Ford and GM have done something very smart with their pickup trucks. To simplify production and be more consistent in regard to overall safety, both truckmakers use essentially the same cab structures for their light-duty and heavy-duty models.
This means the newly designed pickup cab structures for current Ford, Chevrolet and GMC half-ton pickups should also work to protect the occupants of their HD counterparts. But do they?
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not conduct roof-crush ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does. As noted in earlier articles, the IIHS measures the exact amount of deflection a roof will absorb with a constant and even amount of force from a flat metal plate applied by a monstrous machine (pictured above). The end result, based on the amount of intrusion into the cabin, is a rating of good, acceptable, marginal or poor.
As an example, let's look at the crew-cab models of each of the three best-selling half-ton pickups: the Ford F-150, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Ram 1500. The IIHS roof-crush rating for the 2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew is good with a strength-to-weight ratio of 5.85; the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab gets a good with a ratio of 4.10; the 2016 Ram 1500 crew cab gets a marginal with a ratio of 2.97; and the 2016 Toyota Tundra CrewMax gets an acceptable with a ratio of 3.94.
We like that IIHS gives consumers a chance to see the exact strength-to-weight ratios and forces for direct head-to-head segment comparisons. This is valuable information for half-ton pickup truck buyers. But what about the heavy-duty segment? Neither the IIHS nor NHTSA seem to be interested in roof-crush testing HD pickups, a segment that is becoming increasingly popular with families and personal-use owners.
As noted earlier, Ford and GM now use their half-ton cabs for their F-250/2500 and F-350/3500 models, so you would assume they would also offer similar rollover protection to pickup occupants. Unfortunately, we don't know because no one is testing them for roof strength. What we do know is that, generally speaking, HD models are much heavier than their half-ton counterparts so the roof-crush test results are likely to be different. In the case of a rollover, the roof of a heavier truck could likely collapse on passengers at a quicker rate than the lighter half-tons.
Here's our question: If the improved roof-crush testing strategy makes sense for the half-ton segment, why aren't the heavy-duty pickup makers putting more reinforcements and structural supports into their larger and heavier pickups too? Why would they simply use the same cabs from the lighter half tons? And if they aren't stronger, why aren't they letting us know?
When it comes to safety, we like the direction most truckmakers are taking by building stronger and safer cabs for half-ton pickup trucks (although the Ram 1500 could make more progress), but shouldn't they also be making even stronger structures for their HD counterparts?