Once in while we get our chance to do some hauling of our own as we interchange furniture in the number of vacation places we go; Baguio, Anvaya, Sto. Isidro, Trapiche and Silang. If the item is not too big, a pick up, err., crew cab will do nicely. So Ford, Mazda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota oblige. But what if you really have to do some genuine hauling and never mind the extra passengers? Though top sellers in Thailand, the world's biggest manufacturing source of compact pick ups, local Mazda, Mitsubishi and Nissan do not sell the single cab long bed versions of the BT-50, Strada and Navara respectively. Toyota Hi-Lux, Isuzu D-MAX and Ford Ranger bring in the single cab and chassis version but you have buy your own superstructure aft of the cab.

The haul adventure

So will the real pick up truck please stand up? North America, the biggest pick up truck market in the world is pretty clear about what it means: 2 door, with hood, single cab and long bed for the standard 4'x8' gypsum/plyboard. Say pick up in our part of the world and what you get is a 4-door crew cab with a 4'x4' short bed. Americans will then ask where do you load the plywood? To which the Filipino answers, in the hardware's store delivery truck.

Two interesting points

Which brings up two interesting points. 1.) pick ups or crew cabs here are viewed more as 4-door car substitutes rather than as compact trucks/commercial vehicles, and 2.) when a single cab pick up chassis is purchased, the preferred superstructure behind is usually a Centro or Almazora made passenger jitney type versa van.

Pattaya specials, not

These Almazora or Centro vans look far better than the ornate Pattaya jitneys mounted on top of a single cab long bed with a tall rear ladder. One would see specialized aluminum vans for local drug companies or power, telco and water utility maintenance vans, or even the odd Aussie style high clearance drop side pick up bed, but rarely a factory fit standard 4x8 long bed. This crew cab market preference is also reflected in the China's new entries like the Foton Blizzard, Great Wall Wingle and JMC. We seem to prefer being ready to accommodate impromptu passengers rather than impromptu cargo.

Mission cargo

For our latest mission, hauling two bedside tables, a ceramic faced table and a small courtyard's worth of green slate paving stones from Trapiche, Batangas to San Isidro, Pampanga on most of the country's entire North-South expressway route from STAR to SCTEx.

OC tollways

One of the first things one learns are the restrictions that toll expressway impose for everyone's road safety. No protrusions from the cargo bed in all dimensions. So no open tailgates. No people riding in the pick up bed. Nothing overflows on the side nor beyond the roof of the cab. Exceed the height poles on the toll gates, and you have to pay the Class 02 toll which is usually twice the Class 01 toll fee. You have to secure cargo lest it become unwitting 100km/h missiles at following motorists. Remember, what stays put with twine at 60km/h will shred to bits or fly off at 100km/h. Be ready to wrap your cargo against the elements and prying eyes, which is usually means a tarpaulin. Securing the cover takes more than tape and string. To be really safe, one must purchase garter cables with proper hooks that tie into the eyelets embedded in the bed liner. A bed liner is a must if you want to protect your pick up bed from abrasion and corrosion. And the tarpaulin should not fly off at any speed. All this is a lot to prepare for by a first/one time user, and it can be discouraging for someone who thought "how difficult could it be to borrow a pick-up, load, lock and go?"

Pearl luxury

The pearl finish Isuzu D-MAX X-max edition that we used in Cebu last year couldn't look any more rugged on account of the paint's dazzling pearlescence against the afternoon sky. Compact pick ups nowadays are not so compact anymore and their dashboards are one of the busiest this side of a bus's. Our LS-spec D-MAX had the obligatory audio, DVD, entertainment integrated AVT Navi on board. A nice touch is the blue focus light into the keyhole, blue instrument lighting and blue floor lighting when you open the doors. Its an LS 4x2 spec, so expect tightly sewn leather seats. The 4-speed transmission had the POWER/3rd gear Hold rocker panel, useful for full bore overtaking.

Not much damage to performance

With my kind of load, I didn't expect to maintain the 13.54secs 0-100km/h nor the 13.19kms/liter diesel highway consumption. Neither did I expect the Bridgestone H/T Duelers to come to a dead stop in 55.67m from 100km/h. But smoothly taking up the power, the D-MAX can soldier on up to 173.33km/h at a decent 3,600rpm. The advantage of my load, along with all the legally allowed number of passengers is that it takes out the typical pick-up roll, yaw, jolt and rumble that daily drivers of empty pick up beds experience. The disadvantage is that the weight transfers can make cornering very tricky. Overtaking when loaded will surely be slower and braking distances farther. Still, with full payload, the D-MAX powered us normally and fun weaves like in TV's Wacky races at the 4x4, and 3x3 sections of the NLEx can be done without scaring passengers, CCTV camera monitors and much slower motorists.

Thank you, turbo

But almost all of today's compact pick-ups available locally, have very efficient turbochargers. The most powerful, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Strada, use inter-cooled variable geometry turbo. The D-MAX i-Teq may not be cutting edge but the power is more than adequate for overtaking. I didn't have to drastically adjust my braking distances and acceleration on climbing roads, though a trip to Tali and Calatagan's winding hill climbs might be a more definitive test for a laden D-MAX.

Its in the loading

Actually, the hardest part of using a pick up is when it is being loaded and unloaded. This is where a lightweight portable Monobloc chair can be useful for getting up on the side of the bed, to assist in positioning the furniture on the floor.

On to the Mall

After delivering our load to San Isidro, we proceeded to sprawling SM Clark, which looks as Stateside as any mall, to purchase more stuff to fill our crew cab bed. Unfortunately, some of what we bought wouldn't fit at all and we had to resort to delivery. Perhaps, this is what disappoints the true believers in pick ups. If you really want to haul stuff, hire a delivery truck. Their rates are dirt cheap as they provide the hauling crew too. Their vehicle? The Isuzu NKR dropside cabovers from Japan, reconditioned for Philippine market use.

The future lies

Our next challenge is to study how to tow different kinds of trailers for 1.) a speedboat, 2.) twinned jet skis and 3.) a horse box. In preparation for towing training, I am already checking out not only how to hitch a trailer and back it up, but also how to hook up the trailer brakes, clearance lights and stop/tail lamps. Grizzled local commercial trailer drivers are already laughing at my first world anxieties. Till the next pick up adventure....