The Dodge Ram, and the Downfall of Civil Society

Look at that snarl. There’s a consciousness to it. A living, grunting, growl. The chrome grill expanded to jumbo size, to intimidate. I know many of us see cars with faces, and the “eyes” of this vehicle are angry. At what? At whom?

I’m an unabashed car geek, and have been for twenty years. I have such an eye for cars that I can spot and identify any car on the road for it’s year, make and model. It’s a worthless skill, but one that has kept me on the lookout. And in terms of automotive trends, there’s none that trouble me more than the rise of gigantic, full-size pickups, and the way they have macho-ized our society.

Pickups have long been a cash cow for the auto industry, a high-margin product that sell in the millions, every year. In 2015 alone, more than 450,000 Dodge Rams were sold in the United States. And that number doesn’t include the Ford F-series, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra, or other fullsize pickups sold alongside the Ram. Altogether, these millions of trucks have flooded our streets, urban and rural.

Now I’m aware that plenty of people use their trucks for work, hauling, towing, etc. However the majority of fullsize pickup truck owners utilize a miniscule amount of their truck’s potential, leading to the question: Why own such huge, unnecessary metal beasts?

The answer, I’m afraid, is not a pleasant one.

Full-size trucks have become the macho status symbol of our time.

Some might see growing trucks as a sign of the times, or automakers appealing to the desires of their customers. And truthfully, cars of all kinds have been growing in dimensions since the 80s. But trucks like the Ram, F-150 and Silverado have grown monumentally. Their dimensions have gone into expansion mode every time a new model is released. This, coupled with people’s penchant for after-market modifications, and the size of many trucks going down the road is jaw dropping. It’s as if a trip to the grocery store has turned into a ticket to a monster truck rally. A normal car feels pip-squeakian next to one of these rigs. And that’s the issue at hand.

A feeling of dominance and control comes over the truck drivers, as if they own the road and the space around them. The photo above shows a modified Dodge Ram that is outfitted with wheel spikes and other badging that makes it look battlefield-ready. But the owner isn’t in Syria. They’re in middle America, going about their daily tasks. It’s a creepy and troubling scenario, and it’s growing.

A week ago I saw a lifted Dodge Ram approaching a cyclist who was in their marked bike lane. My gut knew what was going to happen, and I was right. The Ram driver revved the truck right when he was alongside the cyclist, making an obnoxious diesel roar, and a cloud of black smoke. The cyclist was helpless but to swerve to the side of the road and breathe in the exhaust of the asshole driver, who no doubt felt a sense of accomplishment from their action.

Now, it’s easy to stereotype all truck drivers as rednecks, which I will refrain from doing. Though it’s nearly impossible to argue with the fact that these fullsize pickups have gotten so large that they dominate the road. And for what purpose? To haul furniture around town? To run your landscaping business? Sure, plenty of people use their trucks for this purpose. But a purpose-built vehicle has become millions of people’s daily driver, seemingly for no reason at all.

The next time you’re driving, do a quick check of how many giant pickups you come across. And then scan whether their beds are full of gear, serving the purpose they were designed for. It’s fair to assume 90% of the trucks are empty.

The most noxious issue, aside from the blight these behemoths have on our roadways, is one of noxious, toxic emissions. Due to loopholes, fullsize pickups evade any sort of emissions-testing or regulations, leading to ever-increasing engine sizes, and ever-polluting diesel systems. Drivers love diesel for it’s relative fuel-efficiency. But they seem to care little about the hugely polluting tail end of their trucks, spewing stinky diesel exhaust into our environment. Indeed, the “Cummins Diesel”, “TurboMax” badging on the trucks is a bragging right in it’s own, a badge of manliness. It appeals to the least conscious among us, and it spells disaster for our air and water quality. Diesel particulates are extremely bad for public health, let alone the health of our forests, oceans, and waterways.

Rolling Coal, An Activity for the Braindead

Ahh, “rolling coal”… The activity of the most demented people among us. Outfitting your giant truck to purposely pollute as much as possible has become a sport for certain portions of the population. Their activities might be illegal in some states, but that won’t stop people from installing switches in their American-Made thrones to spew thick black clouds of noxious smoke. An especially popular version of the sport is to pass a hybrid, or a group of protesters, and then flip the switch, drowning the poor saps in smoke.

The fact that we have a blatantly pro-coal President should buoy the spirits of these buffoons, after eight years of a pro-environmental President. It’s their time to shine in their own smog, as it were.

The most distressing part of the macho-ization of the country, is the hatred and violence that comes along with it. In a way, the giant trucks are just a symptom of the problem. But the fact that so many people (my own sweet neighbor!) seem to be attracted to giant trucks, spells bad news for the country.

Not only do these behemoths crowd our roads and our parking lots, but they usher in an era of “everyday brute force”, where giant, intimidating trucks are the norm, and their owners feel physically superior to others. You wouldn’t want to risk an altercation with a driver of a macho truck. Disregard the fact that many drivers carry firearms with them, leading to an even deadlier combo.

For all of the talk of fullsize trucks being useful tools in this country, the overriding theme I see is one of aggression, of intimidation, of spiteful dominance. The designers of the trucks themselves should be faulted for encouraging the era of angry vehicles, and angry drivers. But the buyers of these rigs carry the biggest blame: they’re popularizing a class of vehicle that carries with it the very worst traits of this country.