What caused this explosion was the Government's decision in 2000 to allow double-cabs to be classed as commercial vehicles as long as they had a payload of more than one tonne.
The knock-on effect was that many canny company car drivers opted for one of these vehicles instead of a car, thus saving themselves a huge wad of cash when paying benefit-in-kind tax.
Then, as pick-up sales soared, manufacturers obliged eager buyers by launching a whole new rake of models - singles, kings and doubles rather like you'd find in your average bed shop.
So now, CV fleet operators have a huge choice when it comes to buying pick-ups. Ford has just revamped the Ranger line-up and is aiming to suit all tastes with regular, super and double-cab versions, offering better levels of handling, comfort and security.
At the heart of the range is Ford's 2.5-litre DuraTorq diesel powerplant with either 82bhp or 108bhp and torque of 144lb-ft at 2,000 rpm or 196lb-ft at 2,000rpm. Lower-powered models come with two-wheel drive and the higher-powered ones offer four-wheel drive.
I chose the high-powered Supercab for this test as the most CV fleet-friendly model - after all, double cabs are more likely to be driven by city slickers with a penchant for weekend surfing and the single cab version lacks the versatility of this in-betweenie.
Mitsubishi claims the title of king of the pick-up castle with its feisty yet stylish L200. And while the Ranger undoubtedly has that rough, tough image, its lines can't quite match the sleekness of the Japanese offering.
Of course most fleet managers don't give a damn what their commercial vehicles look like - preferring to concentrate more on running costs and residual values - so I can't mark this Ford down on looks.
Clad as it is in silver metallic paint, it is certainly a good runner-up. The Ranger features a new bonnet, grille and front bumper and bigger, brighter headlights.
There's also a plastic front bumper and plastic rubbing strips round the wheelarches for extra protection.
At first glance, the Ranger appears to have two doors but closer inspection reveals the side rear portions of the cab are hinged from the back and open so that passengers can climb in.
Rear seats consist of two lumps of cushion which look suspiciously like hassocks you find in English churches.
I believe the Americans refer to them as buttpads. Having transported three friends home from work the other day, the two unfortunate rear passengers both agreed that three miles squashed in the back of this vehicle was quite enough.
But let's not be unfair to Ford - these seats are not meant to be anything but 'occasional' items. With no rear passengers aboard, the area allows plenty of room for tool boxes and other work paraphernalia which, of course, can then be locked in.
In contrast, the two front seats are very good indeed. Both are solid and supportive and have extra side padding to stop the occupants being thrown around too much when the going gets tough.
On the security front, remote central locking is available on Super Cab and Double Cab for the first time.
Standard goodies also include power steering, chrome finished grille, driver and passenger airbags and power windows and mirrors. Metallic paint is a £210 option and should be considered as it will boost the vehicle's residual value.
This model is likely to suffer a great deal of use and abuse in its life, being workhorse rather than workshy, but the load area looks tough enough to cope with the rigours of a busy fleet life.
Gross vehicle weight is 2,950kg and net payload 1,145kg so this truck will carry well over one tonne. There are large lashing rails and a grid behind the cab prevents loads crashing through to the cabin. behind the wheel
One of the problems with these pick-ups is that with rock hard suspension, long distance travel is not a very pleasant affair.
Fleet News recently tested a Mitsubishi L200 4Life over a three-month period and staff found it so uncomfortable that no-one wanted to take it on long journeys.
Ford has addressed this problem with the new Ranger and its ride is much softer, but without compromising off-road performance.
Even wind noise has been deadened by improved window glass sealing. Whereas the L200 features a common rail diesel engine, Ford's DuraTorq unit is 'old' tech.
But to be fair, it makes good use of that technology. There appears to be very little of the old diesel death rattle and the powerplant proves silky smooth on the road all the way up the rev range.
Power steering is nice and light - almost too light for my taste - and with a easy action clutch and slick gearchange, the general driving experience is as pleasant as you are ever likely to find in a truck.
I didn't manage to take my test vehicle off-road, but as the Ranger won the '4x4 of the year' award from Off Road and 4Wheel Drive magazine two years running, one can assume it is an admirable performer in the rough.
The Ford Ranger is not only a tough, capable fleet vehicle but it is fun to drive too. With macho western styling, versatile cab and loadspace and, of course, Ford's rock solid reputation for building reliable commercial vehicles, the Ranger is winning an admirable reputation in the fleet sector.
|Ford Ranger fact file|
|Model||Power (bhp)||Torque (lb-ft)||Payload (kg)||GVW (kg)||Price (ex-VAT)|
|2.5 TD 4x2||82||144||1,085||2,650||10,982|
|2.5 TD 4x4||108||196||1,090||2,855||14,682|
|2.5 TD 4x2||82||144||1,120||2,715||11,282|
|2.5 TD 4x4||108||196||1,145||2,950||14,982|
|2.5 TD 4x4||108||196||1,010||2,825||15,982|