Your giant truck can say more about you than you think. (Not in a good way).

When my son was little, he and I took karate lessons together, along with my sister-in-law and her young son. The lessons were in Lexington, so the four of us used to make the 60-mile round trip together.

Inevitably, at some point during our weekly commute, often at various points, some chump in a huge pickup truck would fly right into our car’s rear bumper, the truck rumbling, vibrating, and looming over us as if the driver wanted to ram us. We’d pull off the road if we could, and then the truck would roll past us with a deafening roar.

Each time, my sister-in-law would roll her eyes as the van disappeared into the distance. She was holding up one hand, thumb an inch from her index finger.

“The bigger the truck, the smaller it is…”, it said.

Since there were kids in the car, he never finished that sentence, but he didn’t need to. To her, a large truck combined with an overly aggressive driver revealed more than the driver realized: a deep insecurity about her manhood. The bigger and noisier the truck, the more serious the fault the driver was compensating for.

It turns out that my sister-in-law was even more right than she thought.

Paul Prather

This does not imply a one-to-one correlation between a truck’s horsepower and its owner’s other power centers. Many people drive big big trucks because they have big important jobs: pulling backhoes out of muddy sewers, hauling cattle, or moving half a ton of bricks.

I am in no way against trucks or their owners. In fact, most of my friends have trucks.

but recently I read a fascinating article in the Washington which columnist Paul Waldman discussed who drives trucks today and why.

Last year, the top three best-selling vehicles in America were pickup trucks.

It turns out that most people who drive trucks (read: suburban white men) don’t do so for practical reasons, but because they see trucks as statements of their identity, masculinity, and even their political preferences.

His trucks are not so much work tools as personal statements.

According to Waldman, the popularity of pickup trucks “soared even as the number of people who actually needed them for work, for example farmers, was steadily declining.”

This popularity coincides with broader cultural trends. Increasingly, men have shifted from beefy, hands-on jobs to sedentary, physically undemanding jobs. Simultaneously, there is a heated debate about gender that dismisses old ideas of masculinity as toxic. For men, it’s a double whammy.

“Conservative men in particular watch with horror the denigration of … the traditional habits and obligations of manhood,” Waldman said.

For his column, Waldman drew heavily on the observations of Mark Metzler Sawin, a historian at Eastern Mennonite University who has studied the significance of the trucks.

“The same impulse that got people to vote for Trump,” Sawin told Waldman, “is also what keeps them buying trucks: this frustration that the world has changed, and it changed in a way that made my life worse:o at least it made me less powerful.

It’s no surprise, then, that truck manufacturers appeal to images of power when marketing their products.

A television ad for the Dodge Ram declares: “A man will ask a lot of his truck. Can he tow that? Carry this? Do all the way above that? Well, isn’t it nice to know that the answer will always be: Heck yes!

Waldman said, “Those images are meant to evoke a type of masculinity that embodies self-reliance, competition, mastery over the environment, and a physicality that most men don’t need in their day-to-day lives.”

In fact, many trucks are now luxury vehicles. The front ends are getting bigger and the cabins are getting more and more spacious, even as the beds, the business part that transports things, are getting shorter and shorter. The vans have bucket seats and state-of-the-art sound systems. F-150s can be sold for $100,000.

According to industry data, 75 percent of truck owners actually tow something once a year or less, about 70 percent go off the road once a year or less, and more than a third use their trucks to haul once a year or less, Waldman wrote.

“Owners, however, cite their desire to ‘present a tough image’ and ‘for their car to act as (an) extension of their personality’ as reasons for owning a truck,” he said.

The pills have become significant. For some guys in some moods, their truck tells everyone else, “My ride is bigger and stronger than yours. I am virile. I am a tough man. You better get out of my way.

All of this, as I said before, tends to make my late sister-in-law seem prescient. But in my experience, that is often the case with women. Usually, the message that we think we are sending to you is not the message that you are receiving. No problem.

Paul Prather is pastor of the Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You can send an email to

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