Three Half-Ton Pickups Rated Poor or Marginal in Crash Tests

Three Pickups Rated Poor or Marginal in Crash Tests
By: John Stewart

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety today released new side-impact crash-test results for three full-size pickups that it described as “worse than many cars we have evaluated.” 

The three newly tested trucks were the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, 2009 Nissan Titan and 2009 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500. Though all rated Good in front impacts, they all earned either Poor or Marginal ratings in side-impact tests conducted at 31 mph.

The Dodge Ram with standard side airbags received a Marginal rating. The report said the Ram’s side structure/safety cage earned a Good rating, while the Titan’s earned Acceptable. The Ram has standard head-protecting side curtain airbags, but it lacks torso airbags. Both side curtain and side torso airbags are optional in the Titan.

When tested without their optional side airbags, the Titan and Silverado were given Poor ratings by IIHS. The Titan’s side rating improves to Marginal in models tested with side airbags, while the Silverado’s optional side airbags don’t improve its rating over models without them.

2009 Dodge Ram 1500: Side protection ratings are based on a crash test in which the side of the vehicle is struck by a moving deformable barrier that represents the front of a typical SUV or pickup. The resulting 31mph perpendicular impact is used to measure deformation of the body and performance of the airbag system, if so equipped. In this case, the Ram was rated “marginal” because, while the head was protected with side curtain air bags, the torso could have been impacted.

The Silverado’s ratings also apply to the GMC Sierra 1500, both of which were redesigned for 2007, so the ratings apply to 2007-09 models. The Ram is a new design for the 2009 model year. The Titan was introduced in the 2004 model year, so results apply to 2004-09 models.

In theory, the Ram, Titan and Silverado should have an advantage in side crash tests over
smaller vehicles because of their size and weight, and because occupants' higher seating positions put their heads and shoulders above the impact zone. Generally speaking, occupants of cars should be more vulnerable because their bodies are in line with the fronts of vehicles, especially tall ones, that hit them from the side.

“These large pickups don’t have to work as hard as smaller vehicles to protect their occupants," said IIHS senior vice president David Zuby. "Even with their characteristic advantages, the Ram, Titan and Silverado still miss the mark when it comes to occupant protection in side crashes.”

Most conspicuous in the new test results is the fact that the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra were considered Poor even when equipped with their optional side curtain airbags.

“It’s disappointing to see that the GM truck didn’t perform better,” Zuby said.

The Silverado and Sierra don't have side airbags that protect the torso; they only get side curtain airbags that protect the head. The report stated that the trucks' optional side curtain airbags are designed to protect occupants’ heads, and these worked well, but occupants’ upper bodies remain unprotected even with the optional side curtain airbags, in part because there was more intrusion into the passenger compartment than with other pickups tested.

2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500: Even though the optional side curtain air bags did protect the occupants’s head, the amount of side intrusion was judged to be sufficient to warrant a “poor” rating with respect to side impact.

“We think buyers should opt for the side curtain airbags anyway,” Zuby said, adding that they do help reduce injury, but that they're insufficient protection “for a truck with that much side intrusion."

 “We are aware of the IIHS tests; we do pay attention to them,” said Janine Fruehan, a safety spokesperson for General Motors. “But the results of one test doesn’t determine overall safety. Our trucks do meet and exceed government tests; the Silverado has a five-star rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testings — that alone confirms that we provide a safe structure for occupants. We think we have great trucks.”

The Silverado is due for a (safety) redesign in the 2010 model year. Fruehan said the latest safety enhancements are in the works for the new Silverado.

The 2009 Dodge Ram, which is equipped with standard front airbags, standard supplemental side curtain airbags and a standard electronic stability system, also received five stars in government frontal crash tests.

Zuby said IIHS tests are conducted differently than NHTSA tests, usually at higher speeds.

“NHTSA tests are similar to ours in that they do provide consumer information to allow buyers to make informed choices,” Zuby said. “Our tests are different because we try to look at accident data and, based on that data, design tests that aren’t being done to address those issues. To get the most complete assessment, look at both tests.”

With regard to the Silverado/Sierra and Nissan Titan, he said IIHS tests show “there are better choices out there.”

The new test results add more models to IIHS’ "Top Safety Pick" list of pickup trucks tested for front, rear and side-impact crash protection. Earning Good ratings in front, side and rear impacts were the Honda Ridgeline, Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra. All those trucks have standard side airbags with torso and head protection.

2009 Nissan Titan: This shows the amount of damage to the occupant compartment of the Titan. Footage of dummy inside the Titan without airbags showed that the drivers head moved far enough outward so as to approach the window sill.  With side curtain bags, the head was better protected.


So take a crash sled that has dimensions of a full size which is also built like a tank, ram into stationary full size 4 door pu's right in it's soft spot, totally missing the frame rail, and be shocked that it got banged up. Talk about worse scenerio data! And compare it to the barely mid-sized Ridgeline.
Finally, anybody notice that the crash sled this "institute" uses is quite a bit higher than the one the NHTS uses to go along with their admitted increased speed, all presumeably to juice up their data!

At least a Ford Falcon Ute has carlike Safety in the cabin. Those results are terrible.

F-150 is the safest truck on the road!

How can the test sled be higher than any bumper on any vehicle made today? Another bogus test!!!

IMHO, very arbitrary and bogus. With the exception of an 18-wheeler or a railroad train nothing on the road will hit a high-riding pickup the way this test sled hits it. Any car, truck, or SUV bumper will hit it a lot lower, producing much different results. Conversely, if the same 18-wheeler or railroad train hits a 5-star car (with a host of airbags inside), there will not really be anybody inside that car who will survive... Hmmm, tough decision... Ah! I got it! A pickup is still safer in a real-world collision despite the IIHS insinuations...

*** For some reason my previous post did not appear here. Sorry for a possible double-up, but here it is again ***

IMHO, very arbitrary and bogus. With the exception of an 18-wheeler or a railroad train nothing on the road will hit a high-riding pickup the way this test sled hits it. Any car, truck, or SUV bumper will hit it a lot lower, producing much different results. Conversely, if the same 18-wheeler or railroad train hits a 5-star car (with a host of airbags inside), there will not really be anybody inside that car who will survive... Hmmm, tough decision... Ah! I got it! A pickup is still safer in a real-world collision despite the IIHS insinuations...

Not only is the Ford F-150 the best selling truck but its also the safest on the road. Dodge and GM have been selling substandard junk for years.

Regardless of your opinions on the validity of the test, all of the Half-Ton pickups were put through the exact same test and the results speak for themselves ... Ford is number one !

GM, Ford, Dodge, and not to forget Nissan, should have learn lessons fromt the last crash test. But obviously they didnt. Toyota makes a long lasting, durable truck, with occupant safet a priority in every truck they make. Tundra...The Truck Thats Changing how we look at Pickup Trucks.

Tundra is not the safest truck, its roll over easy.. They need to change up on the Frame and make it fully box like the other Trucks. Why 3 different section, the rear is very weak and doesn't handle to good. The Ford and Chevy has good handling than the Tundra. Tundra are trying to copy Dodge style. LOL But who's care just buy what you want.. People always have something Negative about other Truck... Like Ford Truck they say to slow and Chey and Dodge now are fast, well you know you can't drive fast or you're in up with a ticket. HA Ha All 3 and Nissan are good Trucks, if wasn't they wouldn't be building them. Right. Now wandering what the new Titian going to look like when Dodge build them. To many different Truck are coming in.. Just enjoy what decision you make on what brand of Truck you buy.. Keep on Truckin

I have 2 words to solve this problem...

Nerf Bars!

Ha Ha - looks like Lloyd is drinking the Toyota Koolaid indeed! Tundra, the truck thats changed NOTHING! Problems with handling, weak frames, weak tailgates, cheesy 1990's interiors, larger brake rotors that don't stop a load as well as others, and don't forget about Toy's 5.7 Cold Start Knock - yes Toyota's do that too. OMG PPL just kill me! P

I don't know if you read the article in detail, but the sled is only going 31mph! It is designed to mimic another truck t-boning the vehicle. These tests are done by the insurance institute to save the insurance companies money by limiting sever injuries and deaths by helping the automakers improve their designs. Lets stop making excuses for these automakers as the Dodge and Chev are new designs and the results should have been better. I doubt nerf bars would help the situation...just look at the Chev and the center pillar intruding into the cab.

First of all,
People should understand that that there are several differences between the IIHS tests which are more comprehesive compared to those used by NTHSA.

The difference is that the (NTHSA)govt tests simulate a car hitting the trucks while the IIHS has an SUV-height barrier that weighs around 3,300 pounds moving 31 mph hitting the trucks.

Since the govt tests all resulted in 5-star ratings, the IIHS test must be substantially different. The SMART automakers should comprehend the IIHS tests in their designs - even if they think they are BS.

besides Regardless what you people WANT TO BELIEVE about this testing your Insurance companies set their rates from IIHS,(not the governments testing)

There is a reason why ALL of your insurance quotes are based off the test results from the IIHS. They use larger sleds, with heavier weight to duplicate an SUV, or a truck hitting you. I also believe they are much more strict on the test dummy results.

-As for Janine Fruehan's comments ( a safety spokesperson for General Motors)

Yeah, Pretty much every Truck has 5 stars rating from the NHTSA, so NO SHOCK HERE!


Just to clarify:

NHTSA utilizes their tests to determine how the STRUCTURE of the vehicle holds up in an accident and if all belts and pretensioners do what they are supposed to do (stay in tact).

IIHS utilizes test to determine damage to the occupants inside the vehicle thus indicating the possibilty of sustained injury to the occupants.

So to summarize which is more important, how your vehicle looks after a crash or how you look after a crash?

Quite simple and there's a reason why the insurance companies rate vehicles the way they do. STARS are for getting 10/10 on a surprise quiz.



As much as I agree with many of your points and ideas, I say this with utmost civility in mind, I had a very hard time understanding many of your posts. For whatever reason I was unable to find all of them coherent or logical. Given, many posts were coherent and logical, I had a hard time with a few. Obviously, the sled is made to sit at the height of a truck. Additionally, the sled is made to travel at a speed relative to the speed at which trucks travel in rural towns. Why rural towns? Because that is where trucks are predominantly the chosen method of transportation. The purpose of the test is not to show that a car is safer than a truck or a truck is safer than a car. This test is formulated to show what would happen to half-ton trucks in a real world situation. This scenario is not exactly a worst-case. Furthermore, a train or 18 wheeler does not have to hit a pickup in order to cause that much damage. It is quite apparent and takes little or no common sense to figure out that side-impact airbags help in a side-impact crash. Furthermore, side-curtain airbags are obviously going to help keep your head away from hard "impact" areas. When thinking about the safety of those who ride in your vehicle, (i.e. your family), does it not make sense to spend a little more money on components designed to protect your loved ones? Also, wouldn't it be better if the vehicle came equipped from the factory with these life-saving devices? Obviously it is a no-brainer.

I am looking for specific test results for a slow speed crash on a 2008/9 GMC Serria truck, rear bumper. Can anyone direct me to a site that would offer this info? I backed into a steel post at 5 mph, hit the right rear corner of the bumper and put a dent in it so bad as to render the bumper totaled.

Ford Motor Company's FORD F-150 is the BEST,SAFEST,and most Popular Truck because in factual tests like these -the F-150 simply has better design,engineering and quality than the Generic GM junk trucks. Chrysler and the Japanese pretenders bring up the rear in all important areas as FORD shows the way and outsells them all to be America's BEST Selling vehicle!! Kudos American Owned Ford Motor Company!!!!

This side crash test is so easy to pass, it's a lightweight sled, 3000 pounds, half the wight of these trucks, and it is traveling at 31 mph. To think this is a hard test to pass means low intelligence. These three trucks suck and this proves it!

80% percent of all rear end collisions are caused by driver inattention, following too closely, external distraction (talking on cell phones, shaving, applying makeup, fiddling with the radio or CD player, kids, texting, etc.) and poor judgement. I just got one of these from to stop the madness.

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