Trucking Industry Evolution

These days we see transport trucks everywhere. We know that these trucks and their drivers deliver most of our products and materials to their destinations, but how did this start? Who created the first transport truck? How did the commercial trucking industry evolve? We examine the history of the truck and the trucking industry in today’s blog post.

Before Transport Trucks

People have always had a need to move goods. before the invention of the truck people moved goods by hand or with the use of animals. Into the 19th century railroads were the number one way to transport goods. The downside of this was that rail carriers often took a long time to transport goods anywhere so anything that needed immediate transporting was done by vehicles drawn by pack animals.

Eventually the creation of the steam-powered vehicle led to technologies such as suspension, steering, and braking which would lay the foundation for the cars and trucks we see today.

The biggest invention to help boost vehicle potential was the internal combustion engine. Once this was created the opportunities for vehicle advancement truly began to emerge.

The First Semi-Truck

The first semi-truck was invented by Alexander Winton in Cleveland, Ohio in 1898. The truck was created to help handle the delivery of manufactured vehicles. This truck became the foundation for trucks we see today.

The first major trucking boom happened in postwar 1920s. The use of the semi-truck became possible due to the development of paved roadways during this time. Trucks were able to travel longer distances and evolved with the invention of ‘balloon tires’ and closed cabs, which allowed for more comfortable driving over greater distances, all while carrying more freight.

There were many trucking companies during this time but only few lasted (many went under during the depression). Those few were companies that did last were able to do so because they adapted to the growing needs of the trucking industry.

The Motor Carrier Act

The Motor Carrier Act passed in 1935 marked a change in the transport industry. This act allowed the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate the trucking industry.

The MCA:

  • Established freight-hauling rate regulations
  • Limited hours truckers were allowed to drive
  • Oversaw trucking company’s range as well as type of freight they could carry

Trucking companies worried that these regulations would override the edge they had over rail carriers at the time but, lucky for the transport industry, road infrastructure continued to improve and opened up the opportunity for more truck traffic.

World War II

After World War II another shift came in the trucking world. The emergence of new engine designs meant a shift from standard gasoline to diesel engines. Trucks were now being built for longer distances, higher speeds, and heavier loads.

Present Day Trucking

More recently the rising oil prices have affected everyone in the trucking industry. There is an increased cost to transport goods around the world and that has contributed to a rise in the cost of goods and services. These days everyone wants to move freight faster and more efficiently, all at a lower cost. This is a constant struggle and is becoming increasingly difficult for the transport industry to accomplish.

The driver shortage, traffic congestion, increased regulations, rising costs, and security issues are all problems that now affect the trucking industry. These roadblocks affect how our goods are transported and put increased pressure on the transport industry to deliver on their promises and deliver freight in a timely manner.

It is important to tackle these more recent problems in the trucking industry and develop new ways to increase productivity and innovate trucks in order to deliver freight more efficiently. This may mean more fuel-efficient trucks, trucks powered by a completely different fuel source, automated trucks, or additional trucking technology that can work with truck drivers and the transport industry in order to evolve the trucking industry even further than we have ever seen.