We see all kinds of trucks, from pickup trucks containing farmers or happy families, to 18-wheelers hauling all kinds of cargo. The largest trucks carry huge payloads along highways, traveling across country to deliver these important items. Were it not for trucks, we could not receive many of the goods and materials we have today. However, we rarely think about how they came to be.
Trucks Get Their Start
Before mechanical engines were invented, trucks were drawn by humans or pack animals. Railroads were responsible for the majority of inland transport of services and goods, so this industry received the most attention. Though trains were relatively efficient and quick, their reach was limited. Society demanded more power from alternative methods of transportation and inventors responded by first developing road vehicles powered by steam, then by internal combustion engines.
During the early 20th century, hundreds of truck manufacturers existed but few endured. Trucking did not establish itself quickly as a niche industry because vehicle manufacturers could not meet its changing needs. Those that did have familiar names including Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Mack, and Peterbilt. While some catered to private consumers, others focused on the commercial marketplace.
Henry Ford created the first Ford truck in 1900 and introduced the first chassis built specifically for trucks in 1917. The Mack Brothers introduced the Junior Model, a lightweight 1 ½ ton truck, in 1909. The Mack Senior truck followed and by 1922, the brothers changed the company name from Falleson & Berry to Mack Trucks, Incorporated. Mack even produced fire apparatus, marine engines, and trucks for the military during wartimes.
Trucking Companies Emerge
Early trucking companies were started by drivers who had single trucks featuring solid rubber tires and open cabs. Increased demand led to companies with dedicated fleets or multiple drivers transporting commodities between major cities. The first trucking boom occurred during the 1920s thanks to new and improved roads, closed cabs, and balloon tires that made long-distance transport more feasible.
Trucking companies that survived the Depression benefited from the subsequent improvements in the economy. The Motor Carrier Act passed in 1935 authorized additional regulation of the trucking industry, ending the legislative competition between the automotive and railway industries. With the 1956 Interstate Highway System authorization, the trucking industry became a major player in transport of goods and services. Trucks also became more popular as passenger vehicles, with manufacturers redesigning trucks created for war efforts.