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Farm Truck
18 August 2008


I can't imagine being a farmer without a good pickup truck.  I own a Dodge Dakota 4x4.  It's nothing fancy, just a typical pickup truck.  When I first purchased the truck, back before becoming a Kona coffee farmer, I was taking some coworkers to lunch when one commented "Why do you need such a big truck?  I don't like big trucks, they waste gas and take up too much space on the road.  Why do so many people drive big trucks for no reason?"

I'll admit that one person commuting in a large pickup doesn't make a lot of sense.  I commuted on a motorcycle when we lived in LA but commuting on a motorcycle in snowy New Hampshire, where I purchased the truck, doesn't make much sense.  The coworker in question was young and didn't own a home or do any sort of yard projects.  Even though my truck was new, I had already used it several times to haul stuff that wouldn't fit in our station wagon.  Some truck owners may not really need a truck but I certainly do.

Load Not only do I have a truck, I also have a trailer to pull behind it.  I can't count how many times I've filled both the truck and trailer beyond capacity.  My truck is a V-8 and I've used all eight of those V's pulling stuff up the hill.  During harvest season I regularly load over two tons of coffee cherry onto my truck and haul it down to the mill.  Two tons is beyond the truck's rated capacity but I try to go slow and haven't broken or bent anything yet.

My truck has "full time all-wheel drive."  At first I didn't want all-wheel drive because of the extra expense, decreased mileage and additional parts to break.  The term "all-wheel drive" is vague and not used consistently by manufacturers.  In most cases AWD simply means a limited slip differential in the transfer case.  That gives the vehicle better traction on slightly slippery pavement but can actually be worse in true off-road conditions.  A mechanic once told me that AWD in my truck means the front-left and rear-right wheels are powered while the other two spin free.  Whatever the case, my truck does seem to slip less while driving around the farm than other trucks do.

Driving It's still possible to get my truck stuck.  It bothers me that even in 4WD-LO the differentials are still not locked.  Locked differentials would mean the wheels would skid and bounce any time the truck turns which would confuse and scare some drivers but when one or two tires are stuck in the mud, a locked differential is the only way to get out.  I haven't gotten my truck completely stuck yet but it's been close.  I would happily give up all the fancy AWD stuff for a simple different lock.

The worse part about my truck is the horrible mileage, best case is maybe 15 mpg with less than 10 being more typical.  The truck hasn't been maintenance free either but so far nothing has broken that I couldn't fix.  I do need to change the oil again, I won't say how long it's been.

My truck has 50,000 miles on it and I'll double that before even considering a new truck.  Maybe by then they'll have some sort of decent hybrid or other alternative.  Imagine four electric motors, one on each wheel.  A simple computer brain could power the wheels independently so they'd never slip.  If it also cost less and got better mileage, then it would be a no brainer.

Unfortunately, electric and hybrid vehicles are still not a practical solution for most people.  The model T was introduced on October 1, 1908 which means we've been using and improving gasoline cars for over 100 years now.  Electric and hybrid vehicles still have a ways to go to catch up.  I won't purchase one just because it's neat, it will have to have equivalent power, handling, reliability and most importantly, be less expensive than my truck.

It sure would be nice to have another solution though.  With the current prices of gas I'm glad that most days I stay on the farm and don't need to drive anywhere.  Now if only my tractor was as reliable as my truck.  American made trucks may not be perfect but they sure are better than cheap Chinese tractors.

UPDATE:  After reading this post, a friend sent me a link to a video called Killing a Toyota.  The video explores exactly what it takes to destroy a Toyota pickup truck.  It makes me think that maybe I've been a little too easy on my truck.

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