Take a Drive: The History of Trucking

As you sit in your big rig taking a break from driving, do you ever wonder how you got there in the first place? You know, how the whole trucking industry even came to be? The history of #TruckingNation is a fascinating tale, so buckle your seat belts as we take a drive through the history of trucking, starting with the early 1900s.

1880-1900: Goodbye Horse and Cart

Long before 18-wheelers dominated the roadways, trains and horses were the main sources of transportation in the United States! Trains had the power and ability to transport cargo across the country, which would normally take a team of 40 horses. So naturally, trains monopolized the industry.

And yes, during this time internal combustion engines worked to speed along motorized truck development (the horseless carriages), but trains maintained their firm grasp on the industry. And they knew their power, charging unreasonably high rates while ignoring any claims against damaged freight.  

1910-1930: The Rise of the Trucks

As the feud between governmental regulations (Interstate Commerce Commission) and trains swirled, trucks began to make waves of their own in the industry. And although trains had the capacity to deliver large amounts of freight, trucks were proving that they could deliver goods at a faster rate. During this period, trucks became more of what you think of them today – with a fifth wheel to hook to a trailer.

Check out the picture – it’s your truck’s grandpa! 

1930-1950: No Regulations = FREEDOM!

With regulations plaguing the train industry, trucks were free to traverse the streets, making deliveries and setting their own rates without question. Many train operators complained about the unfair treatment, demanding that restrictions be passed for the trucking industry. Unfortunately, to settle the playing field, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act to regulate the exchange of goods by interstate. And the government control didn’t slow down from there either (cue eye roll).

But hey! The 1950s sure did have nice looking trucks! What do you think of that?

1950-1990: The Government Control Years

Over a span of forty years, the one common theme for the trucking industry was the amount of government regulations that went into place. From the creation of the Department of Transportation in 1967, the Surface Transportation Act in 1982, to the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, truckers became burdened with taxes and carriers were limited with regulations.

Fun fact, the fuel price for diesel was $1.04 back in 1998 – doesn’t that just make you envious of the early years? Speaking of the early years, take a look at these weird concept trucks.
2000s: The (Almost) Death of the Trucking Industry

You were hit hard in the 2000s! Who remembers? The country plummeted into a recession, gas prices soared, businesses declared bankruptcy, protests broke out, and the trucking industry suffered. Even the largest of carriers became plagued with the declining economy, as many of them were forced to shut their doors and lay off drivers. And it seems like we wouldn’t recover with gas prices peaking at almost five dollars a gallon.

But you tell us, what do you think historians will write about the trucking industry, starting in 2010? Will the passing of the new e-logs be a big topic, or what about the driver shortage?

And although regulations and taxes are still prevalent in the industry, isn’t it nice to have services like ExpressTruckTax to e-file your 2290, TSNAmerica to do the work for you, or even TruckLogics to help you run your entire trucking business even down to finding the best route? Be sure to check them out!

Let us know in the comment section below what you think about the history of the trucking industry, or share with us on our Facebook page. We look forward to hearing from you.

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