What it's like to conduct Truck of the Year testing
“Do you want your burrito deep-fried?” By the time associate online editor Alex Nishimoto was asked that question, he had spent almost five hours under the blazing Arizona sun while hooking up trailers and learning the stressful maneuvers required to reverse a 22,000-pound (10,000-kg) gooseneck into a narrow parking space. Alex nodded his assent when the tattooed cook at “R” Burger asked the question. And this was only day one.
That’s Truck of the Year for you: a week full of questionable culinary decisions, topped with blazing sun and lots of towing. Of the seven judges who participated this year, three were newbies. Detroit editor Alisa Priddle joined Alex and yours truly as the rookie participants of the program. From dawn to dusk, we spent five full days in the desert testing seven pickups from three tough-truck brands.
Every day was packed with planned and unplanned activities. Just before sunset one evening, Alisa got a flat in the priciest F-150 during a drifting session in a quarry (located on the wrong side of a flash-flood washout that required significant low-speed rock crawling). As dusk waned, we quickly swapped the spare and headed to the hotel, where we met with Benny’s Mobile Tire Service. He took the flat off of the rim, patched it, resealed the bead, and inflated the tire to its correct psi.
In total, the process took less than 25 minutes. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” he said proudly as associate road test editor Erick Ayapana double-checked the (correct) wheel lug nut torque in the owner’s manual.
Also notable were Alisa’s eating notes while riding shotgun up Davis Dam in one of the Colorados. “Do not try to eat an In-N-Out burger while the truck is moving,” she said as she cleaned the splotches of secret sauce from her shirt and pants.
The 17 colleagues that made this Truck of the Year possible turned into a family as dinnertime approached. The tears of joy, the jokes, and emotional experiences that we exchanged at the dinner table brought us closer together. And by the time we had our last supper, we looked more like best friends than co-workers. That’s how the best team in the business operates. That’s how Motor Trend’s 2018 Truck of the Year happens.