Ask about our brand-new Freightliners! Our entire fleet updated.

For details call 800-446-0682.

Trucking Industry History

Posted in Blog, News  
Monday, May 1, 2023

The driving force behind America

American truck drivers take on a responsibility like no other. By keeping America’s economy moving and connecting the supply chain for necessities like food and fuel, it’s clear the country runs on truck drivers. To celebrate CDL-A drivers and their rich impact on American history, NTB has looked back on the timeline of trucking in America.

1896: America’s first truck

The first “truck” was created by inventor Gottlieb Daimler in 1896, when he fitted a horse-drawn cart with a two-cylinder engine. Just a few years later in 1900, two brothers, Jack and Gus Mack, founded the first trucking corporation: Mack Trucks.

1903: International Brotherhood of Teamsters

A breakaway group of America’s first trucking union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) became the most successful and powerful trucking union in U.S. history. The Teamsters, as they become known, worked tirelessly for better working conditions for truck drivers. In 1912, they completed the first transcontinental delivery, leaving Philadelphia and going to California with a pallet of olive oil soap. This started the long history of over-the-road trucking.

1914: The modern truck

The semi-trailer was invented by Otto Neumann and August Fruehauf in 1914, revolutionizing the capabilities of the industry. Following their lead, Hermann Farr and Martin Rocking, created the fifth wheel, allowing truck drivers to hitch/unhitch their semis quickly and safely to trailers.

1933: The American Trucking Associations

Two monolith trucking organizations, American Highway Freight Association and the Federated Trucking Associations of America, joined together to establish the American Trucking Associations (ATA). As of today, ATA is the largest trucking industry association with nearly 40,000 members and 50 affiliated state trucking associations.

1941: Truckers drive U.S. military campaign

Professional drivers had a significant impact on America’s military campaign during World War II. American troops and supplies were carried across Europe by highly skilled teams of drivers while German forces used horse drawn carts. Known as combat trucking, these very dangerous runs were completed during the night at high speeds and without headlights to help protect from attacks. This was trucking’s great contribution to American during WWII.

1940s: The trucking industry booms

As American truck drivers supported the military campaign overseas, the industry on U.S. roads was experiencing a boom. This era is known as the time that trucking was modernized. In 1925, there were only 521,000 paved miles but by 1945, the country paved another 1.19 million miles to support America’s need for truck drivers and their skilled services.

1950s-1960s: Truckers support Civil Rights Movement

In the 50s and 60s, the Teamsters remained the most powerful trucking union. Since their inception, they focused on inclusivity, including Black and female members in their ranks and advocating for safe work and equal pay for all. When the civil rights movement began in the mid-1950s, Teamsters provided financial support, vehicles, and their political pull to the advancement of the movement.

1956: Federal Interstate Highway System

The National Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956 was signed by President Nixon under the threat of a nuclear attack. After the trucking industry’s work during WWII, it was imperative to have well-paved, well-maintained roadways for mobilization. Tens of billions of dollars were granted for the purpose of building 40,000 miles of interstate highways, the largest public works project in U.S. history and cementing the necessity of American CDL-A drivers in U.S. culture.

1980: Motor Carrier Act

Since the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, the federal government had regulated various transportation modes, starting with the railroad industry, and later the trucking and airline industries. Leading up to 1980, economic research had demonstrated that regulation created noticeable cost and price increases. Then in 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act which removed federal entry controls in interstate trucking and increased the number of trucking companies in operation. The pros and cons of deregulation are still debated today. While deregulation resulted in lower pay for most drivers as the industry largely de-unionized, it also increased competition and reduced costs to consumers. However you look at it, deregulation legislation created a turning point in the industry.

1998: National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

In 1998, the first National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW) was celebrated. This event originated to highlight the work of truckers throughout the country. Observed annually during September, NTDAW is set aside for Americans to acknowledge professional truck drivers who make our lives easier and keep the economic wheel turning.

2000: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established in January 2000 to regulate and provide safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles. Its responsibilities cover more than 500,000 commercial trucking companies and more than four million commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. FMCSA's mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

2015: Electronic Logging Devices

In 2015, the FMCSA published the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate after years of lobbying and debate. The ELD Mandate requires commercial motor vehicle operators to use ELDs to record a driver’s driving time and hours-of-service records. An ELD monitors a truck’s engine and shows if the engine is running, if the truck is moving, how many miles were driven, and how long the engine has been on. While the intent of the mandate is to promote safety and regulation compliance, many in the industry voice objections regarding lack of flexibility, costs, and privacy concerns.

It's clear that professional drivers have a long history of supporting America and have seen many changes in the industry over the years. If you’re looking for a change in your career and would like to join a carrier that cares about your professional satisfaction, we encourage you to connect with NTB today.