Mile-High Bedwalls . . .

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Our era is one characterized by distortions and incongruities. Like pick-up trucks with mile-high bedwalls. Well, maybe not quite a mile high. But at least six inches higher than was typical as recently as the early 2000s. It used to be easy to throw a bag of feed or a bale of hay into the bed of a pick-up. For a dog to jump up into it. 

And jump out.

It isn’t, anymore. 

The bedwalls of a current-year half-ton pickup (any make, any model) are about chest high for a man six feet three inches tall – which is why the manufacturers of these trucks address the bed-access problem their designs created by incorporating a step or even a ladder built into the tailgate. This is like Baron Harkonnen from Dune addressing his obesity issue by wearing a suit that lets him float rather than by eating less and losing weight.  

The problem is made worse by the height of the trucks, themselves. Even the 2WD versions of all current half-ton trucks are raised up off the ground like “lifted” 4x4s, which was something you used to only see sometimes rather than all the time. If you’re going off road – and need a jacked-up 4×4 – then of course it makes sense. Just as it makes sense to wear boots if you’re going on a hike. 

It does not make sense to wear them to bed. But every new truck is afflicted in this manner. 

It is a trend as counterproductive to functionality (and, arguably, good taste) as the “rims” – as wheels are now often referred to – that are now routinely fitted to cars that need them like a healthy person needs a “mask.” Including event ostensibly “economy” minded cars, such a the Toyota Prius hybrid – which comes standard with 17 inch “rims.”

These “rims” are often so absurdly tall such that tire sidewalls are hardly there anymore.

This latter is a bit of an exaggeration – but not by much.

There is almost no good reason for this, just the same as the mile-high bedwalls. 

The “look” is driven by culture rather than function. And – like the mile-high bedwalls – it is at cross-purposes with functionality. The huge/tall “rims” greatly add to rolling resistance, which decreases fuel efficiency as well as range – if we’re talking EVs – because it takes more power to get all of that rolling and keep it rolling. 

The necessarily short-sidewall tires that are glued (not really, but so it looks) to these “rims” don’t have much flex, so they don’t absorb shocks – as from potholes – very well. The result is a harsh ride – or would be – if compensatory suspension modifications weren’t built in to offset the problem – kind of like building a step ladder into the tailgtate of a pick-up with bedwalls that are so high that you need a ladder to access the bed.

But one thing that can’t be compensated for is the increased vulnerability of these short-sidewall tires to physical damage – as from a pothole strike – is the expense. These “rims” – and the tires glued to them – add literally thousands to the purchase price of the vehicle and have also increased the cost of the tires, which you probably already know about if you’ve owned a car with “rims” and had to replace the tires. Which also wear out faster, too.

It’s harder to quantify the cost of efficiency losses, but they are not insignificant. A set of 17×8 inch “rims” (and tires) weigh, together, probably at least 50 and maybe 100 or more pounds than a set of 15 inch wheels (and tires) would weigh. Added weight equals decreased mileage (and range) if you gnomesayin’  . . .    

. . .

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  1. Rim size: all that matters regarding gas mileage is the outside diameter of the tire. I’m sure that is what’s figured in with the diff ratio, overdrive gear(s), available HP, etc. to give max MPG.

    But yes, the small sidewalls do look pretty dumb especially to us old people.

  2. The taller pickup trucks allow for a 5th wheel hitch. Weight distribution is important. A trailer for horses or cattle need a more powerful and heavy duty vehicle. The weekend you have a camper, gotta fish and drink.

    People do have ranches and farms, they haul grains and livestock often to then sell it all in the markets. They’re not paupers, work can do wonders. You eat good by the sweat of your brow.

    Everything you do is work, it then becomes survival and just plain living. Work is a myth, you do what you gotta do. If you don’t, it’ll be something that can be avoided, quickly.

    Doesn’t matter if you dig for gold or gems or harvest olives, you do it so it does get done.

    DeLaval has a voluntary milking machine. The cow walks into the milking stall, the milking machine milks the cow’s milk from the milk cow. Until she goes dry, then it is porterhouse steak time.

    Supply and demand, doesn’t matter, milk, grains, gold, hydrocarbons, it is an economy, regardless of the Wall Street shitheads who manage to make it fubar.

    The market rules in the real world.


    Joe Biden can’t do a thing about it, it just happens.

    To market to market to buy a fat pig, home again home again dancing a jig.

    You need an outfit to haul hogs from the farm to the sales ring.

    • How many of these are hauling hay to the farm? Most of these roid jacked looking crew cabs carry one person to an office job.

      In the old days, if someone needed to haul a 5th wheel, there was the 250 or 2500 type trucks to do the same thing.

  3. “…every new truck is afflicted in this manner.”

    Most, but not “every.” One of the most attractive features of the Ford Maverick is it’s low-slung bed…

  4. My high sides allow me to carry 2 cubic yards of mulch or dirt. Couldn’t do that with today’s shorter beds and short sides.

  5. Allow me to ‘nerd out’ for a moment..
    “Baron Harkonnen from Dune addressing his obesity issue..”
    The actual written works by Herbert and later his son address this issue with the Baron’s own backstory. The Baron was a different looking fellow when younger. Lean, muscular, but still an a-hole. He raped Jessica’s mother, and the Bene Gesserit that she was, infected him with a never ending disease in the process as revenge.

    That being said, I owned trucks to haul stuff. I see today that is seen by some to be a status symbol. Decades ago I owned an Isuzu Pup longbed with manual 4speed once. Good, dependable truck that I could toss heavy stuff in witthout needing a ladder. Wish I still had it for trips to the hardware store. Was very easy on gas too!

  6. Vehicles have had ridiculous or silly features since the beginning of the auto age. Tail-fins, “Corinthian” leather, Landau vinyl tops just to name a few. Are big wheels and dump truck sized sidewalls just the silly features of our age?

    The silly or ridiculous features of past were entirely market driven, the current ones maybe not so much. The high side walls are partly due to vehicle crash regulations, so they may stick around for a while. Unless other ways to comply with the ridiculous rules that exist today are found to do them different (which seems unlikely at this point). Since plenty of pickups aren’t used as pickups (as they are the replacement for large cars that were regulated away) it doesn’t seem to bother too many people.

    In some ways its amazing the big wheels exist. You would think the car makers would be making them smaller to get the little gas mileage increases for CAFE. But they get bigger and bigger. Maybe it’s the little way the auto designers are telling the regulators to F*** off? It is one of the few things left that offers some ways to make cars a little different from each other. I am guessing at some point the regulators will probably regulate them away since people find them fun.

  7. An obsession with numbers now…like 0 to 60 mph or skid pad numbers….these low profile, wide tires have more grip…appearances are another part of it…some think these low profile, wide tires, and big rims look better…

    The huge vehicle….if they are high up there is better visibility in some areas…worse in others….so more cameras…the other reason is survival…when they are texting and crash….they want to make sure they survive and you die….because they are surrounded by up to 10,000 lb of monster vehicle….

    now you have very expensive tire replacement and very expensive crashes..and $1000 per month loans……..thanks to people being pushed in this direction….

    “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
    ― George Carlin

    • Actually, George got it wrong. Average should be Mean. Average is not the dividing line between the top half and the lower half. Mean is. It may be close, but it ain’t the same. But his premise has merit.

    • They have to create inflation where none should exist, anonymous1. Bill Gates* said “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 miles to the gallon.” Fact is, we could be a whole lot closer to that if the market wasn’t captured, regulated and tightly controlled. Once automobile manufacturers were deemed an indicator of advanced society they became TBTF and could do whatever they needed to do to survive.

      *apparently, but many others have been attributed so who knows who said it first.

  8. Friend of mine owns an antique F-100. First time I saw it I thought it was a Ranchero. I asked if he slammed it or something. No, that’s the way it came from the factory. Anyone could easily wash the cab roof with a step stool.

    Many reasons why high sides are “better” than low. Almost none of them have to do with why people would want a truck, but hey, people buy paint. First is the “hugeness” factor of course. But also aerodynamics can be better controlled, the cubic volume carrying numbers can be increased (even if practically doesn’t change anything), and adds structure to the bed. As for height, that’s another “selling number” in that more makes “best in class” awards. Also makes it easier to add the “comfort and convenience” package for running boards and rear gate ladders. Doesn’t make the truck any better in a real world sense, just on paper.

    The thing I don’t understand is why the massive differential pumpkins? That takes away a ton of practical ground clearance, since it’s inevitable that you’re going to snag on that rock sticking up on the trail no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Then people go and install even larger aftermarket diffs (polished and cast company logos on the covers for more go-fast). Seems like there’s something wrong with that too.

  9. Another reason to keep the old truck. Our 91 Silverado 2WD is really easy to get in/out. A new Silverado stopped next me I swear the door handle was half way up my driver’s window! The 16 inch rims work just fine, truck tires are expensive enough at 16 inch rim size. Ergonomics really get more important as we age, The Commander has a bad hip she loves the old truck for ease of access and the comfy cloth seat.

    I wondered how the new residents from “other places” could afford a set of chariot wheels / tires while living off my tax money. Found out while waiting at the tire shop -it’s weekly payments at the local tire store as several wandered in for the $25 cash payment.

    • Sparky, I have a 2000 Chev C3500, 2wd long bed with 16″ wheels. The last year for the classic body style. Having the one ton does make it sit a tad taller then yours and I have to hop a little to get into it. My brother has a 2018 Ford F350, Crew cab long bed and I have to use a step ladder to get in to it. Short leg syndrome. He asks to borrow it because the tailgate is half the height his is.

  10. Everything is a compromise. I dislike the tall beds as well.
    However, almost everything else that created these tall sidewalls is better and way better.
    My current ram 1500 with the longer bed is 20ft long and has a 153″ wheelbase.
    It has a better interior size and comfort than any sedan I have owned, maybe next to the classic RWD caprices.
    It has better ride than any vehicle I’ve owned except maybe a 70’s land yacht.
    It’s drivetrain is a modern marvel, even with the lauded electro-mechanical stuff we don’t like. It tows like magic, even my 5K trailer up a steep snow/ice covered driveway (never did that before).
    It tows, hauls (people and gear) better than any vehicle I’ve ever owned, in 40 years.
    I own one with 18″ rims and one with 20″ rims, and I prefer the 18″ with good sidewalls, but the 20″ are not much of a compromise unless your off-roading.
    It has two compromises, the high bedwalls and doesn’t have a trunk, with minimal storage under the rear seats.
    I enjoy and use these do all trucks so much that I would be OK with making them even a little bigger with a foot behind the rear seats as a sorta-trunk.
    I have gotten over the problem of the high bedwalls, so I just deal with it. Yes with a step, etc…. or have to get IN the bed vs throwing/grabbing from the sides.
    But the rest is pure greatness.

  11. ‘The bedwall of a current-year half-ton pickup (any make, any model) is about chest high for a man six feet three inches tall.’ — eric

    With ergonomic design references such as this one readily available, there’s no excuse for the ‘high bedwalls’ design atrocity:

    Right up front, this text sets out what every competent designer learns on the first day of freaking school: It is common practice to design for the 5th percentile (5th%) female to the 95th percentile (95th%) male.

    In the real world, that’s not always possible or economically feasible. Kitchen cabinets, for instance: the 5th-percentile female usually can’t reach the upper shelf, and needs a stepladder. But it’s a necessary compromise to allow 18 inches clearance above the countertop, for adequate working and food-prep space.

    High bedwalls inconvenience everybody, all the way up to 95th percentile (6′-1″) males. Towering slab bedwalls are the sartorial equivalent of floppy two-foot-long clown shoes, that make walking difficult and running impossible.

    The occasional faceplant of the clown-shoe wearer is a daily occurrence for giant-pickup victims, obliged to scrabble up like monkeys to their high-perched drivers seat. One can watch these comical performances by 5th-percentile females in parking lots every day.

    Sometimes their giant trucks belong to husbands and boyfriends. But what of the females who choose them as their own bristling ego projections? I worry about their private proclivities … and keep muh distance. 😉

  12. I bought an 89 4WD Dakota precisely because it was NOT jacked up like most 4WD trucks were. Had a 67 Dodge pickup that had a huge bed, and higher than average sidewalls, but since it wasn’t jacked up to Urban Cowboy height, it wasn’t a problem. In fact, I could load a full chord of firewood in it. Which gave cutting a “load” of wood a whole new meaning.
    Low ratio wheels and tires are great, if handling is your thing, but they aren’t THAT great. Went from a 99 Miata that didn’t have them to a 06 that did, and there was a difference in handling, but I doubt anyone who had NOT been driving a Miata, or similar, for 6 years would notice the difference. And they really look stupid on a pickup, and serve no useful purpose at all. Other than wheel and tire sales. When you bend or break one.


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