Trucks

America’s Favorite Pickup Truck Isn’t No. 1 for Safety

The Ford F-150 has been America’s favorite pickup truck since it’s release in 1948. For decades, the F-150 has been rated at the top of its class and it has outsold every other pickup for more than 40 years. The 2019 F-150 was no exception, pulling the best-in-class awards for towing, payload, and horsepower, according to Kelly Blue Book. So, it may come as a surprise that the F-150 fell behind two other pickups in safety ratings.

In fact, the next two bestselling trucks on the market, the 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 and the Ram 1500 Crew Cab were both rated higher for safety by Kelly Blue Book than the F-150.

Ford F-150 safety ratings and features

While the F-150 received a 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, it fell short in the rollover category, with only 4 stars and a 19% rollover risk.

The F-150 offers a host of safety features with the standard trim, including forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, crash-imminent braking, and dynamic brake support. In addition, the F-150 features trailer sway control which will selectively apply the brakes if it detects that the trailer is swaying out of control.

This is a particularly useful feature, given the F-150’s exceptional towing capacity. The higher trims also offer adaptive cruise control, which leaves a set distance between the truck and vehicle ahead, but can decelerate or stop the vehicle if needed, and then quickly accelerate back to the original speed.

However, it appears that the 2019 F-150 may still need some improvement. According to a report by Motor Trend, the 2019 F-150 is slow to brake when fully laden. However, this concern was only raised by Motor Trend, who has conducted the only documented testing of the F-150 with a full load, and there have been no complaints from either authorities or consumers to indicate that the braking is noticeably compromised. 

Consumer Reports indicated concern about the F-150’s handling and found it to be clumsy compared to other full-size trucks. Maneuvering the vehicle took a great deal of steering effort, and the vehicle was slow to respond, with a wide turning radius.

Although they found that the truck remained steady and secure in emergency avoidance, the sluggish steering response left much to be desired. Coupled with the heightened rollover risk indicated by the NHTSA, it appears that the biggest problem with the F-150 is its size, which limits its ability to maneuver safely in emergencies. That said, the vehicle’s safety ratings are still excellent, even compared to other vehicles in its class.

The competition: Chevy Silverado and Ram 1500

Although KBB rated the Silverado and Ram 1500 above the F-150 for safety, the NHTSA and Consumer Reports tell a different story. Let’s look at what the data tells us.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The Chevy Silverado, which came in second for safety with Kelly Blue Book, appears to offer smoother handling and easier maneuverability than its Ford counterpart. However, the safety features that come standard with the F-150 must be purchased with a higher trim for the Silverado, though teen driver settings do come standard with all Silverados.

From the NHTSA, the Silverado received a lower safety rating than the F-150, with only four stars for both frontal passenger crash testing and rollover testing, resulting in an overall safety score of only 4 stars. Consumer reviews via KBB appear to be highly polarized, with users either rating 5-stars or one.

2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab

KBB’s top safety pick, the Ram 1500 Crew Cab is a brand new vehicle for 2019. Rather than building on the old model, Ram created the truck from scratch, for a lighter and more technologically advanced version with excellent maneuverability. The added option of hybrid technology shows that the 2019 Ram has certainly stepped up its game.

When it comes to safety features, the Ram falls short of the F-150 by only offering safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control with higher trims.

Although the features are impressive, they are unavailable in standard models. The NHTSA gave the Ram a 5-star overall safety rating, but reflected four stars for front passenger crash testing and four stars for rollover testing, for a slightly lower safety rating than the F-150.

The bottom line

Overall, although the collision testing for both the Ram and the Silverado fell below the F-150’s, the difference is very small, and is largely outweighed by the F-150’s clumsy maneuverability. Emergency handling and obstacle avoidance are important to consider when weighing the features of a vehicle. In this case, it appears to have cost the F-150 the top spot in safety ratings.