A modest proposal: Getting people to stop buying SUVs


I developed this modest proposal many years ago, but it looks like rising gasoline prices have done the job. But in case they don't, here's my plan.

SUVs are classified as "trucks" for the purpose of C.A.F.E. regulations, and those regulations are more lenient on gasoline efficiency for trucks. As a result, the auto industry happily built SUVs safe in the knowledge that high SUV sales wouldn't lower their overall fleet mileage and therefore not risk violating the CAFE regulations.

On the other hand, most other highway regulations do not consider SUVs to be trucks. As a result, SUVs sit in this sweet spot where they get to pretend they're a truck when it's advantageous to be a truck (avoiding CAFE regulations) and pretend that they're a car when it's advantageous to be a car (highway regulations).

My modest proposal was to get rid of this loophole. If you're going to let SUVs be classified as trucks for the purpose of determining whether they are subject to CAFE regulations, then classify them as trucks for the purpose of highway regulations. If you're driving an SUV on a highway that has different speed limits for cars as opposed to trucks, then you have to adhere to the truck speed limit. Because you're a truck. If you're driving an SUV on a highway which bans trucks from the leftmost lane, then you are banned from the leftmost lane. Because you're a truck.

People who are driving a truck because they actually need it for truck-like activities (hauling lumber, pulling a boat, delivering baked goods, whatever) won't be seriously inconvenienced, since they're not going to be doing any of those car-like things anyway.

If you really want to take this principle to its conclusion, you would even have to stop at the weigh stations to ensure that you're not over weight, and to check your log book (you keep a log book, right?) to ensure that you're not violating the laws regarding the maximum permitted number of hours behind the wheel of a truck. Because you're a truck.

Of course, the loophole could be closed the other way, too: Alter CAFE to classify SUVs as cars. Either way works for me. Just make the CAFE regulations and highway regulations agree on who is a car and who is a truck.

As I noted, it looks like economic forces have solved the problem on their own, but in case SUVs suffer a new surge in popularity, you've got my proposal in your back pocket, ready to spring into action.

Yes, this modest proposal is out of order, but it seemed more timely than the planned topic (solving the problem of identity theft), which I will still get to next time, if there is a next time.

Comments (91)
  1. Garry Trinder says:

    We own a SUV but never wanted to own one.

    Local laws mandated we had to have full sized child seats for our three children.

    Guess the Soccer emblems on the back at least let people know we use it for family purposes.

  2. Josh says:

    Are you misusing references to "A Modest Proposal?"  Cause I’m not seeing satire here.  This actually sounds somewhat sensible.

  3. Name required says:

    Are pickup trucks required to stop at weigh stations?  Or are you (intentionally) mixing the “truck” designation with tractor-trailers?

    [Under my proposal, they would. Or are you (intentionally) mixing the “proposal” designation with “current regulations”? -Raymond]
  4. Matt says:

    You are misinterpreting the “highway regulations”.  What you are citing are laws that apply to commercial vehicles, not trucks in general.  For example, a personal RV being towed by a large truck for personal reasons isn’t subject to weigh stations or hours of service rules.  Only if it was a commercial vehicle registered with DOT (there will be a DOT number stickered on the side of it).

    [You are misinterpreting the word “proposal.” The whole point of a proposal is to change how things currently are. -Raymond]
  5. Brian Grover says:

    I think you are lumping all classifications of trucks into one category when there are actually many categories.

    Most SUVs are considered light-duty pickup trucks.  These are required by the EPA to go through the EPA tests. Now after a certain GVWR, then the EPA tests do not have to be run.  If you go to Chevy, Dodge, or Ford Dealer and look at the window stickers, then pretty much what you will see is that all half-ton rated SUVs will have mileage information, but anything above that usually will not (2500, 3500 for chevy/dodge, F-250, F-350 for ford).

    You are also lumping non-commercial driving with commercial driving.  You are not required to keep a log book if the driving you are doing is for non-commercial purposes.  I know, this can be a grey area, but SUVs/Cars owned by an individual and not a business would not fall into the commercial driving category.

    On most interstates, the truck regulations only apply to vehicles with a gross combined vehicle weight of more than 26,000 pounds.  Now most SUVs will not fall into this category (even a fully loaded down Chevy Tahoe, towing a decent size boat would be lucky to break 20,000 lbs.) so they are free to travel at the higher speeds and use the left lane.  And since you are driving for non-commercial purpose, you do not have to stop in at the weigh stations.

    Just my two cents.

  6. Neil (SM) -- (former Class A CDL Driver) says:

    Many of those laws such as log books, weigh stations and maximum hours only apply to commercial vehicles, ie those that need a CDL.  So a pickup or an SUV, or I beleive even a privately-owned box truck that’s not being used commercially would not have to stop at weigh stations or keep logbooks or any of that.

    I’m not sure about whether different speed limits or lane restrictions apply, however.

  7. cwbrandsma says:

    I’m with wisemx, but I have 4 car seats to accommodate.  Even minivans do a bad job with that.  

    Later on I might be able to "upgrade" to a minivan…except that everyone in my family is a bit taller than average (for example, the Suburu Forester is an absolute joke for a 6′ 2" male, the back seat is rendered useless).  I might just have to keep the Suburban.  :)

    And yes, the Truck speed limit is for commercial semis (also call tractor-trailers) and does not regulate RVs, pick-up trucks, SUVs, or any other residential vehicle.

  8. Michael says:

    The rules you are describing for trucks only apply to large commercial trucks like tractor-trailers, not the type of trucks you would compare to an SUV.  Also, there are issues with just reducing speed, like when a vehicle must downshift to climb a hill due to lost momentum.

    Alternatively, getting stoplights better synchronized and allowing cautious (<5mph) roll-thru’s at stop signs would make a difference.

  9. mvadu says:

    First time (or after a long time) I am seeing Raymond standing alone in the crowd, and no one to support him.

    [Oh, like people agreed with any of my other modest proposals? -Raymond]
  10. Darrell says:

    This has got to be one the most misinformed things I’ve ever read.  Before posting something like this on your blog, at least do a little research into your topic so you don’t come off sounding like all the people you blast for not so obviously not knowing how to Google.

    I do agree that about 95% of the time, an SUV is pointless (including my wife’s idea that we just had to have a Jeep).  For anyone getting it for the room – minivans have more room than most SUVs, and you can also get them in AWD – not quite 4×4, but good enough for any 4 wheel drive capabilities you need on road.

    To cwbradsma: you must be looking at the wrong minivans – the larger ones like the grand caravan would have no trouble at all with 4 carseats.  2 in the back row, 2 in the middle row.

  11. dbt says:

    Raymond, I’m in a hurry so I haven’t had a chance to read the other comments, but is it possible you’re confusing commercial trucks with light trucks like pickups?

    cwbrandsma, I often refer to the raising of the mandatory car-seat age as the SUV Protection Act.

    (Note: “booster” seats are often usable for certain brackets, which make the whole thing a lot more feasible.  Of course, I live and work in a city where I rarely drive over 30mph, so I’d be happy with simply putting the shoulder strap behind my children, which my parents did and yet I still somehow survived).

    [I’m not confusing them. I’m proposing getting rid of the “I don’t have to follow anybody’s rules!” category known as “light truck”. -Raymond]
  12. Mark says:

    Wow, 5 people in 15 minutes think it’s worth proving their knowledge of highway regulations.

    http://xkcd.com/386/

    Talk about hive mind.

  13. Edwin says:

    This article is about how many residential streets (at least in CA) ban vehicles over 6000 lbs, which includes many over^Wfull sized SUVs. Except that the rules doen’t ge enforced.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2104755/

  14. Matt says:

    Are pickup trucks required to stop at weigh stations?  Or are you (intentionally) mixing the “truck” designation with tractor-trailers?

    [Under my proposal, they would. Or are you (intentionally) mixing the “proposal” designation with “current regulations”? -Raymond]

    Forcing light trucks to stop at weigh stations and comply with other commercial motor vehicle regulations is completely impractical.  Either the regulations wont be enforced, or they will take the commercial enforcement officers away from more important things, like making sure drivers aren’t operating 80,000lb trucks for 20 hours straight on 3 hours of sleep.  Most weigh stations are at state borders anyway, and commercial enforcement officers only operate on interstates, usually away from metropolitan areas.  So even if this proposal were to happen, most SUV owners would never feel the impact of it and would not be dissuaded from owning one.  Not to mention that laws like that just take away more individual freedom and take us one step closer to a police state.

    [I find it fascinating that everyone is looking for problems with this modest proposal, but the even bigger problems with the proposal to create a floating sports arena island went largely ignored. -Raymond]
  15. Krenn says:

    Doesn’t the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Independence_and_Security_Act_of_2007 close that loophole already?

    Wikipedia says:

    Automakers are required to boost fleetwide gas mileage to 35 mpg (14.8 km/l) by 2020. This applies to all passenger automobiles, including "light trucks".

  16. Tom says:

    I think the spate of comments shows you why such a proposal would never get enacted.  And why we’ll be paying tribute to our overlords in Saudi Arabia for the forseeable future.

  17. David Walker says:

    dbt, I detect satire there….

    Putting the shoulder strap behind the children… wha?  Yes, and I survived childhood even though I used to sometimes lie on the "shelf" near the back window, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  Lots of people smoke and don’t die, either!

    Hey Raymond, maybe you are confusing … oh, nevermind.  :-)

  18. Kip says:

    Minivans can easily hold 3 car seats and usually get better gas mileage than SUVs with the same seating capacity..

  19. Matt says:

    [I find it fascinating that everyone is looking for problems with this modest proposal, but the even bigger problems with the proposal to create a floating sports arena island went largely ignored. -Raymond]

    Probably because a floating sports arena island is obviously ridiculous, while this seems like something you might actually believe will work.

  20. Robert Barth says:

    If you don’t like SUV’s, don’t buy one. But don’t tell other people who can afford the vehicle and the requisite gasoline that they can’t drive them. Which is really what your "modest proposal" is about. What a joke. Do you think vehicle manufacturers purposely build SUV’s with low gas mileage because they can? Their mileage is limited by their weight. Changing the CAFE standard wouldn’t magically increase the average SUV mileage, it would simply limit choice in the marketplace as manufacturers stop making those vehicles — which is what it seems like you want to begin with.

  21. Rick C says:

    Matt, perhaps following the link about A Modest Proposal that Raymond helpfully provided will shed some light on the subject.

    As others have noted, rental trucks (for example) used by people for residential moves don’t have to keep logs, stop at weigh stations, etc., but that’s entirely irrelevant to Raymond’s point.

  22. Adrian says:

    There were a few news stories here in California a year or two ago, about how the conflicts between "car" and "truck" laws were being handled differently in each city.

    For example, many cities prohibit parking heavy vehicles (e.g., over 3 tons) in residential areas.  One city ticketed a bunch of residents for parking their SUVs in the neighborhood.  This led to a debate over whether the gross vehicle weight or the curb weight should apply.  One city council member said it should be the weight that’s used in the CAFE classifications.

    There are also stretches of some highways (like a bit of I-580 in my area) where vehicles over 4.5 tons are prohibited.  A Ford Excursion is really close to this depending on whether you use the curb weight or gross weight.

  23. dbt says:

    Robert Bach, we already outlaw people driving other unsafe vehicles on the road, why not these too?

    Wah wah "choice" my ass.  30 years ago nobody needed the choice to buy one.

  24. Robin says:

    Absolutely Robert, most sensible people want manufacturers to stop making environment destroying, deadly (often less safe in accidents than well-designed cars, and much more dangerous to pedestrians since they are higher and weigh up to 3 times as much), over-sized vehicles for the convinience of some 25% of Americans.

    Oh and yes, I do think vehicle manufacturers make SUV’s with low mileage deliberately, because they can improve mileage, but it takes research and more expensive materials, which means less profit.

    Also, props to the comment that large SUVs are actually banned from residential streets in California (3 ton weight limit).

  25. Leo Davidson says:

    "If you don’t like SUV’s, don’t buy one. But don’t tell other people who can afford the vehicle and the requisite gasoline that they can’t drive them."

    Yeah! And if you don’t like nuclear weapons, don’t buy them either, but don’t stop someone with the money and the homicidal desire to plant one in a mall from doing so. If he wants to harm people with his hard-earned money then that’s his business, and this is the land of the free, so you should keep your nose out!

    Or was your argument that gratuitous use of SUVs doesn’t waste fuel or cause more people to be killed in road accidents than if a more suitable vehicle had been driven?

  26. Jeff Parker says:

    You know, one of the guys here at work traded in his SUV for a nice Avenger. I laughed at him so hard. His Avenger, 27 MPG, my Escape SUV 26. Not much of a gain there at all.

    We live in Michigan and last year from November to April had 124 inches of snow, the highway department literally ran out of salt and sand. He looked at me very concerned and said I completely forgot about that, as we both remember last year several mid size cars not being able to get out of the parking lot here as there is a 5% incline to get out onto the road. Not to mention cars stuck not being able to get onto highway on ramps because they were too steep and it was too slippery. I love the idea of cars and really they would be my first choice, but in an area with this much snow, SUV with 4 wheel drive is a must. Give me fuel efficient vehicle that I can drive in the summer as well as the winter, and will go through the snow and I will buy it. I think you need to work on this concept a little more. I will admit though my sister has a huge Yukon Denali, with a V8 fully loaded, and her kids are all adults and moved out of the house, so that I would agree is a bit of an overkill.

  27. Aaron says:

    Jeff, your escape gets much better mileage than most SUVs, and is actually an example of what could be done if the manufacturers were made to adhere to the CAFE standards.  

    Also, there are plenty of offerings from Volvo, Subaru, and Audi that get reasonable fuel mileage and go well in the snow.

  28. Jim says:

    "Absolutely Robert, most sensible people want manufacturers to stop making…"

    You have a scientific study to prove this, do you?

    Auto manufacturers build what the market tells them to build.  They aren’t forcing anyone to buy an SUV, people are buying them because they want to.  Making them illegal just takes away more freedom from the people.

  29. njkayaker says:

    "We own a SUV but never wanted to own one.

    Local laws mandated we had to have full sized child seats for our three children.

    Guess the Soccer emblems on the back at least let people know we use it for family purposes."

    This comment is a bit disingenuous. Why wouldn’t a mini van have worked?

  30. Joe says:

    The free market interprets regulations as damage, and works around it to give people what they want. People who don’t understand this, frequently don’t understand other kinds of freedom as well.

  31. njkayaker says:

    "my Escape SUV 26"

    The Escape, Forester, etc (the "compact SUVSs") are basically lifted cars with AWD.

  32. bramster says:

    My 2006 Chevrolet Uplander minivan is classified as a truck.  It’s the successor to the Venture minivan, which had better gas mileage.

    It should be noted that even the SUVs get better mileage than the cars of the 70’s.  I owned a 1974 Hornet Hatchback; the best it ever gave was 21 mpg on a long highway trip.  That’s miles per imperial gallon.  It would be about 17mpg in shrunken US gallons.

  33. Cereal says:

    As I understand it, one of the other advantages of an SUV (from automakers’ perspective) is that the crash safety standards are more lenient, allowing them to use simpler designs, cheaper materials, etc.

    SUVs are another shining example of American companies doing what they do best:  Creating a watered-down product, while presenting, marketing and pricing it as premium.

  34. John says:

    For some reason your modest proposal reminds me of this:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/352442_vista23.html

    Anyway, here’s how I see it:

    Vista Starter – moped

    Vista Home Basic – compact

    Vista Home Premium – sedan

    Vista Business – luxury

    Vista Enterprise – limousine

    Vista Ultimate – stretch Hummer with jacuzzi

  35. hugh says:

    $5 per gallon gas has done a much better job of getting people to stop buying SUVs than any poorly conceived scheme you could ever hatch would.

  36. Jerry Mead says:

    "$5 per gallon gas"

    Be happy!! Here in England – where every dip in the spot price of a barrel of oil is seen as creating a ‘loss’ to HM Treasury – a $100 fill buys my 1995 supercharged 4.6 big-valved Range Rover Classic another 150 miles of looning about like sh*t off a shovel.

    I have dicovered that the resolution is (a) to stop calling it a truck (lack of respect for an icon of automotive design), and (b) to remove the bike rack (150.5 miles, whoopee).

    Plan. Dead. Cheer up. Next.

  37. random user says:

    That’s unfortunate.  Had you been referring to what appeared to be the proposal you were putting out there — that either SUVs be held to the CAFE standards, or that they have the same restrictions that pickup trucks have (higher registration costs, illegal to have minors in the back, and whatever others there are) — I’d have been in full agreement.

    However, the proposal that your comments seems to be making — that both SUVs and pickups be subject to the same restrictions that tractor-trailers are — doesn’t work so well.  You’re really suggesting that someone who drives – say – a Subaru Brat should have to have a commercial drivers license, should not be allowed (at least here) to use defensive driving to remove a speeding ticket, shouldn’t be allowed to drive through the freeways downtown during the day or park their vehicle in front of their house?  

    Do you really hate Ford Rangers/Chevy El Caminos/(insert small import truck with good mileage here) so much as to want to inflict this upon them?

    I expect that the "light truck loophole", as you put it, is there for a reason.  Perhaps once you’re elected emporer, you might instead of penalizing folks who chose a light truck at some point in the past as their vehicle, specifically create a new licensing and registration scheme for SUV owners, since they’re the ones who your wrath is aimed at?

  38. Andy says:

    Heh, you think $5 a gallon is bad? Here in the UK it’s more like $9 a gallon, mostly due to the huge tax on fuel.

  39. Grandpa says:

    Raymond,

    Keep yer fuzzy-headed, liberal, left-leaning, pinko opinions to yourself!

    My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.

    Next thing you know you’ll be advocating a 55 MPH speed limit. It may save a bit of fuel and sure, it’ll save a few lives, but millions will be late!

  40. DriverDude says:

    "As a result, SUVs sit in this sweet spot where they get to pretend they’re a truck when it’s advantageous to be a truck (avoiding CAFE regulations) and pretend that they’re a car when it’s advantageous to be a car (highway regulations)."

    Gasp! You want to make those rules consistent and rational?

    Never going to happen. We’re talking about the Federal government here, where money speaks louder than sense…

  41. MC says:

    I would not be all that unhappy to see gasoline at $9 a gallon the US, despite the short-term economic havoc it would wreak.  It’s pretty clear that a reduction in energy consumption (and consumption overall) is necessary if we are to place our economy back on a sound footing.

  42. Gwyn says:

    I didn’t see anything in this modest proposal about using SUV owner’s children as food. Now that would be a "modest proposal" I could really get behind.

  43. Jeff says:

    The most salient point I saw was this:

    "As I noted, it looks like economic forces have solved the problem on their own"

    Isn’t that’s how it’s supposed to be in a capitalistic society – market forces working?  Imagine this – if we drilled for oil and increased supply, prices might come down.  That said, I’m all for innovation increasing MPG and ultimately eliminating the huge need for oil.

    And what does "if there is a next time" in the last sentence mean?

  44. everyone is looking for problems with this modest proposal

    Your proposal is not sufficiently "modest" to set off many people’s irony detectors.

    I offer, as a sample, some "more modest" proposals to combat the SUV menace:

    1) Require that all children be within flyswatter reach of the driver.

    2) Add a federal requirement that regulation-height cheerleaders be able to reach the center of the roof of any noncommercial vehicle with only a standard kitchen towel.  Tiptoe use is permitted so long as one toe is in contact with the ground at all times.  Climbing on the hood is explicitly disallowed.

    3) Any registered owner of a noncommercial vehicle must be able to push their vehicle up a 5% incline using only members of their immediate family.  (Definition of "immediate family" is left to the several states.)

  45. Ian Boyd says:

    Oh my god that is the greatest thing i’ve ever heard. That is MUCH better than the solution i had in my head.

    Kudos on an elegant fix.

  46. WOW, I have never seen more disinformation dumped out in less time without Al Gore in the room!  What is really funny is the same people who think the Patriot Act contains some huge reduction in their civil rights are the FIRST ones to want to dictate to me what I can drive and use general purpose laws for their own nefarious designs. I’d have more respect for you lily livered lefties if you stopped fiddling with the national speed limit and simply created the We Want To Tell You How To Live Act and tried to get it passed. OH, that’s right, you can’t, which is why you ALWAYS resort to gaming the system.

  47. Nawak says:

    Jeff:

    But economics aren’t gods. A capitalistic society has to obey to other rules than capital. (You can’t kill your children because it’s cheaper than to buy them food.)

    If oil was eternal and its consumption didn’t have such a big impact on environment (="others", you know "others", whose freedom limit yours), then pure economics could apply. Alas, that’s not the case, therefore the need for regulation.

    If oil got cheaper, there would still be the need to stop global warming, but then most people wouldn’t care, because they are free.

  48. I’ll take option two.  Just make them subject to C.A.F.E. standards.

    That said, I own a 36 mpg Kia (for commuting), a 97 Ford Thunderbird with horrible mileage (I use it for trips), and two bicycles (fun, fitness, and commuting).  

    The T-Bird gets SUV mileage around town, but *does* count for C.A.F.E. stats.  Well, it did, when it was new 11 years ago  :)

  49. duncan_bayne says:

    Why not just switch to a market solution?  <a href="http://mises.org/journals/jls/3_2/3_2_7.pdf">Privatise the roads</a>, let them be run for a profit, let people drive what they want to drive, and let those who own the roads run them the way they want to run them.  

    If every car on the road represents profit (unlike the loss to the public purse they currently represent in the socialized transport system), you can bet your bottom dollar that serious money will be spent investing in infrastructure, and that genuinely useful traffic flow rules will be imposed by the owners.

    In other words, live and let live.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Well, I guess that proves what a popular topic cars are. Me, I’m happy with my good ole legs.

  51. Jonathan Wilson says:

    I (like others in this thread) think the right solution is to eliminate the "light truck" category (that covers most SUVs, 4x4s and pickups as well as minivans) and to treat those vehicles as cars for ALL rules (emissions standards, safety standards, CAFE standards etc)

    If the market wants SUVs the car makers will have to make their SUVs get better gas mileage.

    The other option is to bring back the station wagon (and have vehicles that have the people and cargo capacity families and "soccer moms" need but without all the stuff they dont need (4 wheel drive, huge tow capacity, ultra-high ground clearance, souped up suspension etc).

    When I was a kid, we had a station wagon and you could easily fit 2 adults in the front seats, 3 kids (if not 3 adults) in the middle row plus easily 2 kids in the back row and STILL have enough room for sports bags, luggage (for family road trips etc), shopping etc.

  52. ovidiupl says:

    A modest recommendation: Read Keith Bradsher’s "High and Mighty". It would clarify how things got here and why your otherwise sensible proposal would be hard to implement in practice.

    There are a lot of other legal quirks about SUVs. Research on the web a little bit and you’ll find that SUVs should technically be banned from residential streets, since most towns and cities have weight limits on these streets (3000-4000 lbs usually).

    Since it’s rather hard to find an SUV below 4000-5000 lbs (and they’re trucks anyway), they should only be allowed to drive on truck routes (which are explicitly marked in Redmond too, for instance). I’m rooting for $9/gallon.

  53. Neil (SM) says:

    Sorry we all ruined your satire, Raymond!  

  54. duncan_bayne says:

    If the market wants SUVs the car makers will

    have to make their SUVs get better gas mileage.

    Really?  I think you’ll find that what you’re proposing has nothing to do with market economics, and everything to do with How You Want People To Choose(TM).

  55. > (Definition of "immediate family" is left to

    > the several states.)

    For example, West Virginia, or Missouri.  Immediate family would be half the state, eh?

  56. nah yah, whatever says:

    We could just shoot the SUV drivers in the head. This would not only cut down on the pollution they cause, but also reduce the population meaning less demand for dwindling resources. What’s more, if done early enough it would also start to weed the SUV gene out of the human race (we’d still need to worry about the  SUV driving squirrels, but that’s another issue). We could use the dead bodies as fertiliser for crops.

    (Sorry, Mr. Swift.)

  57. nah yah, whatever says:

    Lots of people smoke and don’t die, either!

    Does smoking make people immortal, then?

  58. Lascaille says:

    Most posters here refer to kids. ‘I need a huge truck because of all my kids.’

    Perhaps the solution really is ‘a modest proposal,’ eh?

    Good call.

  59. duffbeer703 says:

    My modest proposal: If I want to drive a Tahoe to lug around the stuff I need to lug around, that’s my problem. If you want to ride a bike or a Geo Metro, that’s yours.

    Back in the day, I’d be living in my local city and walking/bus riding to work. Since I can’t afford private school, and the ghetto-ized schools in the city are dangerous, expensive and awful, I commute. The cost of operating an SUV is less than catholic school for 4.

  60. TraumaPony says:

    duffbeer703: But it’s not just your problem. The vast amount of pollution SUVs create are EVERYONE’s problem. Pull your head in, son.

  61. A Finn says:

    I wonder how most people here in Finland manage to live without SUV’s? We also have snow and kids. Most of the pro SUV arguments in this thread sound ridiculous to me.

    Btw: fuel price is also here ~$9 per gallon, and increasing. Fuel efficiency is an important buying criterion for many.

  62. Hackish Code says:

    Maybe people has to stop fighting? The gasoline crisis has started many years ago (when the Iraq war started).

  63. Miles Archer says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the other replies. I like the spirit of your proposal but would like to extend it to driver’s license qualifications. In CA, you need a different license class to drive a passenger vehicle than for trucks, motorcycles, etc. I’d propose that youd need the truck certification to drive a vehicle weighing more than 5000lbs.

  64. Rick C says:

    Two entirely unrelated comments:

    "Absolutely Robert, most sensible people want manufacturers to stop making environment destroying, deadly (often less safe in accidents than well-designed cars, and much more dangerous to pedestrians since they are higher and weigh up to 3 times as much), over-sized vehicles for the convinience of some 25% of Americans."

    Ever seen a compact car that’s been t-boned by a bigger one?  I don’t care how well-designed a Ford Focus is, it’s not going to weather the experience well.  We can argue about the relative merits of large and small cars all day, but I personally know someone who would almost certainly be alive today if she had been in a minivan or an SUV instead of a Ford Focus.

    Also, the forty rods to the hogshead comment?  Hilarious, but ridiculous.  You think $5 gas is expensive, you don’t want to know how much you’d be spending with such a fuel-inefficient car.  You’re looking for more like half a million rods to the hogshead (the former being 16.5 feet, the latter 63 gallons.)

  65. DumbBrit says:

    "Vroom! Vroom! Parp-parp!"

    It appears all the Mr Toads have come out from under their respective rocks to explain why it’s *quite* impossible for them to give up their SUVs: one suspects that the passage of the Factories Acts in the nineteenth century saw similar cries from mill-owners. After all, it wouldn’t be economically efficient to work 8 year old children for less than 12 hours a day or, god forbid, to pay them.

    Noticeable, of course, that the Rest of the World (you know, those bits *outside* Jesuslandia) manage to cope with compacts or, more commonly, dad, mum and three kids (and a 40" TV) on the back of a 50cc Honda Cub. Ho hum.

  66. So, the Iraq war started in in the 1970s?

  67. Mark says:

    Rick C: Quite.  Who else Googled 40 rods/hogshead?

  68. brian says:

    Here in Arizona every other vehicle is a truck or SUV.  It’s seriously unsafe.  The ads for SUVs should be: You too can kill a family of four at 30 miles an hour.

  69. Pat Buchanan says:

    > The ads for SUVs should be: You too can kill a family of four at 30 miles an hour.

    Yes, but it’s some other family – mine’s safe.  Think of it as America First, but on a smaller scale – My Family First ™.

  70. Sinan says:

    How about you drive what you want and the rest of the world drive what they want?

    The economic costs of CAFE standards are substantial. It is not obvious that the benefits of such restrictions exceed their costs.

  71. CmraLvr2 says:

    I had not heard of CAFE.  The CAFE FAQ states cars and light trucks so I would assume it includes SUVs also.  If it doesn’t it probably should for consistancy as you have said.

    What I do not understand is, why would that affect my purchase?  I’m not being argumenative, I truly do not see how they relate.  I have an Expedition because I personally need to seat 6 people comfortably and safely sometimes and I like to sit higher than a car provides.  From what I can see of CAFE, it looks like a waste of taxpayer money (in my opinion based on a twenty second exposure…grin)

  72. Leverett says:

    Many modern SUV are actually based on car platforms.

    Sorry… I was channeling YuhongBao there.

  73. From what I understand, the excuse for the loophole was that it was necessary to help prop up American automakers.

    Because apparently if they don’t sell crappy high-margin environmentally disastrous SUVs, they will go out of business.

    Apparently the proper, prescribed by capitalism, alternative of making affordable cars that get good gas mileage, is to hard of a problem for them to solve…

  74. Igor Levicki says:

    >We could just shoot the SUV drivers in the head.

    +1 vote for that

    To everyone who wants to drive an SUV because they think it is safer for their families — OK, and I want to drive a tank with XM291 electrothermal-chemical tank-gun.

    Let’s see who’s safe now, wussies!

  75. JenK says:

    Adrian noted, "many cities prohibit parking heavy vehicles (e.g., over 3 tons) in residential areas.  One city ticketed a bunch of residents for parking their SUVs in the neighborhood.  This led to a debate over whether the gross vehicle weight or the curb weight should apply.  One city council member said it should be the weight that’s used in the CAFE classifications."

    The transfer stations around Seattle weigh your vehicle as you arrive and as you leave and charge you the difference. Unless you’re driving a vehicle that doesn’t actually register on the scale, like a Honda Insight. Then it’s free.

    This is why a friend offers her Insight to anyone who wants to do a smallish "dump run"….  

  76. mikeb says:

    > The transfer stations around Seattle weigh your vehicle as you arrive and as you leave and charge you the difference. Unless you’re driving a vehicle that doesn’t actually register on the scale, like a Honda Insight. Then it’s free.

    Huh??  It’s a flat fee for for any passenger car.  If they’re letting her dump without paying the tip fee, she’s probably just charming the attendant.

    I doubt that my ugly-ass would get the fee waived – even in an Insight.

  77. Tom_ says:

    SUV drivers need to grow a pair, and stop listening to the rest of us. Honestly, you lot are pathetic.

  78. Marc says:

    Would I still be a *real* man if my truck was re-classified as a car?!?

  79. steveg says:

    Heh! Sounds like a good proposal, Raymond. Screw the SUV owners, their monster cars are dangerous to us bicycle riders. And tax petrol (AKA gas) as highly as the rest of the world does. That’ll sort it all out — and pay for a health care system in one hit. Ha! Take that you right wing whingers.

    As another hypothesis, is it possible as the population’s weight increases they *need* massive vehicles to carry their massive arses?

    Here in Australia there’s been occasional talk about requiring special licenses for SUVs (or 4WDs as they’re known here). Nothing’s come of it, but it’s an interesting proposal — teach people how to drive properly.

  80. Soccer Mom says:

    >This comment is a bit disingenuous. Why wouldn’t a mini van have worked?

    People tend to drive a vehicle that matches their personality.  There are a lot of people that don’t have a mini-van personality.

  81. FamilyOfFive says:

    With a swift kick to the door I can just fit 3 car seats in the back of my ’99 Concorde which also 18 cubic feet of trunk space.  It’s 53 inches from arm rest to arm rest.  Now that it needs replacing I have yet to find a mid-sized sedan that is wide enough for three car seats (actually 2 car seats and a booster seats).  

    If you are going to make the safety regulations you need to require that the manufactures of cars and car seats accommodate them.   A minimum width for a back seat and maximum width for a car seat should do the trick.

  82. JB says:

    [If you are going to make the safety regulations you need to require that the manufactures of cars and car seats accommodate them.   A minimum width for a back seat and maximum width for a car seat should do the trick]

    That’s another problem with not wanting to give people what they need in the form of larger vehicles. As we get crazy about demanding higher efficiency, the car makers are making sub compacts. While this may have taken off in Europe, I know that i cannot fit, after the Stratus got discontinued, into any "car" vehicle made by Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge. I’m 6’3". That makes my purchases SUCK because I can’t find many "Car" vehicles that I can fit into without having less efficiency than the TDI vehicle I drive now. Which is a moderate-sized SUV. But I’m automagically the devil because I am "harming the environment" and "sucking down the resources others could be using!".

  83. JB says:

    Honestly, everyone venting over the "unsafe" SUVs.

    First off: Don’t impose your *beliefs* on someone else. The majority of SUVs only get slightly worse gas mileage than the car they are based on, and that’s just to drive the 4WD transfer case.

    Second off: SUV’s haven’t been unsafe for ten years, since all those SUVs tried to come apart and send shrapnel all over the road and the government forced the affected automakers to recall every single defective component on the ones that were unsafe, then enacted a whole crapload of safety regulations that car makers had to have in by 2004. SUVs you buy today are fine. SUVs you bought newer than 1996 are mostly fine, too.

    Third off: If you are so worried about pollution, know that gas and diesel-powered equipment, while easy to point at and holler about, is not the chief cause of pollution. Look at yourself, pollution boy or girl. Look at the keyboard you’re typing on. Oil. Look at the bottle you’re drinking water out of. Oil again. Pretty much every plastic made in the last 50 years is principally oil, and a whole tone of oil burning to pump out your Bic pens. So while everyone sits there and points all their fingers at the generally safe-as-a-car SUV and goes "OMG, pollution amirite??" they ignore that they are harming the environment far more with their plastic purchases than most car drivers ever will. And that’s no joke or exaggeration.

    Just because something is highly visible (or breatheable in this case), doesn’t mean that you should care about it unless there is no lesser boogey man hiding in the details.

  84. Dean Harding says:

    I’m 6’4" in the "old measure" and I fit perfectly fine into many cars. My Honda Civic is nice & comfy, but I’ve also driven Toyota Yaris(es), Mitsubishi Mirages even a Mini Cooper!

    Jeremy Clarkson is 6’5" and he’s able to drive all kinds of sports cars without trouble (though I remember one episode of Top Gear where he was driving a Ferrari Spider and his head was sticking over the top of the windshield).

    Anybody who says they need a Hummer just because they’re over 6 foot is kidding themselves.

  85. Kyralessa says:

    I have a better proposal.

    Instead of a common, across-the-board rate for gas, the price of gas would be based on the mileage of your vehicle.

    Say 30 MPG was the "reasonable standard."  Gas would cost, per gallon, $120 divided by your mileage:

    * For a 30 MPG car, $4/gallon.

    * For a large truck getting 20 MPG, $6/gallon.

    * For a Hummer getting 10 MPG, $12/gallon.

    * For a Honda Insight getting 75 MPG, $1.60/gallon.

    Personally, as often as I can, I drive my new electric bike:

    http://www.egovehicles.com

  86. mikeb says:

    > Instead of a common, across-the-board rate for gas, the price of gas would be based on the mileage of your vehicle.

    I see a vast black market of people selling cheap fuel to SUVs and pickup trucks with gas siphoned out of Insights…

  87. JB says:

    [I’m 6’4" in the "old measure" and I fit perfectly fine into many cars. My Honda Civic is nice & comfy, but I’ve also driven Toyota Yaris(es), Mitsubishi Mirages even a Mini Cooper!

    Jeremy Clarkson is 6’5" and he’s able to drive all kinds of sports cars without trouble (though I remember one episode of Top Gear where he was driving a Ferrari Spider and his head was sticking over the top of the windshield).

    Anybody who says they need a Hummer just because they’re over 6 foot is kidding themselves.]

    I’m not saying I need a hummer. I’m saying that I’m driving an SUV (a medium-sized SUV) because fifteen years ago I could fit into cars that got the same gas mileage as my SUV now. I can’t get into cars anymore because I get "useful" consoles jabbed into my hips while I drive. As it is, I have to live in my SUV without a dead pedal because they had to save room.

    Additionally, I also have a 6’5" friend that fits just dandy into a lot of vehicles. However, he is built as a bean pole. I am a closer build to a linebacker. Just because you and your friend can fit doesn’t mean jack for any other members of the population. I was giving my own concerns and issues about car buying.

    Just for the record, I can’t fit into any Honda Civic manufacturered after 1992. I can’t fit into the Toyota Yaris and, while I could fit fine into the old 4Cyl Toyota Prius, the dash in the new 6cyl Prius directly impacts my shin, so I cannot fit in those. Mini Coopers I can fit into if I put the seat all the way back, the steering wheel as far up as it goes and lean the seat to about 40-degrees.

    Yeah. I’m so jumping into all of those cars in ten seconds because someone decides, based on their narrow set of criteria which they can’t look past, that I should use them because of the "environmental harm." See my previous notes about environmental harm from ICE use.

  88. JB says:

    [Personally, as often as I can, I drive my new electric bike:

    http://www.egovehicles.com]

    Haw. From the looks of those vehicles, it’s used a crapload of oil just to make them. Add in the fact that you’re using electricity generated from non-nuclear, non-hydro, and non-wind sources to charge it up, and all you’re doing it changing your pollution from directly out of your tailpipe to giant companies having to emit them for you.

  89. ChiliCat says:

    My SUV (a ’94 Ford Exploder) nearly did last Friday and now I’m looking for a replacement.  We’ll be getting another SUV or minivan since, even though there are only two of us, we need to haul around a bunch of equipment because we compete in chili cookoffs around the Northeast.

    My original idea was to get something more fuel efficient but I’ve decided that’s not a requirement.  Looking back at my records I see we’ve only driven that vehicle about 5K miles a year for the last two years.  Most of the time we use a car that gets a minimum of 34 MPG even though it’s 11 years old and has over 192K miles on it.  

    There, I think, is where the real problem shows it’s head.  I recently saw a report listing the most fuel efficient cars.  The only two cars on the list that were any better than our 11 year old Mirage were both hybrids.  Why can’t they build more cars like the Mirage.

    Before the Mirage, we had a Geo Metro that always got over 50 MPG.  Sure it was a small car but it had no hybrid technology to help it.

    Raymond, I’m sorry but I think your proposal is underthunk.

  90. Kyralessa says:

    You’re not thinking this through very clearly, are you, JB?

    Sure, power plants create pollution too.  But do you really think the same amount of energy is used, and the same amount of pollution created, regardless of whether you’re driving a 3-ton SUV or a 130-pound cycle?

    The electric bill for my house, which includes charging the electric scooter, is under $100, which means less than $25/week.  The scooter is probably $1-2 per week of that, or even less.  Meanwhile, it costs $40 at current prices to fill the tank of my 30-MPG car, and I filled it up about once a week before I got the scooter.

    It’s a bummer that you can’t fit into a car, but you should take that up with the car companies.  On the other hand, you could easily fit into an electric scooter, gas scooter, electric bike, or regular bicycle.  Whether you *want* to is, of course, another matter.  The electric scooter doesn’t replace *every* possible use of a car, but it’s every bit as fast as a car for most local trips.  And more fun, too.

    Meanwhile, to suggest that using oil in one-time manufacture of a plastic item is equivalent to pumping it into your SUV *every week* is just plain silly.

  91. JB says:

    [You’re not thinking this through very clearly, are you, JB?

    Sure, power plants create pollution too.  But do you really think the same amount of energy is used, and the same amount of pollution created, regardless of whether you’re driving a 3-ton SUV or a 130-pound cycle?]

    Two things are wrong, here: First, I never said that your scooter didn’t use less. I just said that being proud of it only meant that you didn’t realize that you are still polluting.

    Second is this bit, here:

    [The electric bill for my house, which includes charging the electric scooter, is under $100, which means less than $25/week.  The scooter is probably $1-2 per week of that, or even less.  Meanwhile, it costs $40 at current prices to fill the tank of my 30-MPG car, and I filled it up about once a week before I got the scooter.]

    This is a *financial* decision for you. Not an ecological one. You are using the ecological side of it to use, now, to say that "Hey! It can be done! My situation makes it useful, yours can, too!" This goes back to my statement about making decisions for everyone based on extremely limited criteria.

    [It’s a bummer that you can’t fit into a car, but you should take that up with the car companies.]

    Except that I *can’t*. To make something that is running at as much efficiency that we can scientifically muster, such as an ICE, you can to reduce what it is powering so that you meet arbitrary guidlines on a secondary efficiency rating, such as MPG. This means, simply, that they make the cars smaller, and out of lighter, weaker materials to meet these MPG targets because there’s nothing they can really do to make the ICE work better. This introduces a safety hazard, which is why over the last 15 years accidents have been getting more and more deadly. A lighter, weaker car, such as those made from aluminum instead of steel, and now plastics instead of aluminum, cannot protect you as handily has the heavier, stronger materials that are predecessing current vehicles.

    [ On the other hand, you could easily fit into an electric scooter, gas scooter, electric bike, or regular bicycle.  Whether you *want* to is, of course, another matter.  The electric scooter doesn’t replace *every* possible use of a car, but it’s every bit as fast as a car for most local trips.  And more fun, too.]

    Actually, I *can’t*. I’ve been wanting a motorcyle for some time for the gas-saving potential, however I have some significant obstacles. First, it is a single-vehicle household. That means that seven days a week (because that’s what myself and my spouse must work to ensure being able to afford basic expenses), I must drop my child off to day care, drop my wife off to work, and then get myself to work. I simply cannot do this on a motorbike because of child safety laws.

    [Meanwhile, to suggest that using oil in one-time manufacture of a plastic item is equivalent to pumping it into your SUV *every week* is just plain silly.]

    You do realize that only 50% of a barrel of crude goes to Diesel/Gasoline, right? The other 50% goes to other productions. Especially plastics. The amount of plastic, synthetic fiber seats, polyfoam, tires, and paint in vehicles (also, in some brands, the "sheet metal" used as the exterior surface) is staggering. For each vehicle, you’re looking at around 100-150 gallons of crude oil per (average-sized) vehicle before it ever gets on the road. That’s 2 to 3.5 barrels of crude used exclusively to make your car, if they make no other products with it. (Crude oil is measured in 42 gallons/barrel) Then you will have to consider things like packaging (yay, plastic wrap for the seat during shipping!), inks on the packaging, inks on the documents you sign to buy it, and…you get the idea.

    Conserving gasoline is not our biggest issue. We need to conserve the other 50% first. Not last. Why? Because the economy is already taking care of gasoline and diesel. But no one is caring about the plastics, inks, and synthetic fibers that wrap up their *everything*. Attacking gasoline (taxes, etc) will only make the economy so much worse by not allowing us to work while other changes aren’t being made for the better.

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