Feb 6, 2023 - Business

Miami likes (but doesn't love) big trucks

Data: S&P Global Mobility; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: S&P Global Mobility; Chart: Axios Visuals

Three of the Miami area's 10 best-selling vehicles are pickup trucks — yet pedestrian and road safety advocates say today's massive trucks are a hazard, given their size, weight and driver blind spots.

  • In a new Visuals special project, Axios' Will Chase, Jared Whalen and Joann Muller looked back over the past 50 years to examine the societal and lifestyle changes behind pickups' ever-increasing size.

Driving the news: In the 1980s, about half of pickup trucks were categorized as small or midsize. But by the 2010s, small pickups had nearly vanished as Americans increasingly bought into the big truck lifestyle.

  • As pickups transitioned from workhorses to lifestyle vehicles, their design shifted accordingly: Cabs expanded to accommodate more passengers, while beds shrank.

Why it matters: Drivers of today's trucks sit much higher, creating a blind spot where small children or wheelchair users are hidden from view.

  • Moreover, pickups' weight increased by 32% between 1990 and 2021, meaning they strike pedestrians with more force.
  • Plus, the tall front of a truck strikes pedestrians in the torso or head — home to vital organs — whereas the lower hoods of cars typically strike pedestrians in the legs.

What they're saying: "The larger the vehicle the more likely there is to be a fatality," Shaan Patel, interim co-executive director of street safety advocacy group Transit Alliance Miami, tells Axios.

  • Larger vehicles make Miami-Dade County's roadways more dangerous, especially in areas of the county where there aren't sidewalks, lighted crosswalks or protected bike lanes, Patel said.
  • Patel said he understands some drivers need trucks for their jobs but cautions they need to be operated safely.
  • "It is borderline a commercial vehicle so you have to treat it with that kind of respect," he said.

Zoom in: The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro isn't as truck-obsessed as some other cities in the South — like Atlanta, Tampa and Charlotte — where pickup trucks hail as the most popular vehicles.

  • Toyota is king in our metro area: The compact Corolla and Camry cars, followed by an SUV (the RAV4) take up the top three spots.

See the project


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