Truck Safety: Not as Strong as They could be – Mid-Size Pickup Edition

iihs nissan frontier roof strength truck safety

Do all mid-size pickup trucks have the same roof strength to protect occupants in a case of a rollover?  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performs a series of crash tests and safety evaluations.  One of the tests they perform is the “Roof strength” test.  This procedure is fairly straight forward and its results can be displayed in an easily understood graph.  (See IIHS video below, which demonstrates the test).

The strength of the roof is determined by pushing a metal plate against the driver’s side of the roof at a slow and constant speed. The force applied relative to the vehicle’s weight is shown as the strength-to-weight ratio. The graph shows how the ratio varies as the metal plates continues to push against the vehicle. The peak strength-to-weight ratio recorded at any time before the roof is crushed five inches is the key measurement of roof strength.

full size pickup trucks iihs roof strength data

“Good” rating requires a strength-to-weight ratio of at least 4.oo.  In other words, the roof must withstand a force of at least four times the vehicle’s weight before the plate crushes the roof by five inches. The higher the number – the better.  And the steeper the graph in the beginning – the stronger the roof structure and the lesser distance the roof is likely to squish during an accident.

This table shows how 2011-2013 mid-size crew cab pickup trucks faired.  The 2013 Nissan Frontier has the highest Force Ratio and the only “Good” rating in the segment.  It can withstand a force of 4.11 times its own curb weight and allowing the roof to deflect or crush 4.70 inches.  If you look at the graph carefully, you can see that as the force is continued to be applied past 4.7 inches – the roof becomes a little weaker.  This graph shape is typical for most vehicles.  The structural rigidity of the roof can only go so far.

Force Ratio Roof Deflection IIHS Rating
2013 Nissan Frontoier Crew 4.11 4.70 in Good
2011 Ford Ranger Crew 3.32 4.63 in Acceptable
2013 Dodge Dakota Crew 3.23 4.00 in Marginal
2013 Toyota Tacoma Crew 3.08 3.48 in Marginal
2013 GMC Canyon Crew 2.86 5.00 in Marginal
2013 Chevrolet Colorado Crew 2.86 5.00 in Marginal

See image gallery below for each individual graph.

This video from shows what happens to a 2009 VW Tiguan and a 2008 KIA Sportage when equal crush force of 15,000 pounds is applied to each: