An Ode to the Truck Driver

Look around right now. What do you see? A phone, computer, lights maybe a chair. What do all these things have in common? They were all delivered by a truck. Every product in the world at some point spent time on a truck. Those trucks were driven by talented men and women, who for one week every year get recognized. That week in 2017 was September 10th through the 16th. This may be a couple weeks late, but the ITEA would like recognize all the hard-working drivers out there.

The history of trucking in the United States started around 1910. In 1913, the first state weight limits for trucks were introduced, with the highest being 28,000 pounds. The weight limits were due to the tires being solid rubber which caused extensive damage to early gravel and dirt roads.

During World War I, the military began using trucks to move equipment and soldiers more efficiently. Due to railroad capacity maxed out for the war, trucks became another way to move goods across the land. The pneumatic tire was soon created and cross-country travel with heavier loads became a common use for the truck.

After World War I, trucks became commonplace with more than one million vehicles operating nationwide by 1920. The invention of the diesel engine made truck transportation more efficient, along with advancements in steering and brakes. Soon came the birth of the fifth wheel as well as standards for truck sizes. By 1933 all states had begun to regulate truck weight.

During the 1930s, the federal government began to regulate the industry, including hours of service rules. As trucking progressed, trucking business exploded as a means to get goods anywhere in the nation quickly and safely. In 1935, the Motor Carrier Act was signed into law which created rules for the trucking industry to follow.

By 1956, the interstate highway system was created and a national, uniform gross weight limit was enacted: 73,280 pounds. Intermodal shipping was created the same year to move goods from ships to trains to trucks. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) was initiated and studies on the impact weight were conducted for pavement and bridges. This study led to the creation of the federal bridge formula based on axle spacings.

Fast forward to 1974 and the 73,280 gross weight limit was increased to 80,000 pounds. Citizen’s Band, or “CB” radios were all the rage. The truck driver anthem “Convoy” was released in 1976. Truck driving was in its heyday in the 70’s with the movie “Smokie and the Bandit” released in 1977 and the movie “Convoy” released in 1978.

The trucking industry lost some of its glamour when the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 partially deregulated the industry. This led to a disruptive increase in the number of trucking companies. By 2006, over twenty-six million trucks hauled approximately nine billion tons of freight across the United States.

So, there it is, a brief history of some of the most important cogs in the machine that is American business. Without trucks and truck drivers, Americans would be sitting on earth, in the dark, with no way of reading the weekly blog from the ITEA.

The ITEA salutes you Mr. Truck Driver and all you do to support the economy. And we will continue to assist you in understanding the complex truck laws so that you can stay safe and operate more efficiently.

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