but 8′ does, but ok. Is there an upper limit to what a truck is, or does “truck” very specifically mean:
A fullsize pickup with one row of seating and a bed measuring 8′

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
18 days ago
Reply to  InTheBackround

Mini-trucks are trucks. A Piaggio Ape is a truck. It is about the purpose. As for maximum number of seats, I give you this:
https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1996-toyota-dyna-tricab/

InTheBackround
InTheBackround
18 days ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

ya thats a van with a bed

World24
World24
19 days ago

To me, it’s the difference between the open and close possibility of hauling cargo that defines a truck. A quick point: humans aren’t cargo, unless you’re doing something kinda illegal. They’re passengers otherwise.
A truck is either going to have a bed/hitch combo or a 5th wheel/gooseneck/etc. to haul cargo. The same way a Ram 1500 is a truck, so aren’t Colorado’s, and I honestly believe Mavericks and Ridgelines are as well.
Box trucks are generally called…. as such, and I think they’re aptly named and don’t need to fall under normal truck definitions.
Anything else meant to haul cargo first around in a closed compartment are vans.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago

I think it’s important to separate trucks and vans by the criterion that a truck’s storage is separated from its passenger compartment by the body.

“By the body” is doing the heavy lifting, as a van with a partition installed is still a van, because the division isn’t inherent to the body. It must be an integral, weather-sealed separation, such that the operator is “inside” the cabin and the cargo is “outside” the cabin.

This prevents crossover between box trucks and vans, and doesn’t exclude vehicles such as the Skoda Felicia and Silverado EV with its pass-through, as both have a rear door that separates the cabin and bed. As we all know, exterior, sealed, locking doors are part of the vehicle’s body.

Furthermore, it discards any notion that a Wrangler or Bronce is a truck due the trunk having access to open air. This is especially relevant for the older models that had a partial hardtop with only the rear half of the top removable, giving them a silhouette that resembles a pickup.

I also think it bears mentioning that there are a few trucks that transport people. These are also separated from buses by the very same criteria. A troop transport truck or a classic truck-based paddy wagon has a fully separate compartment that unceremoniously holds passengers who are being temporarily treated as cargo. Meanwhile, a bus is a subset of “van”, as the driver and passengers are contained within the same compartment, often separated by a non-sealed safety door (in other words, a partition). The same applies for a modern paddy wagon and for an APC with a single interior compartment.

And lastly, it also creates a distinction between motorhomes. Those where the driver can access the “home” section are vans (or buses), while those with a separate camper mounted are trucks whose cargo happens to be a box with living quarters in it.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
19 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

And to distinguish a bus from a van, I’m prone to saying that a bus is a more specialized people-carrier, it doesn’t feature cargo-based variants and, at full occupation, any one passenger can fully enter or exit a bus without disturbing more than 1/10th of the other passengers, whereas a van could require meaningful shuffling for individual ingress and egress.

Last edited 19 days ago by Ricardo Mercio
Engine Adventures
Engine Adventures
19 days ago

What’s an SUV vs a crossover vs a wagon? What is a compact vs midsize vs fullsize?

What do we classify the Titan, Tundra, F-150, Ram 1500, & GM 1500s as compared to the 250/2500’s, and 350/3500’s? The government classifies most of these trucks as light duty (class 2a, or 2b for the 1500/2500, and medium duty/class 3 for the 350/3500). Ford is special, some even say they are Super…Duty, GM claims heavy duty, but a heavy duty truck by government standards is a class 7 or class 8. Where it does actually make sense is from 350/3500 up to Ford 750, where the first number actually matches up with the government classification. The old 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton don’t make a lot of sense anymore, as that referred to payload capacity. 1/2 ton can be close, but many midsize trucks have over 1/2 ton of payload (as do some sedans). 3/4 and 1 ton don’t make sense with today’s trucks with the Ford F-350 having a payload of up to 4 tons.

It’s hard to clarify anything anymore.

CSRoad
CSRoad
19 days ago

Great job Torch! Good stick handling.
Leave no pile of contentious excrement undisturbed.

VanGuy
VanGuy
19 days ago

If nothing else, I am offended by calling cargo vans “trucks”. They’re vans. I personally consider “truck” and “van” mutually exclusive.

Aaron
Aaron
19 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

This distinction needs to be made. A van serves a specific purpose similar to but different from a truck.

VanGuy
VanGuy
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

Well, damn. Somewhere I’ve tripped on my own exclusion because of “box truck” (like U-Hauls), which I would not call a “van”. But how do we define that distinction? And is it even a valid one?

Aaron
Aaron
19 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

I came up with a definition where a truck must have a cargo space that is integrally separated from the passenger area. That way box trucks are still trucks and cargo vans are still vans.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

I guess you didn’t know that many cargo vans have a partition between the driver cab and the cargo area?

Aaron
Aaron
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

That’s why I specified “integrally separated”. Those partitions – while often heavy duty – are not a structural component of the vehicle. There’s is a bit of a fuzzy area with that, though. I guess a GMC Savannah, Mercedes Sprinter, etc. could technically be considered a truck in the same vein as a box truck/U-Haul if that partition were welded and did not have an access hatch.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

Yeah, lots of vans, especially when you get into certain chassis cab vehicles, have a very structural and permanent bulkhead between the driver and cargo area. Seems pretty weird to call an E350 without a partition a totally different class of vehicle from an E350 with a partition.

VanGuy
VanGuy
18 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

But, those welded partitions are not added by the manufacturer, are they? They’re added by an upfitter.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
18 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Well, that depends. If it’s a chassis cab van, the cab will generally have a back wall straight from Ford or whoever. And then the manufacturer of the rest of the body completes the body and the partition.

For non- chassis cab vans where the entire body was built by the oem, I believe the partition is still sometimes factory.

But does it matter? Is a vehicle permanently the type of vehicle it was when it left the factory, or do modifications actually change the classification? IMO, if you make an f150 into a sedan, it is now a sedan, even though it didn’t leave the factory that way. That’s pretty much what the Beast presidential limo is, and I haven’t heard anybody calling it a medium duty truck, even though that’s how it left the factory.

1961ford
1961ford
19 days ago

Honda Element? That’s my truck.

Rafael
Rafael
19 days ago

I suppose we can think of cars and trucks the same way as we think about the tree of life. Are reptiles just hardy amphibians? Are amphibians just weird fish? Maybe! I’ve checked the Wikipedia page for the tree of life for inspiration (and got a lot of cool sounding terms that I’m sure I’ve misused a lot here).

I like the idea that cars and trucks share a common ancestor, branching out based on “diet” (cargo or passengers). If we trace it back to Cugnot Steam Tractor, we could arguably include trains as well, since the technology of the engine is not important. The point is, when they branched out into distinct forms, they retained vestiges of their common heritage, allowing us to trace it back and waste precious minutes on it.
Cars, with their comparative gracile structure and (relative) small size, have evolved primarily for the transportation of passengers. Conversely, trucks, characterized by their more robust frames and cargo-hauling capacities, filled the niche for hauling and distributing goods around.

Within this taxonomic framework, trains emerged as a specialized subset of trucks, having evolved to thrive in the distinct habitat of railway tracks. They branched out early, retaining for a long time the basal steam engine that was superseded by other forms of propulsion on almost every other genus. Selective pressures of their new habitat allowed them to develop elongated and then segmented bodies, and traversing along predetermined pathways favoured coal/diesel fuels. They developed a symbiotic relationship with train stations, and are particularly prone to the destruction of their habitat (attempts to bred them in captivity almost always lead to what appears to be a form of insular dwarfism).

Tractors are also a subgroup of trucks, and this is one of the most specialized groups on this tree, with a species for each niche on the farm supply chain: combiners, plows, seeders… they’ve also filled back niches on construction habitats, like backhoes and other such trucks that blend the line between farm and city.

Planes, on the other hand, represent a remarkable divergence from terrestrial locomotion, having evolved from the basic framework of cars to fill the skies. Their metamorphosis is marked by the coevolution of propellers, wings and rudders, enabling aerial navigation and transcending the confines of terrestrial terrain. Although the mechanism of their evolution is well understood, the fact that a viable plane requires all those traits to function lead some to use them as examples of “intelligent design”, but this is easily disproved by the seat arrangements of commercial aircraft.

As for evolutionary relationships, cars and trucks exhibit a unique capacity for hybridization, giving rise to offspring known as crossovers (car/truck pairing) and SUVs (truck/car pairing). Those hybrids aren’t always viable for their habitats, and are shunned by members of either group. However, they are very popular on captivity, as long as protected from natural predators and environmental hazards – like cattle or sheep, they are mostly prized for their commercial success, even though they aren’t very efficient, not good for the environment and just look dumb in general (not a technical term).

The phylogenetics of cars and trucks is not as clear cut as it appears, though, since both groups are paraphyletic: from the truck group distinct subtype arose, characterized by their enclosed cargo compartments and (usually) unibody construction – knows as vans, this subtype emerged as a monophyletic group early in the evolutionary tree, and are a polyphyletic group with earlier horse drawn carriages and prairie schooners.

Conversely, minivans are also a convergent evolution: while they fill a similar niche, and developed a similar appearance, they are not true vans: they represent a cohesive group derived from the car lineage, adapting the passenger-centric design to accommodate larger groups of people, as well as more cargo capacity. Unfortunately, this group is facing severe threats of extinction, due to habitat encroaching by keepers of SUVs and crossovers, that diverge most of the resources to farming those invasive species.

Finally on the tree we have the opportunity to witness evolution in real time, with electric and hybrid vehicles fighting for marked dominance. While the first examples were janky and ill adapted, living at the shadow of dominant ICE cars, environmental changes led to a selective advantage for those groups, leading to a “cambrian explosion” moment, where everyone and their mothers throw desings to the wall to see what will stick after the next big extinction.

And, much like extinction level events in real life, time will tell which of those technologies will survive, and what effect they will have on the previous species – will ICE cards become like sharks and crocodiles, soldiering on despite a changing world, or will they become the next trilobites and ammonites, once ubiquitous, now just museum pieces?

Last edited 19 days ago by Rafael
Tarragon
Tarragon
19 days ago
Reply to  Rafael

Bravo! Well done.

I have a feeling that “(attempts to bred them in captivity almost always lead to what appears to be a form of insular dwarfism)” Is going to make me laugh every time I see a zoo train.

Rafael
Rafael
19 days ago
Reply to  Tarragon

Thanks! There’s more on this, I realized I didn’t talk about buses (insular gigantism for vans on public service) and helicopters (planes with wings adapted for hovering for pollen harvest). Also, flying cars (second evolution of flight on cars) and level 3 Teslas – they both have a genetic condition that puts them out of temporal phase with us, they’re always 10 years away and late this year, respectively.

Last edited 19 days ago by Rafael
Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
19 days ago

I think some of this confusion arises from there being effectively two simultaneous definitions of what a truck is, and only one is needed for “truckhood”.

Firstly, a Truck is any vehicle built upon a chassis designed for carrying any kind of loads that are a significant proportion of (or more than) the vehicle’s own weight.
A Kenworth W900 with a Semi hitch is a truck, a Ford Model TT with a C-cab van body is a truck, a Mazda Titan with a dump box is a truck, and a Dongfeng DFH6660b is foremostly a bus, but is built on a “truck chassis”, thus also counts.
Through this definition, a Chevrolet suburban could also arguably be a truck, since it retains the mechanical underpinnings capable of hauling excessive loads (likely by towing), but like a bus, has been “upfit” with a passenger carrying station wagon body.

The body style is the second definition. for this, the vehicle must have a compartment which is separated from cabin, with open air access from the top.
this second definition excludes vans, both the cargo and passenger type, though they can still qualify if they meet the first criteria.

Below are four similar vehicles to demonstrate this:
A Chevrolet Silverado has a cargo tray and is built on a heavy chassis; it is a truck.
A Chevy Astrovan doesn’t have an open cargo tray, but it is on a heavy chassis; it is a truck.
A Honda Ridgeline has a cargo tray, but is light-car based; it is a truck.
A Honda Odyssey does not have an open cargo tray, and is on a car platform; it is not a truck.

Now for some edge cases:
A Holden 51-2106 “Coupe Utility” is a truck, as it meets the second requirement, even though it is built upon a car chassis.
A Datsun UN620 Sedan, as much as it looks like a sedan, has a separate open compartment, and thus is a truck.
A Citroën 2CV Fourgonette is built on a car chassis, and its compartment is enclosed and conjoined to the cabin. It may be a van, but is not a truck.
A Mitsubishi Bravo does not have a cargo compartment, but its chassis was principally designed for load carrying, thus, it is a truck.
A Jeep CJ2A is interesting, it does have an open load tray, but it’s not separate from the passenger compartment. it also has a relatively heavy chassis, but not one made specifically for load carrying. is it a truck? I know not.

Rubbit
Rubbit
19 days ago
Reply to  Captain Zoll

Regarding the Honda Odyssey comment…. I recently helped my son move, and I carried more in my Honda Odyssey than his future father-in-law carried it in his Ford F-250! The guy was slightly wide-eyed to see how much was going into my vehicle. On the other hand, I had to help him rearrange stuff in his truck so he could fit more. On top of it, he had to pull over and re-tie things down because something flew out of his truck ( or was about to, from what he said). I was able to carry 1 and 1/2 times the items that he had, safely.

Now, would I carry a load of sand or dirt? Ummm, no. I’d rent a truck for that! And I have, also have been very disappointed with how much I could load onto it. One time I had to load a pallet of blocks into one of the Home Depot flatbed rentals, and I had alarms going off all over the place. I guess I’m a little partial to the Vans.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
18 days ago
Reply to  Rubbit

True, but I ate scrambled eggs with a comb this morning – which still doesn’t make combs silverware.

Rubbit
Rubbit
9 days ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

C’est la vie, you found a new use for your comb!!

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
18 days ago
Reply to  Captain Zoll

Nice comparison, but the Bravo is officially the passenger version of the Minicab and can only be registered as a passenger car. I think intent means something.

What about all of the cars that qualify as commercial vehicles to fit tax loopholes? The first-gen Honda Today is a commercial vehicle – flat loading floor, cargo straps, the whole shebang. Payload is only 200kg (100kg with people in the rear), and they were rarely used for their official purpose.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
19 days ago

So a Dodge Caravan is a car but a Ram C/V is a truck?

Emma P
Emma P
19 days ago

“I’m the sort that will turn on the headlights rather than curse your darkness” – Well yea, your name is Torchinsky, not Leave-em-in-the-dark-insky. That’s why we love you.

Defining what makes a truck a truck is always going to be contentious, and to make the arguements more firey, ask ‘what makes a good truck’. Most trucks available today are bad at being trucks, imo. They’re too high because they want to look like they can go off-road good, the beds are too small cos they’re dual-cabs, the bed sides don’t fold down so it’s more awkward to load them, all that. Too much nonsense, not enough truck.

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
19 days ago

I would say that truck would have an open bed. Enclosed space would be a van.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
19 days ago

A van is not a truck, a truck has an open air bed. An SUV is not a truck, as it suffers from the same problem a van has, it’s restricted in the vertical, not a truck.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

I guess a box truck isn’t a truck then?

Phuzz
Phuzz
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

It’s a lorry.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Phuzz

So, in Europe, they call all heavy trucks lorries. Would you say that all semi trucks, dump trucks, box trucks, mixer trucks, crane trucks, concrete pumping trucks, ect are not trucks and are rather lorries, or are you just singling out box trucks?

Phuzz
Phuzz
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Yup, they’re all called lorries (in the UK, and maybe Ireland too?), all except pickup-trucks. Oh, and a ‘semi-articulated truck/lorry’ is an ‘artic’ rather than a ‘semi’.
Although, given the prevalence of US media, this is partially dying out. I don’t know about the subtleties of the rest of Europe, but I just learned that in French a lorry is un camion, and a pickup is une camionnette (which I think is kind of cute; “Regarde ma petite camionette” 🙂

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Phuzz

Well yeah, they call all of those lorries in the UK, and we call all of those trucks in the US. I thought of the terms as being quite interchangeable.

Cameron Palm
Cameron Palm
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

No, it isn’t. The only reaso we use that term is we don’t like capital E English words for things as Americans, and boxcar was already taken. That said there are plenty of other terms we could use.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Cameron Palm

But why isn’t it a truck? Yeah, it has a roof, but many box trucks are less vertically limited in practice than my f150 is. I mean, I’m not gonna be able to strap things down in the bed if they’re 10′ tall, but this is normal for a box truck.

This definition also excludes cement mixer trucks, semi trucks, ect. I have driven a heavy truck that was converted from a mixer truck to a potato truck with an open bed. Would you say that it wasn’t a truck, but now is?

Rubbit
Rubbit
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I would say that a semi truck is not a truck either according to that definition!

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I was only referring to vans and SUVs not being trucks. Commercial vehicles are a different matter entirely. Sorry, didn’t mean to cause a dust up, my whole point was directed at consumer vehicles.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

That’s a common matter of dissent here in the comments: should commercial vehicles be a different matter entirely?

Since they’re both called by the name “truck”, I think they should have to follow the same definition.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I get where you’re coming from. I generally don’t refer to, say, an F-150, as a truck but as a pickup, which of course makes the distinction as to the type of truck it is, much like dump truck or box truck.

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
19 days ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

But what about a “box truck”?
It has an enclosed cargo compartment, and other than a structural split between the cab and box, it’s topologically homeomorphic to a van, yet it’s got “truck” in the name!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
19 days ago
Reply to  Captain Zoll

Unless you call it a moving van.

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
19 days ago

If you spend 1000s of dollars per year to save 100s of dollars on mulch, then it must be a truck.

Last edited 19 days ago by R53 Lifer
BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
19 days ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

I hate this argument, because most people would never get a Mini instead of their Silverado, they’d realistically get a Tahoe. So it’s basically cost neutral (or even cheaper) to get the truck over the likely alternative.

They both ride roughly the same. They are both roughly the same size (Silverado likely longer). They both get roughly the same fuel economy. And on a day to day basis, they are both just as practical.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Who would get a Tahoe instead of a pickup? Maybe instead of a crew cab, because what you really need is a people mover?

If I had to replace my pickup with a different vehicle, nothing would serve me worse than a Tahoe. Most useful for the same purposes would be a van or minvan.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Almost no one is buying regular cab pick ups. Crew cabs make up the majority of pick ups sold today.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

So what we’re looking at here is two totally different types of vehicles:

When you talk about “trucks”, you’re talking about a crew cab half ton people mover, closer in function to a Tahoe than anything else.

When I talk about “trucks”, I’m talking about my pickup with an 8′ bed, which is closer in function to a work van than anything else.

You’re saying that it makes sense for Tahoe buyers to buy the similar crew cab short bed, which has few disadvantages but some extra capability. I think this makes sense in the context of a crew cab short bed, which is very different vehicle for a very different purpose than my single cab long bed.

This is highlighting the whole point of this article: Usage of the word “truck” is almost uselessly vague and needs to be better defined so we’re all on the same page.

Personally, I call a crew cab short bed Silverado an SUV, since it is similar in function, intent, and capability to other SUVs. I would call my single cab long bed a Pickup, since it is rather different in function, intent, and capability to SUVs.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

If you replace “Tahoe” with “Suburban” I can explain. It is common for me to haul 6-8 passengers and/or a lot of gear that I want protected from the elements. I don’t haul dirty things ever like mulch or gravel or even tall things like refrigerators and I have access to a pickup if I needed one. So far, that sounds like a minivan would fit the bill and believe me, I loved our minivans when they were the right thing for our family. However, I also need to do light to medium duty towing (up to maybe 6000 pounds) and I legitimately need some ground clearance and 4-wheel drive to get to some fairly gnarly places a minivan simply won’t get to (while freely acknowledging my geometry for wheeling really sucks but what I need to do generally is very bad roading rather than full-tilt Moab-style off-roading). The Suburban has been ideal in that role and I don’t know how I lived without one for so long. But, as always, the needs of other people aren’t quite so specific as mine.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
19 days ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

I’m not totally understanding what you’re trying to say. You’re saying that minivan and Suburban buyers have some overlap, but you wouldn’t consider a crew cab pickup?

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
19 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

What I’m saying is that the third row of seats plus protected cargo area are of critical importance to me – something a crew cab truck doesn’t offer (a camper shell to protect cargo still doesn’t address the seating). Also, when I’m doing true payloads I remove the third row seating and fold the second row to get a cavernous cargo space that exceeds what a short bed crew cab truck can give me. When helping people move I generally handle the boxes and let the pickups take the furniture and appliances. So no, a crew cab pickup will genuinely not meet my needs.

Interestingly enough, the most valid cross-shop for my Suburban would be a 4WD converted E-series van – but those suckers were two to three times more expensive than the Suburban I bought.

As for the overlap between minivans and Suburbans, what I’m saying is this: if all you need is the third row seating and a protected cargo area but have no need for towing or “off-roading” (by which I generally mean very bad roads beyond your garden variety dirt road) then most people would be better off with the greater fuel efficiency and lower load floor of a minivan.

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
18 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Meh, to each their own. I drive my funner cars 98.2% of the time and save the trusty rusty pickup for the 1.8% of trips I need it for. Seems hopelessly boring to be stuck driving a Silverado 100% of the time if you don’t need to be. And that’s speaking as someone who owns one.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
18 days ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

Look at this guy, wasting his money maintaining and registering two cars just so he can have a pickup 1.8% of the time… why not rent?

See how dumb these rants are?

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
18 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

Antique plates – no registration, inspection, or emissions. Cheaper to own in this case. Also math: 1.8% tells you nothing about miles traveled…

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