Key to the mobility of our American economy is the motor truck, which hauls three out of every four tons of freight in the nation, and whose gross revenues exceed those of any other transportation mode, rail, air, or water.
Trucks do not go very far back in our history. In 1904, there were only about 700 trucks in the entire nation--many of them converted Automobiles! All the early trucks had two handicaps. Each weighed more than the load it could carry, and none could travel very far without developing mechanical trouble.
"Pioneer Freighter" in 1911
Despite those drawbacks, however, by 1911 the first "trans-continental" motor-truck tour was accomplished. A motor truck called the "Pioneer Freighter," which weighed seven tons loaded, covered the 1500-mile run from Denver to Los Angeles in sixty- six days, despite the poor and virtually nonexistent roads of that era.
On July 7, 1919, the first cross-country convoy of Army trucks left Fort Meade, Maryland, and, after ceremonies at the White House in Washington, D.C., proceeded overland to San Francisco, arriving on September 5, 1919. An officer sent by the Army as an observer for that event was a young lieutenant named Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Army and the nation had already learned the importance of the motor truck in World War I. In 1914, the nation's truck fleet numbered only some 315,000 units. By war's end, the truck fleet had increased to more than 1,000,000. Bouncing along over rough roads on their hard rubber tires to the whine of chain drives, some trucks began to venture beyond the city limits, and the trucking industry, as we know it today, was born.
During the 1920's a "Good Roads" movement began to open up new areas of the country to motor travel, and as new markets for trade and business. Old roads, which were rivers of mud in bad weather, were paved, and new highways were constructed, many over new rights-of-way.
Communities gradually became more closely connected, and, for the first time, people began taking regular jobs beyond the limits of the trolley line or interurban railway.
By 1929, just before the start of the Great Depression, the truck fleet serving the United States had grown to 3,400,000.
Values of Trucking Service
Surprisingly enough, it was the period of economic depression that pointed up the need for fast, frequent, and reliable truck service.
Merchants and businessmen were not financially able to buy their goods in railroad-car quantities. They soon learned that they could keep their stores and businesses open, and their stocks in good shape, with small daily shipments delivered to their doorsteps by truck. Thus, with limited budgets they could maintain pace with curtailed sales without tying up large amounts of money in inventory.
At the same time, manufacturers and merchants discovered they could eliminate high storage and warehouse facilities by using trucks as a mobile supply line and, in addition, could offer a wider diversity of stock by purchasing in small lots.
Consumers who had been raised on the idea, in more prosperous times, of buying in large quantities for the months ahead were also able to spread their buying over a longer period of time so they could get the most out of deeply cut salaries.
New Types of Vehicles
New and various types of trucks began to appear on America's highways.
There appeared tank trucks to carry gasoline, fuel oil, and tar, as well as specialized trucks for the transportation of livestock, farm produce, poultry, eggs, milk, and meat. Trucks to carry automobiles, structural steel, farm implements, and heavy machine parts also were developed.
The new equipment principle of separating the power unit, or tractor, from the load in a trailer, enabled a small but powerful tractor to pull a great variety of specialized trailer bodies.
From that point on specialized trailer bodies were developed for every type of freight imaginable. Trucks became a vital part of our mass production and distribution system.
Federal Government Recognition
The trucking industry continued to grow with the new equipment and in 1935, as a big industry made up of small businesses, it was recognized by the federal government and brought under direction of the Interstate Commerce Commission through the Motor Carrier Act.
Operating procedures and rate-making machinery were established for the motor transportation industry, which had now grown to include 3,675,000 vehicles.
Trucks were classed in two basic categories: "private" carriers and "for-hire" carriers. The "for-hire" carriers haul freight that is the property of others whether be it solid freight, liquid, or gas. "For-hire" carriage embraces "common carriers," which transport any freight they can, and "contract" carriers, which carry only the freight of one or more firms with whom they have contracts, such as the freight for a large food chain exclusively.
Common Carriers Defined
The "common carrier" holds itself out to the general public to engage in transportation of property by motor truck over regular or irregular routes in interstate operation. A common carrier is granted a "certificate of public convenience and necessity" by the federal government through the Interstate Commerce Commission. This, then, becomes the carrier's operating authority. Common carriers range from the carrier of general commodities to specialized types of carriers that haul household goods or automobiles. The "for-hire" common carriers make up the largest group and basic segment of those carriers regulated for the interstate transportation of freight.
The "contract carrier," the other type of "for-hire" carrier, is a company or individual that makes a contract or agreement to carry goods for compensation over any route whatsoever in interstate commerce. The authority for that type of carrier is also issued by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The "contract carrier" makes a contract with one or more shippers and is generally considered an independent contractor whose offering of transportation service is defined and limited by his individual contracts. In some cases, the "contract carrier" is almost a part of the shipper's organization.
"Contract carriers" may pick and choose among shippers whose freight they wish to haul, whereas the "common carrier" generally has to accept whatever freight is tendered to him, provided he does not require specialized equipment to handle it.
The second type of motor carrier, in addition to the "for-hire carrier," is the "private carrier." The vehicles of a "private carrier" transport his own goods--either raw materials, components, or finished goods, and sometimes certain commodities that are exempt from regulation.
The "private carrier" is exempt from economic regulation but is subject to safety regulation. Private motor carriers constitute the largest group of motor carriers of property.
25,000 Communities Now Served Only by Truck
Through the second half of the 1930's the trucking industry continued to grow, developing new routes to serve thousands of new communities totally dependent upon truck transportation. Today more than 25,000 communities throughout the country are served only by truck!
In 1941, at the start of World War II, there were nearly 500,000 trucks in the United States. The production materials and the rapid assembly line techniques pioneered during World War II depended largely upon truck transport. In some cases, steel was moved from mill to destination and was still hot when it got there!
Spectacular Contribution by Trucking Industry
The trucking industry went to war and became a strategic factor in the nation's ability to produce war materials. One aviation engine plant was so closely geared to truck service that its final assembly lines were only eight hours ahead of the delivery of cylinder blocks.
Submarine warfare along the eastern seaboard caused a shifting of railroad tank cars to eastern operations, and trucks were used successfully to fill the void.
Defense plants were built in areas that were formerly inaccessible, and trucks made it possible to keep the raw materials or semi-assembled components coming in and the finished goods moving out.
America's experience with motor transport made possible the extensive use of trucks in Africa, Europe, and Asia, and supply officers and ordinary soldiers will long remember the logistical miracles performed by the Red Ball Express in France and on the Burma and Ledo roads in Asia.
During the war, the vital job that trucks were doing was not always recognized, and it was difficult to get parts to keep the trucks running and rubber for their tires. A shortage of manpower to operate and maintain truck fleets also caused problems.
The armed forces absorbed most of the new trucks produced during the war, and virtually no replacement vehicles were available for domestic uses. America's truck fleet had shrunk by some 25,000 vehicles by the time the war ended.
After the war, the trucking industry put its fleet back in order and continued its growth, and again helped in national defense during the Korean conflict.
Great Boon to Business
The Federal Highway Act of 1956 was the start of the greatest public works projects in the history of man. This 42,500-mile system of interstate highways has tied the nation together as has no other transportation net and has caused many social, as well as the expected economic, changes.
Mobility is the key word, and Americans have become mobile as never before. The new highways have enabled people to work in one place and live in another. The network has also freed industry from the iron fetters of railroads, and, since the completion of thousands of miles of freeways, great factories and new business complexes have sprung up along their length and breadth.
Industry can locate anywhere it wants, and be as close to its markets, its labor, or its raw materials as it wishes.
Trucks are the essential factor in our new highway-oriented economy, and by 1970 the nation's truck fleet had grown to nearly 17,789,000 vehicles.
In 1963, truck transportation revenues surpassed those of railroads for the first time--a historical landmark for the trucking industry. By 1970, truck revenues were $14,400,000,000, while the revenue for railroads was $11,100,000,000.
24,000,000 Trucks by 1980's
By 1980 there will be a fleet of 25,000,000 trucks of all sizes, with 3,000,000 new trucks added each year. Intercity freight revenues will be $24,000,000,000, and trucks will perform 738,000,000,000 ton-miles of freight service.
In 1980, U.S. freight revenues will look like this: $15,200,000,000 for railroads; $24,000,000,000 for motor carriers; $2,000,000,000 for freight carried by air; $385,000,000 for inland waterway transport; and $1,500,000,000 for service by pipeline.
Those figures give some indication of the importance of transportation as an industry--an industry that will need qualified young people with specialized training to make a satisfying and well-paid career in it.
Motor Transport Offers You Exciting Opportunities
Motor carrier transportation, as the biggest freight revenue earner of all, will be using thousands of new skilled men and women every year in jobs that will not only be stimulating, but will also pay off in personal satisfaction and increasing income.
Truck transportation since World War I has changed the face of America. It will continue to serve our country's needs and make possible an even higher standard of living than we now enjoy.