High gas prices are hitting heavy-duty pickup owners hard. Here’s what they’re saying

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The Silver Dodge Ram Warlock with a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine looked lovely when gasoline prices hovered around $4 a gallon. Now, a bit of sourdough has been added to the mix, with gasoline topping $6 a gallon at some Los Angeles-area stations.

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Record-high gasoline and diesel prices are slashing driver budgets nationwide, small car or large. But fueling a pickup truck or truck-sized SUV burns most, given the added weight and low gas mileage, which comes as a trade-off for utility and size.

Like many people, Jorge Moreno uses his pickup for work. The Downtown Los Angeles resident runs a warehousing and logistics company. Heavy-duty trucks do most of the work, but he often uses his Ford F-150 for shorter runs. Fuel costs are “very important to us, of course,” said 52-year-old Moreno outside Home Depot in Cypress Park. It’s hard to “keep our prices at a reasonable level as our costs go up.”

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In times of high inflation, gasoline prices are the most visible manifestation. With a national average of about $3.40 a gallon, the Biden administration is concerned — on Tuesday, the president called for a partial collapse of the country’s strategic petroleum reserve to put more oil on the market with hopes of reversing the rise in motor fuel prices. ordered.

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Pickup truck drivers are feeling the impact more than others, and their disproportionate pain at the pump reflects a major change in the design of America’s most popular vehicles.

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Back in 1960, a standard Chevy pickup weighed 3,535 pounds. Today, the equivalent Chevy Silverado weighs 4,257 pounds, which is 20% more.

Opt for the Silverado LT Trail Boss with a crew cab and heavier engine and other options, and the scale rises to 5,155 pounds, which is 46% more than the 1960 model.

The trucks are also quite tall. In 1960 the average American male was 5 feet, 8 inches. In 2020, 5 feet, 9 inches. Over the years the Chevy pickup has grown from 5ft 9 to almost 6ft 6. Hoods are also long. The F-250 Super Duty’s hood measures 55 inches, which is shoulder-high for many adults and taller than the average 8-year-old.

Automakers consider those high hoods to be a substantial selling point. General Motors designer Karan Moorjani puts it this way in 2019 Muscle Car & Truck Articles About the GMC Sierra HD Pickup: “We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that when you’re standing in front of this thing it looks like it’s going to get you. It’s an angry feeling, but in a childish way No, still looking mature. It just had to look attractive enough.”

Automakers have made tremendous progress in improving fuel consumption by using lighter materials and more efficient engines in these trucks. But the larger dimensions work against the gains in fuel efficiency. As the International Energy Agency notes in a report This month, “Size and weight are a major determinant of fuel consumption.”

Average sedan mileage reached 30.9 miles per gallon in 2019, According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, up from the lower 20s in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, pickup trucks’ average has remained nearly flat since the late 1980s: 19 mpg. Load the trailer on today’s biggest pickups, and that mileage drops to the single digits.

Still, last year sold more pickup trucks than cars in the US for the first time ever. The popularity of pickups is not difficult to understand. What was once a farm and workplace tool has become an everyday vehicle that fits neatly into the lifestyles of millions of Americans. Pickups used to drive like washboards. Now they drive like cars with modern suspension systems.

In the era of Home Depot, they could accommodate large pieces of wood for home remodeling projects. In the age of Costco, they could easily fit into an entire grocery run in which every item is bought in bulk.

Whether their appeal rests on the question of how high fuel prices will be met and how long they will be there.

Decades of study have shown that significant increases in fuel costs affect vehicle purchase decisions – if those price increases are expected to last six months or more.

a 2020 study MIT determined that a $1 gallon increase in gasoline prices, if expected to remain so in the future, will cause the average buyer to choose a vehicle with a mileage that is a few percentage points better. Individual fuel savings are small, but 124 billion gallons of motor fuel are consumed each year in the United States.

According to study author James D. Rakdashell, the only group that was not included in more efficient vehicles because of higher gas prices were “those who don’t consider the environmental friendliness of the vehicle to be important at all in their purchase decision”.

How many of them are pickup buyers, the report did not say. However, rising sales show that millions of Americans prefer their larger pickups. Emphasize “big”.

The tension between the environment and low gas prices, like almost every important issue in recent years, has become political and controversial.

The high-wire act is evident in the Biden administration’s efforts to address global warming while softening the fury over high gas prices. First Biden orders cuts in US oil and natural gas production. He then requested Saudi Arabia to open the oil pools to bring down the prices. Shortly after Saudi Arabia said no, it opened up strategic petroleum reserves.

Next year, Ford will begin selling its F-150 Lightning all-electric pickup truck, a vehicle that closely resembles the gas or diesel F-150, but without the tailpipe emissions. Chevrolet and Ram have similar plans. Ford reports huge demand for electric trucks based on pre-orders. A move to electricity would help solve the problems of climate and gas prices.

But it’s not clear whether pickup buyers will migrate to the electric model.

Pickup driver John Rannell, 49, said he is looking to reduce his Highland Park family’s reliance on their Nissan Frontier, which they need to haul equipment and materials.

“We renovate houses in the desert,” he said. “I will keep [the truck] Because sometimes I need it for work. But otherwise, we have two kids, so just to close the kids — I mean, I squeezed my two kids in it. [the Frontier] Going to the doctors, and it was ridiculous.”

He is thinking of a Prius.

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