Trucking Through The Ages

No matter where you go today, you will see long-haul trucks loaded with materials, freight, and all manner of goods; delivering across town, across the state, or even across the country.

Today’s professional truck driver operates a “rig” that is tremendously different from where trucking started!


In the early 1900’s, most trucks were local delivery trucks, traveling roads that were little more than cow trails.  Paved roads and highways were few and far between.

The trucks of that day rode on solid rubber tires.  Driving them was slow and rough. Air-filled tires were not widely available until around 1920. These tires made for a faster and smoother ride.

The early trucks also broke down frequently. It was not uncommon to see truck drivers on the side of the road, looking for a creek, pond, or other source for water for their overheated engine, or changing out a broken belt or hose.

In 1910, it was estimated that there were approximately 10,000 trucks in the whole nation; most of which were used for local delivery around large cities.


“The Seattle Chamber of Commerce sponsored a truck and driver to travel from Seattle to New York City in 1916. This trip showed the manufacturers and merchants of the country that highways and truck transport were going to become major influences in their lives. The trip from Seattle to New York City took a grand total of 31 days!” (Source:  The History of Trucking;

This kind of future thinking led to development of better roads and, eventually, highways.  Nationwide, there were less than 15,000 miles of paved roads in 1914.  However, over the next decade, about $75 million federal government dollars were spent on new roads and improving existing roads.


The early trucks were difficult to drive; drivers were required to have a good amount of upper body strength, to handle the “arm-strong” steering. Power-assisted steering was many years away; first developed for the military during World War II.

Today’s air-ride cushioned seats are a far cry from the unpadded or lightly padded seats with few springs that truck drivers sat on in the early days.

Truck driving was a daytime only job until 1912, when electric running lights allowed them to be driven at night.

Until the 1920’s, picking up and dropping off loads took quite a long time.  Invention of the fifth wheel made for much quicker load pick-ups and drop-offs.

The early long-haul trucks had “sleepers” that were not very easy to sleep in.  They were small and cramped and uncomfortable.  Today’s trucks are available with “sleepers” that are almost like a small apartment; they can come with refrigerators, microwaves, televisions (with satellite receivers available), and large, comfortable beds.


Even with as many trucks as you see on the road today, there is still a great shortage of professional truck drivers in the United States.  In 2014, the shortage was reportedly about 30,000 drivers.  The U.S. trucking industry has a current driver shortage of approximately 48,000 drivers.  (source: American Trucking Associations)

If you want a solid, dependable profession where you are in demand, find a truck driving school near you to get more information about being a professional truck driver!

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