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The Dawn of Motor Trucking

Jim Willett [ February 2006 ]

I have always thought of trucks being an offshoot of passenger vehicles. I guess that comes from seeing turn of the century spindly looking conveyances that have no space on them for anything, but a couple of suicidal minded persons. Actually, in pursuing information for this short article, I primarily used a 1966-copyrighted book “That Was Trucking” by Robert R Karolevitz, a 192 page hardcover book covering commercial vehicles from the first quarter of the 20th century. The first crude wheezing gasoline powered trucks to those of the early twenties.

What is surprising is the fact that the appearance and the models of these early trucks changed little during these first years of the 20th century. While the earliest trucks exposed the operator and any passengers to the elements, this was thought to be inconsequential because of the short distances that these first movers of commerce and industry were capable of traveling, many on nothing more than steel rimmed large wagon wheels. What did become very apparent after only a few years of using these machines in place of horses, was the undeniable fact that much bigger loads could be hauled for smaller investments in equipment, and for less time spent tending to the machines over the horses.

Huge trucks dominated the trucking industry from the start. In pursuing the article on types of trucks and sizes, it was truly amazing to see the height obtained by stacking the products being moved. It certainly is obvious that many of the ancient trucks were overloaded even by today’s standards. This has to be a testament to the durability of the wagon makers, turned truck body manufacturers. The mechanical components of these earliest trucks appeared to be forged into solid steel components making an extremely heavy machine. Those early large commercial conveyances were probably susceptible to sinking from sight in the highways turned to mud troughs during spring thaws.

I have tried to cover the truck in its infancy in this article, and I would like to do a couple of other articles on commercial vehicles, around the home, the farm, commercial and industrial plants during the early days of transportation by truck. After all, the railroads who had a monopoly on long distance freight would soon see in the coming years a big change. To be continued...

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