Lone Star State of Mind

This is a guest post courtesy of Michael A. Marrs, President, Texas Auto Writers Association

With room to roam, driving in Texas is often seen as a rite of passage – after all, it is over 800-miles across the state east to west on IH10. North to South is almost as far! There are counties in Texas that are larger than some east coast states, and the distance between two points is often talked of in travel time instead of travel miles. Combining distance with the variety of terrain and the need to get services and goods to the consumer, Texas has become home of the largest truck markets in the country. Nearly 1-in-4 pickup trucks are sold in the state. With the evolution of the pickup truck from an all-purpose work vehicle into a user-friendly family vehicle, the amount of trucks on the road continue to increase.  Mom may use the crew cab truck to get the kids to school, grab some groceries and make the PTA meeting. Come the weekend, dad may load up the family of five along with the camping gear and boat to head out for the weekend. Friday night date night is also on the schedule as trucks are used for transportation, for work, for family and even for a little pleasure.


It is the growth of the truck market that inspired the Texas Auto Writers Association to create the Texas Truck Rodeo. For this unique event, truck manufacturers are invited to bring their best to Texas where the journalist membership of the association will get a chance to look them over. They spend two days driving Texas roads as well as in a little dirt. For the 2015 event, the dirt course became rock as the roads on the historic Knibbe Ranch were treated to a spring flood not long before the event started.

Knibbe Ranch

Left to right: Meagan Shamy, Fabian Campos, David Anderson, Larry Kavanagh, Michael Marrs

There were 88 trucks on the grounds of the ranch for the 2015 event which included some display-only vehicles such as the BF Goodrich and Michelin Tire displays.  There were 81 trucks, SUVs and CUVs that needed to be driven, and that they were. Being able to get behind the wheel of one manufacturer’s vehicle, then immediately get behind the wheel of the competing brand offers a unique perspective on ride, quality of build and even personal preferences. Most brands had an engineer or brand manager on hand to help explain features, functionality or answer questions.

It was after two days that the 2016 Truck of Texas was crowned – the all-new 2016 Nissan Titan XD!


With new sheet metal and a new Cummins engine under the hood, the Titan XD was evaluated by 69 media members against competitors from Ford, GM, Ram and Toyota.  At this level, it takes a lot to stand out, particularly considering the commonalities that go into building a capable truck. Of course, they all roll on at least four rubber tires, and they all have a frame. For the modern truck, it is a high-strength steel frame that keeps it all together and is the basic support for the rest of the truck. Not only does the frame support the body and bed, it is part of the safety design for crash ratings.

At the 2015 Texas State Fair Media Day, Ford revealed the new Super Duty F-250. During the media presentation, there was a dramatic video to show the strength of the high-strength steel frame they are using. To highlight the new frame, made up of 95 percent high-strength steel and up to 24 times stiffer than the previous frame, Ford demonstrated its strength by hanging eight Ford F-150 trucks at 4,700 lbs. each from the frame. But they didn’t stop there; they added the famous F-750 Tonka truck, weighing 13,660 lbs. to create an outstanding visual. As you can see in the below video, the new high-strength steel frame can hold 60,300 lbs. without breaking a sweat.

The following month at the 2015 Texas Truck Rodeo, media attendees were also offered an educational session that included a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado / GMC Canyon ‘body-in-white.’ Well, not all white, as it was color coded with the different strengths of steel that are used in a vehicle for support strength as well as to protect occupants during a collision. It looked very much like a color palette on wheels!


It is through partnerships with groups such as the Steel Market Development Institute that organizations such as the Texas Auto Writers Association are able to learn more about the inside of the automotive industry. This type of opportunity provides additional membership value in the form of expanding educational opportunities. Members learn more about the products on the market, which also enhances their capabilities and hopefully will lead to more opportunities in the automotive journalist market place.

About TAWA
The Texas Auto Writers Association, Inc., is a non-profit organization providing growth, development, and networking opportunities for media members, as well as providing scholarships for journalism majors in the State of Texas education system. 

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