The History of Trucking and the Birth of Big Rigs

Dispatcher training

Today, trucking is seen as a cultural symbol of life in North America. Made famous through T.V., movies, and songs – long stretches of highway, truck stops and country music are all forever associated with the trucking lifestyle. But despite the prevalence of semi-trucks on the road today, trucking only truly began as an industry at the turn of the 20th century.  Even dispatching training didn’t exist until long after the invention of semi-truck transportation. Read on to learn how big rigs and trucking careers have become such an essential part of the North American economy.

The Birth of the Big Rig

The first true semi-truck was invented by Alexander Winton in 1898. The truck was actually built to help him move his car inventions to different car lot locations in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The idea was pursued later on in 1914 by a man named August Charles Fruehauf, who needed a carriage to carry a friend’s boat. He invented the semi-trailer, which he then hitched to the back of a Ford. Semi-trucks hit it big, especially in the logging industry – which originally transported logs by river, or by horse and carriage. But at this point in history, trucking was super slow. Trucks only had pure rubber tires, and most roads weren’t even paved, which made trips long and rocky. The invention of air-filled tires by André Michelin meant trucks could finally travel at higher speeds.

The 20th Century

In 1935, the US government passed the Motor Carrier Act, which brought regulation to motor carriers by setting standard tariffs and creating trucking routes. The signing of this act was a pivotal point for modern trucking. By the 1950s and 60s, containers began to appear attached to semi-trucks, as opposed to the original flat-beds used up until then. Container shipping had the advantage of reducing theft and cutting damage costs. Trucking really got on its feet after President Roosevelt ordered the construction of an interstate highway system, revolutionizing transportation. After half a century of successful trucking, the official Department of Transportation was created in 1967.

Trucking Today

There were over 26 million trucks on the road by 2006. The expansion of massive retailers like Wal-Mart has largely contributed to the increased number of trucks on the road during the 21st century. A higher volume of trucks eventually led to the creation of trucking dispatchers. Dispatcher training is now considered essential for trucking companies, and dispatchers are in charge of arranging pickups, drop-offs and communicating with truck drivers.

High-Tech Trucks

Now that trucking has been established as a primary method of shipping goods, what’s next? Many people believe that self-driving big rigs are the future of trucking. Mercedes-Benz has already released promotional material for their Future Truck 2025. This self-driving truck would use radar senses, including top of the line blind-spot detection to drive autonomously, leaving the driver’s hand free to communicate with the dispatcher and schedule pickups and drop-offs.
What do those of you in auto mechanic training think? Will self-driving semi-trucks really hit the road in the next ten years?

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