In the scope of a contractor’s daily labors, pickup trucks are often just another tool and don’t draw that much excitement. But with wish-list new features and upgrades on the horizon, the latest generation of pickups offer plenty to rev up work-truck buyers.

If you are considering updating your fleet in the months ahead, it is worth taking a look at some of the ways major brands are revitalizing their lineups. 

Reinventing Ram

Topping the list of interesting new models is the thoroughly redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 pickup. Extensive styling and feature updates aside, work-truck buyers will benefit from what’s said to be the strongest-ever frame to be put under the half-ton Ram.

Also, the use of 98%high-strength steel for the frame, combined with a judicious use of aluminum and composites elsewhere, makes the whole package 225 lb lighter than the outgoing model. For commercial truck owners, this weight reduction has the practical benefits of increased payloads and tow ratings.

Specifically, the 2019 Ram will carry up to 2,300 lb of cargo and, properly equipped, tow trailers up to 12,750 lb.

One of two engines will be moving all that freight down the road: a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 and a 395-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Both come mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

A new fuel-saving, mild hybrid system, dubbed eTorque, is standard on the V6 and optional on the V8. The system takes the place of the traditional alternator and starter while providing extra torque when needed. Finally, the setup provides an automatic stop-and-start function, aimed at reducing fuel consumption.

Other high points include improved aerodynamics, including clever features such as a front air dam that automatically lowers at speeds above 35 mph, and active grille shutters, taller bed sides and an integrated tailgate spoiler—all designed to help boost the truck’s overall fuel economy.

The new Ram crew-cab models are also four inches longer, making for roomier interiors, with rear seats that fold to create a flat load floor.

But when you do go to look at the Ram 1500 on your dealer’s lot, bear in mind the manufacturer will continue to offer the previous generation into 2018, providing more economical options for the cautious contractor.

Fortified Ford

There is also big news from the folks behind the Blue Oval. Ford engineers have given F-150 buyers a sixth engine choice in the form of an optional 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-6. This engine features a fuel-saving automatic start-stop feature similar to the one found on the Ram 1500. This engine option is backed up by Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission.

According to the manufacturer, this power-train setup has an output of 250 horsepower and a whopping 440 ft-lb of torque, an impressive number that outclasses the F-150’s available 5.0-liter gasoline V8. While EPA ratings on this new diesel power train are not yet available, Ford sources tell ENR that buyers can expect at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway, which would make it the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup on the market today. This power train can haul 2,020 lb of cargo and tow trailers up to 11,400 lb.

Not content to abandon the midsize-pickup segment to its U.S. and Japanese rivals, the 2019 Ford Ranger returns to give trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma a run for their money. The last Ranger—once the dominant midsize pickup—was dropped back in 2011.

This new version, which uses considerably more steel than its larger, all-aluminum F-150 sibling, will be more of a “lifestyle” version of the Ranger sold in other global markets and now updated for American tastes.

According to Ford, the only power train expected to be offered is the 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder, which in other applications produces horsepower numbers on par with other manufacturers’ V6 engines, paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission. Ford is promising class-leading towing capability, which would put it somewhere around the 8,000-lb mark.

When this new Ranger starts rolling off assembly lines in late 2018, it and the recently redesigned F-150 and F-250/F-350 Super Duty will once again make Ford a full-line player in the commercial truck market.

Century of Chevy

Marking the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet trucks, General Motors has announced the upcoming fourth-generation Silverado, the No. 2 best-selling pickup in the U.S.

When it begins production in Michigan, Indiana and Mexico at the end of 2018, the Silverado will sport new bodywork that’s both visually and aerodynamically sleeker. In an effort to boost fuel economy, the pickup will feature more lightweight materials, including aluminum doors, hood and tailgate. That said, the truck-maker emphasizes that, elsewhere in the new model, it is sticking with good old-fashioned steel.

Powering this new Silverado will be one of three different engines: a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder Duramax turbodiesel and 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter gasoline V8s. In pursuit of improved fuel mileage, the new Silverado V8s will feature an updated cylinder deactivation technology, known as Dynamic Fuel Management, that can shut down as many as six cylinders when road and load conditions permit. A new 10-speed automatic transmission, which comes mated to the diesel and larger gasoline engines, also should help to boost fuel economy.

Commercial buyers are not likely to overlook the business end of any pickup, and the new Silverado’s cargo bed will be made of higher-grade steel. Reportedly deeper and seven inches wider, the cargo bed has roughly 20% more volume than those of competing models. Beds also feature a dozen tie-downs and can be had with integrated, lockable cargo boxes.

Equally important to commercial customers will be the 2019 return of Chevrolet’s Silverado 4500HD and 5500HD models, which were dropped from the lineup after GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. Power for these new heavy-duty models is said to come from the proven Duramax diesel engine backed by an Allison transmission.

Add the popular Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups and GM will soon have a broad portfolio of new or recently redesigned pickups to suit the needs of a wide range of commercial buyers.