Brief history of trucking in the U.S.

The greatness of the United States is represented in the capacity that land freight transportation has had in supplying the consumption needs of its inhabitants by means of diverse vehicles that travel day and night -without stopping-; this, thanks to the fact that it reaches places of very difficult access, fulfilling at the same time the consumption demands of the Americans. Although this has been a process that continues to evolve throughout history, one word encapsulates both the road development and the economic prosperity of this trade in the United States: organization.

It is well known that before having the vehicles we know today, travel between places was done by means of carriages that were brought by horses or mules, which traveled along roads that would later become highways.

However, by the second half of the 1800s, freight was transported by rail. In 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad joined to create the Transcontinental Railroad, which would connect the western part of the territory with the eastern part by means of railroads (Lojistic, 2021). When faced with the difficulty that this means of transportation did not reach all places, the most efficient way to achieve it was sought, and so the first engine-powered structures, of very precarious manufacture and that made use of elements such as solid rubber tires, began to be known.

The first prototype truck was created in 1896 by Gottlieb Daimler and four years later, in 1900, Jack and Gus Mack of Brooklyn, New York, founded the company that would become Mack Trucks, a trucking company still in existence today (Mack Trucks, 2021). While seeking to modernize the mode of transportation, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce sponsored a truck that would make the first road trip between Seattle and New York, a journey that would take 31 days.

It is at this point in history where the discussion about the best way to transport goods from point A to point B begins. Although the railroad routes represented less time for deliveries, the transportation of goods by truck would gain followers due to the reliability it generated among distributors and customers, while achieving greater access in those places where there were no railroads.  

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the American trucking industry has stood out for the organization that characterizes it. The first great event that would demonstrate the union and the interest in collective development occurred in 1903, the year in which the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) was formed, thanks to the union among truckers seeking better opportunities; this would be recognized as the first most powerful trucking union in history.

Later, in 1914, inventors Otto Neumann and August Fruehauf invented the semi-trailer, to which an innovation was added a year later: the fifth wheel, a coupling device that allowed semi-trailers to be quickly and safely hitched and unhitched (trailer, 2021).

In addition, upcoming events such as World War II would contribute to momentous events that would establish the formation of one of the most organized associations in the U.S. trucking industry: the ATA. If you want to know more, check out our blog “The formation of the ATA and World War II”.

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