A Step in the Right Direction

Libertarians – those dangerous people who think everyone has a natural (God given) right to go about their business in peace so long as their business is peaceful – won a small but important victory the other day in Texas that threatens to spread to other states.

Hopefully, at any rate.

What happened was the Texas DMV said people who buy one of those little “Kei” pick-up trucks you may have seen can now legally drive them on Texas roads. War at the Top of the ... Eric Margolis Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $14.48 (as of 09:57 UTC - Details)

Kei is short for Keitora – and refers to a type of very small truck sold in Japan and other countries where it is still legal to sell vehicles that are not legal to sell here (new) because they do not comply with the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. And while you can buy one used from a specialty importer (here’s one in my area) many states will not issue registration/tags for these little trucks, which makes them illegal to use on public (that is to say, the government’s) roads.

Anyone who dares to drive them on the government’s roads is subject to a Hut! Hut! Hutting! if an armed government worker catches them doing it. Never mind that they’re not harming anyone else – or even themselves – by doing it.

It is worth pointing out that a Mercedes S-Class sedan made circa 2000 is also not compliant with the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The take-home point being FMVSS regulations are more about compliance than safety – unless you think a circa 2000 S-Class full-size Mercedes sedan is an “unsafe” car.

Well, neither is a Kei truck. It’s just small, light, simple and useful. Some have bed walls you can fold to the sides to increase the bed’s capacity. Some are dump trucks, perfect for hauling gravel or mulch from the garden store back home.

They are also affordable.

Like the compact-sized trucks formerly sold by Chevy, Mazda, Ford and Nissan that you can’t buy new anymore – in part because of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

The least you can get now – that’s new – is a 4,000-plus-pound mid-sized truck that’s almost as big, just as heavy and more expensive than the full-sized truck of the ’90s. Models such as the ’24 Toyota Tacoma ($31,500 to start and 4,265 lbs.) and the Ford Ranger ($32,565 to start and 4,203 lbs.) and the Chevy Colorado ($29,500 to start and 4,280 lbs.) and the Nissan Frontier ($30,030 to start and an astounding 4,495 lbs.). Break It Up: Secession... Kreitner, Richard Best Price: $20.11 Buy New $18.72 (as of 04:28 UTC - Details)

All of these used to be inexpensive compact-sized pick-ups.

They’re not anymore. And there’s no new alternative to them.

But you can legally buy a used Kei truck – as well as a number of other Japan Domestic Market (JDM) vehicles originally sold in Japan that have been imported here by dealers that specialize in this trade. Some of these JDM models – like the Toyota Hi-Lux/Surf, which is basically a Toyota 4Runner/Tacoma – were available with a diesel engine that was never offered here. These models are much more fuel efficient than the gas-engine-only versions we’re allowed to buy as well as more durable.

They are thus very desirable.

The difference is the Kei trucks are newer. Or – rather – they are not old enough to be classified as exempt from all the regulatory folderol, which is how it’s possible to register and plate a ’90s-era diesel-powered Hi-Lux. If it’s 25 years old or older, it is grandfathered, at least as far as the feds are concerned.

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