It’s no secret that pickup trucks are becoming one of America’s favorite modes of automotive transportation. Consider their utilitarian potential, power, 4×4 performance perks and, in recent years, opulence and efficiency, and it becomes obvious why modern pickup trucks are so popular.
But not everyone wants to (or is able to) drive a brand-new truck. And do you know what? That’s perfectly fine.
Whether you own a scrappy Chevy C-10 farm truck, or have your eyes on a fresh Ford F-Series truck, it’s always best to familiarize yourself with the nuances of piloting these machines. It may still have many of the same core components as a passenger car, but piloting a pickup truck provides its own unique considerations and challenges.
In this post, you’ll discover some useful tips for first-time pickup truck drivers, as well as a handful of reminders for veteran pickup owners. Even the best of us forget these practical automobiles do have their own inherent downsides.
Unless you’re behind the wheel of a Ford Maverick, a burly, full-size pickup truck will weigh a lot more than the average passenger car. The weight further increases when you are hauling goods in the truck bed or if the second row is loaded with passengers. For first-time truck drivers, the sheer curb weight of the vehicle itself can be a bit daunting, and even dangerous.
The weight of a full-size truck influences how the brakes function, so coming to a complete halt can be considerably lengthier than in, say, a low-slung sports car. You’ll want to start braking sooner, especially when the bed is loaded down or if you are traversing a steep descent. This is why knowing how to properly downshift matters, as it not only controls vehicle speed but also eases the strain on brake components.
Over the years there have been countless cases of people rear-ending the car in front of them or unintentionally running a red light because they did not begin braking soon enough in their pickup truck. Fortunately, nowadays you can get things like an app for fighting tickets, for when an unfair traffic ticket has been issued.
Similar to braking, you also have to be careful with acceleration. While the advent of electrically assisted motors and EV options have helped offset some of the pain people feel at the pump, the vast majority of pickups still sip crude. Due to a combination of curb weight and thirsty, larger engines, going easy on the gas is essential for efficient pickup truck operations.
Using your mirrors is essential for safely piloting any form of motor vehicle, and is even more vital when driving a pickup truck for the first time. As soon as you get into the truck, make sure your rearview and side mirrors are properly adjusted so you can get a good view of your surroundings. If you happen to be rolling in a rig with extended or oversized side mirrors, check to see if they can slide or fold in, as this enhanced field of vision can also cause you to accidentally side-swipe something or someone.
While pickup trucks offer countless advantages, the issue of blind spots tends to be one of the most common complaints. Sure, 360-degree cameras and hill-descent undercarriage monitoring certainly help, as do those aforementioned large side mirrors. But even then, there’s a lot that cannot be monitored at all times, especially when traveling at higher speeds.
Taking a sharp turn with a pickup truck can be tricky. First of all, we suggest that you slow down to make the curve more manageable, and remember you will likely need considerably more space and patience to safely get the truck around the corner. Keep the length of the vehicle in perspective at all times, give yourself additional space for a margin of error, and turn slowly. One of the best ways to get good at this is by practicing multi-point turns in an empty parking lot. You can also install tow mirrors on your truck to make turning and reversing easier.
Just like turning, reversing a large pickup truck can pose quite the challenge for first-time drivers. If the vehicle does not have a backup camera of some sort, don’t hesitate to hang your head out the window while reversing, as images in the rearview and sideview mirrors can be deceiving. Just like when turning, take your time, and when in doubt ask a bystander for assistance. Asking someone to be your spotter may be embarrassing, but it’s not nearly as embarrassing (or expensive) as backing into something.
As with most things in life, practice truly does make perfect. If you want to master safely and successfully driving a pickup truck, you are going to need to log some windshield time. Fortunately, for those with zero truck driving experience, driving classes for first-time large pickup owners are available. That or call up your cool aunt or uncle for a few driving tips before hitting a vacant parking lot.
It’s no secret that a pickup truck takes up space, both physically and visually. Being that this form of motor vehicle is no longer reserved just for agriculture and job sites, the need to know how to properly operate them is increasingly vital. Who said you couldn’t enjoy the practicality of a pickup truck in the city? Whether you find yourself frequently requiring the need of a truck bed, or merely enjoy embarking upon an off-road adventure, pickup trucks remain an excellent investment.