A Brief History of Auto Transport in the United States and How We Began Shipping Cars

As a truck driver gets out of the sleeper compartment of the truck and walks out, perhaps to flex his or her muscles or grab a cold shower and a cup of coffee thereafter, such an individual seemingly looks to be enjoying the job. Sure, the 18-wheeler, sturdy looking vehicles of today attribute their fame and vigor to their comparatively larger engines and their design that conquers every terrain. Sometimes, though, it pays to look back at the trodden path through which this profession has followed.

But first, what is a Semi-Trailer?

Quite certainly, there are a lot that we aren’t privy to about concerning 18-wheelers, including the fact that they are “Semi-Trailers.” Turns out, the brain behind the whole idea, one Alexander Winton of Cleveland, Ohio, came up with the first of these designs. His semi-trailer vehicles featured a freight trailer attached and supported at the forward end by a 5th wheel of the tractor.

And, the current ones, tractor-trailer rigs or 18 wheelers are somewhat different from the 1890s ones. Yeah, the unique crop of vehicles are indeed monstrosity when they criss-cross our country roads, but they are an ultimate necessity. Some can even haul up to a whopping 800,000 pounds. More than 70% of all goods in the US alone arrive at their final destinations, courtesy of these handy vehicles.

History at a glance:

1898: Alexander Winton creates the first semi-trucks

1899: Winton embarks on commercially producing the trucks

1916: Mack joins the fray with its rear axle truck

1920: The first “Trucking Boom.”

1939: Peterbilt sells the first semi-trucks

1953: Freightliner comes up with the first overhead sleeper

1986: The Peterbilt 379 becomes the best-selling truck

Alexander Winton: How he invented the first tractor-trailer designed to haul cars.

The idea of shipping goods through the road was born way back in the 1890s when one automotive manufacturer discovered the need for a convenient vehicle to haul products. Alexander Winton of The Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland created an 18-wheeler truck while going about his business of selling cars. The Scottish man was experiencing tremendous growth in his automobiles business and needed to be “suave” and better than his competitors.

You see, Winton would experience endless difficulties delivering cars to his vast number of buyers spread across the USA. He would dread having to literally drive the brand new car right into the customer’s garage and risk damaging it. The same notion of driving to someone a thousand mile away would practically cost much, perhaps more than shipping it.

As a result, the problem of delivering cars facilitated the introduction of the trucking concept using 18-wheelers. All that was needed was a tractor and the truck, although one striking demerit of the whole thing was that the semi-trailer could only transport a single vehicle at a time.

But, the invention or the ‘automobile hauler” not only paved the way for massive sales, but also ushered in a new era in shipping cars. In 1899, the renowned car manufacturer finally released the first semi-truck. Before that, notably in 1898, he had managed to sell as many as 22 manufactured cars and a further 100 automobiles in 1899.

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