How trucks have changed over the years
Since the inception of heavy haul and other transport semis in the late 1800s, semi trucks have adapted to various industry needs beginning with vehicle transport and later the lucrative heavy haul business. The need for semi trucks has only increased over the years as more and more industries rely on these vehicles to transport goods of all kinds globally.
The Early Years of Trucking
In 1898, the first semi truck was invented by Alexander Winton in Cleveland, Ohio. Winton began designing automobiles in the late 1800s and envisioned the semi truck as a way to transport his automobiles. The first design was staunchly different than the widespread semi-trucks we see nowadays. In fact, this first model housed the engine in the back of the truck and was little more than a sophisticated tractor with a trailer that could transport just one car.
August Charles Fruehauf created a different model in 1914 that could transport a boat and dubbed it the “semi-trailer.” Another major disruption for the trucking industry came in 1916 when the introduction of the closed cab Mack truck allowed for the transport of a variety of goods. In addition, the trailmobile concept, created by John C. Endebrock, was introduced in 1918 and employed the use of an iron chassis that could be mounted on the wheels and used a spring that could be attached behind a Ford. The 1930s introduced a semi-trailer model that could transport up to four vehicles, fashioned by a car salesman named George Cassens.
The Evolution of Semi-Trailers
Half a century after the introduction of the first semi-trailer, major changes were being instituted that would morph the semi-trailers of yesterday into the semi-trucks we are more familiar with today. In the 1950s, the first cab-over was introduced, revolutionizing the trucking industry. Beginning in 1953, Freightliner produced its first overhead sleeper model, causing other manufacturers to follow in their footsteps. An added milestone for the trucking industry was the authorization of the Interstate Highway System in 1956, allowing for trucking to grow even further. Following World War II, the trucking industry saw the emergence of new engine designs, which utilized direct injection turbo-charged diesel that concentrated on performance. Engine manufacturers such as the U.S. Cummins and British Perkins companies began aggressively supplying the market with diesel engines through the 1960s as the trucking industry began deviating from ordinary gasoline.
Freightliner presented the Powerline model in the early 1970s. The cab-over style saw a brief resurgence in the late 1990s as a means to hit length restrictions. Freightliner’s innovations endured during this time through the introduction of a big rig model, which showed the sleeper inside the cab. The Peterbilt Model 386 was announced in 2005 and resulted in the EPA SmartWay program. It began the focus on fuel efficiency in semi-trucks.
The Semi Trucks of Today
The early 2000s saw a push to engineer sustainable trucking designs that focused on meeting environmental regulations. Today’s goal concentrates on reducing emissions while improving fuel efficiency in semi trucks. A pioneer in this movement was Wal-Mart because they are developing a truck that attempts to double fuel efficiency. Today, almost 33% of all semi-trucks on the road are close to zero emissions.
What started as a two-wheeler carrying only one vehicle, morphed into an 18-wheeled machine, capable of carrying several cars and moving more than an average of 700,000 tons of cargo per year. These new megalith trucks have allowed the trucking industry to expand into new types of business, including the profitable heavy haul loads. Advancements were imperative in order to accommodate what the trucking industry calls “heavy hauls.” These semi-trucks are engineered to transport loads above the 48,000-pound mark. These trailers can haul between 40,000 to 120,000 pounds. Considering the trucking industry carries over 10.5 billion tons of cargo annually and requires 3.4 million heavy-duty trucks and 3.5 million truck drivers to do the job, it’s understandable that heavy haul loads are gaining in popularity.
Semi-trucks have come a long way since their original tractor-employing-a-trailer model. Thanks to improvements along the way, today’s semi-trucks have the ability to drive further, carry more and harm the environment less. This only adds more opportunities to the trucking industry, allowing for even more advancement in the future.
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