With the ridiculous price of fuel these days, combined with the fact that I’ll be needing a new car soon, I’ve been thinking about what type of vehicle will fit my driving needs by handling well in mud and snow, but still get decent gas milage. I was excited to find that Best Used Tractors is importing “Japanese mini trucks” for the American market.
I was incredibly disappointed to learn, however, that the newer trucks cannot be used on US roadways, which brings me to the point of this story. If you wish to import a Japanese mini truck and use it on American roads, it must be made in 1980 or earlier to avoid restrictions. While I’m sure that the the government would claim that this is due to safety standards, or any of a hundred other bureaucratic reasons, the fact remains the same. Four wheel drive vehicles, made by respected manufacturers such as Honda may not be used on US roads even though we are entering a global fuel shortage, and they are among the most fuel efficient vehicles on the planet. Evidently, we can drive as many Hummers and Lincoln Navigators as we wish, but try to use something that sips fuel rather than guzzles it and the D.O.T. will put you in your place. It’s really a shame.
According to Best Used Tractors, the Japanese have restrictions that discourage the use of aging vehicles, so most of these mini trucks have only about 6,000 miles on them when they are decommissioned. Needless to say, these little trucks have a lot of life left in them, and a more or less steady supply of them is virtually assured.
Due to regulations Americans are unable to import a Japanese mini truck manufactured in 1998 or later. However, the average number of miles driven per year in Japan is only about 6,000, so these vehicles usually have a lot of remaining usability.
I wonder what it would take to get the U.S. government to accept them. I can imagine the person who fights these restrictions would do well in the court of public opinion with petroleum prices as high as they are.
Here are some more details about the trucks:
Starting in the sixties the Japanese manufactured what they termed â€œKei classâ€ vehicles (now generally called â€œK-classâ€). Kei means â€œlight weightâ€. These were built as a less expensive, fuel efficient, shorter, narrower, and lighter alternative to the standard size and weight vehicles termed â€œjoyoushaâ€. The K-class vehicles have included passenger cars, vans, and mini trucks. Best Used Tractors imports used K-class mini trucks, but not the vans or passenger cars. The Japanese have used these small off road trucks to perform a myriad of burden carrier tasks. They have often equipped the rear truck beds of these little trucks with specialized industry specific equipment. When many consider their special purpose vehicles options they often find used mini trucks from Japan to be their best choice.
Zach points out that safety standards need to be imposed by government agencies, and that the restrictions prohibiting the use of these trucks are reasonable. I maintain, however, that the government is overstepping its bounds by limiting what I can buy. For instance, believe that it is reasonable for the FDA to regulate the contents of my food. Should these regulations not be in place, it could contain dangerous levels of any number of toxins without my knowing it. This does not change, however, the fact that I can still buy bleach at the market. I am free to drink it if I wish, but I would do so knowing that it is poison because the government requires that the bottle be labeled.
When a motorist buys a motorcycle he or she does so knowing and accepting inherent risks of riding it. If these little trucks are deemed to not meet American vehicle standards that is fine. Inform me about it, but let me happily drive away in my new – used little truck.
UPDATE: They’re not little japanese trucks, but Casey over at maisonbisson has a story about a really cool little electric car.