2011 Canadian Truck King Challenge

Pickup trucks are a vital business tool

November 15, 2011
by Howard J Elmer

Purchasingb2b:Fleet Management November/December 2011 print edition

The competitors this year were:
2011 Ford F-150,  Crew Cab, 4WD, Platinum, 3.5L EcoBoost V6, six-speed automatic MSRP $64,449.

2012 Toyota Tundra, Double Cab, 4WD, TRD Off-road Package, 5.7L i-Force V8, six-speed automatic, MSRP $43,975.20

2012 Nissan Titan, 4-door Cab, 4WD, SL CC, 5.6L V8, five-speed automatic, MSRP $ 52,228.

2012 Ram 1500, Crew Cab, 4WD, Laramie, 5.7L Hemi V8, six-speed automatic, MSRP $54,825

2012 GMC Sierra 1500, Crew Cab, 4WD, SLE, Vortec 5.3L V8 (w/active fuel management), six-speed automatic, MSRP $52,915.

Pickup trucks are a vital business tool. However, in North America they are also a part of our culture, often working all day and acting as family transport at night and on weekends.

With this in mind, the fifth running of the Canadian Truck King Challenge employed average truck owners to evaluate the most popular half-ton pickups in the market. These men and women are not writers or professional reviewers, but they are a cross-section of the Canadian truck buying public.

Howard Elmer supervises loading the trucks

Driving and judging the trucks this year were just two writers—myself and Jil Macintosh, automotive journalist for the Toronto Star. Jil has been involved with judging trucks since the first Challenge back in 2006, but the other drivers were new to judging—but not new to trucks. Ed C is a serving Warrant Officer with the Canadian air force with years of pickup and towing experience. Ed D is a 30-year veteran TTC driver with his own RV towing history. Matt E, a 20-something driver for Waste Management has driven trucks and towed since he was first licensed.

Towing in particular was a key part of the challenge this year. This reflects the increasing number of owners who tow regularly across the country—in fact it’s become a sales tool for the manufacturers who regularly advertise the weight bearing abilities of their vehicles; which they also seem to push higher and higher each year.

The five drivers cycled through the vehicles towing the five identical trailers over a 300km route that included a long portion of hilly terrain with grades of up to nine percent. A full day was spent towing these trailers on main and secondary roads—with a final section of highway where speeds of at least 100kmh were maintained. After returning the trailers we re-fuelled and calculated real-world towing fuel consumption for each of the trucks.

Also of note is the fact that what started out as a courtesy to one of our judges turned into an interesting addition to the judging. Wives, girlfriends and one husband accompanied each of judges and were more than vocal in adding their opinions and observations to those of the drivers.

After two days of hectic testing and intense weather we have determined that the Ram 1500 will wear the Truck King crown for 2012. Here is how we came to that conclusion.

To be fair to all trucks we partnered with Campkins, an RV dealer, who loaned us five new travel trailers each with a net weight of 8,000lb. I chose this weight as one that each truck could handle according to its published specifications, but at the same time I wanted a load that would approach the limits that the truck companies keep telling the public they can tow.

Also to be as fair as possible to each truck we also borrowed five new equalizing hitches from Equal–izer. These spread the load across the chassis of each truck and achieved a level attitude for the entire rig that did not compromise the steering. All this was done in Campkin’s Service Centre by their trained technicians. The following morning we set off into the Haliburton Highlands, in torrential rain, which is by now what we call the Truck King curse; we have yet to run this two-day test in dry weather.

The full second day of testing started out with us picking up pallets of shingles, supplied by IKO, and driving a 200km route with this 1,800lb payload on each truck. We kept track of the fuel consumption during this test as well.

Unplanned off-road testing

Finally, we drove the trucks empty for 150km and finished with an off-road section that unfortunately, this year, was interrupted by an act of God. The abandoned Colonization Road I use near Head Lake, Ontario was blocked by trees knocked down by a wind storm. So while the judges had an opportunity to see how the trucks handled off-road, we weren’t able to cycle everyone through the pickups in equal time allotments before dark—so this part of the overall test was not scored and not used to calculate the winner.

What follows are the judges scores (three categories; 0-10), their overall choice (first through fifth) and comments on the options and best features on the trucks.                 b2b