Trucks

The Proud History of the Trucking Industry

A yellow freight truck speeds down an empty road

The trucking industry is a major part of the world’s economics. No matter what time of the day or night you’re on the highway, you’ll see a semi-truck hauling a load. 

It’s estimated that 71% of the freight that’s moved throughout the United States is transported via the trucking industry. Not only is the trucking industry responsible for hauling several hundred thousand tons of different types of freight every single day, but it is also responsible for keeping approximately 8.9 million people employed. Those involved with the trucking industry are proud of how it’s contributing to the development of new vehicle technology and it’s rich history.

The trucking industry before trucks

The trucking industry has a history that dates all the way back to when the first American colonists decided they should ship freight and goods from one colony to the next. Since they didn’t have trucks, they relied on wagons pulled by horses, oxen, or mules to deliver the freight. The trails those first freight haulers carved into the wilderness eventually became the first roads.

Motorized trucks take over the country

Near the start of the 20th Century, the horse, oxen, and mule-drawn freight wagons gradually gave way to motorized wagons. By 1912, trucks/motorized wagons had taken over.

There were approximately 10,000 trucks in operation throughout the United States. Wanting a faster way to ship west coast goods to the east coast, in 1916 the Seattle Chamber of Commerce arranged to sponsor a truck that made the run from Seattle to NYC. Until that point, the fastest way to ship goods from one city to the other was trains. It took the driver 31 days to make the trip.

Trucks vs. trains

While it was widely accepted that there was no way horse-drawn freight lines could compete with the up and coming trucking industry, there was a great deal of debate about whether trucks were better than trains.

Most shipping companies found that they could ship goods from point A to point B faster when they used the train, but that the trucks were a more reliable and versatile form of shipping. While a great deal of freight is still shipped via train, the trucking industry now handles the bulk of the freight shipping. Especially when the freight has to go to areas where there are no longer any railroad tracks.

The trucking industry booms

The heyday of the trucking industry started in the ’60s and the early ’70s. During that time, trucking became the preferred way to ship freight. It also captured the attention of both scriptwriters and country songwriters who turned truck drivers into heroes.

During that time period, drivers were quick to sign on with trucking companies because they didn’t need to acquire a special education, they thought that life on the road sounded romantic. Not to mention, the pay was good. 

In the mid to late ’70s, the trucking industry started falling apart. The fuel crisis not only made it more expensive to ship freight via truck, but also prompted many drivers and loaders to strike. 

Currently, the trucking industry is going strong. Partly because of the recent stabilization of fuel costs, improved efficiency of modern semi-trucks, and increasing tensions between the train companies and businesses that need items delivered.

As long as businesses need to ship freight, the truck industry will remain healthy, though the owners of freight shipping companies do face some interesting challenges.

One of the biggest concerns the trucking industry is currently worried about is how they’re going to continue to find drivers. The rising disinterest in blue-collar jobs such as truck driving makes it harder to find drivers.

In an attempt to recruit drivers, many trucking companies offer large incentive programs that include great benefits and training. Additionally, the companies have tried to create routes that allow drivers to spend more time with their families and have increased driver salaries. 

There’s no doubt that the trucking industry will remain an important part of the economy for a long time to come. One thing’s for sure, it will be interesting to see how the industry evolves over the next few decades.