The Trucking Industry and the History of Hauling

The transportation of materials and goods is the lifeblood of the United States economy. The trucking industry is a major player. In fact, the trucking industry is responsible for hauling over 72% of all freight transported in the United States. The expansion of the global economy over the last century has fueled a high demand for an efficient way to move goods and materials. From this need, the trucking industry was born.

Transportation of Goods Before Trucking

For centuries, horses have been used to transport goods from one place to another. This method of shipping is extremely slow and cannot move large quantities of goods at a time. The steam-powered train arrived in February of 1827 completely changing the game. This significantly improved our ability to quickly move large quantities of goods. Train hubs were built and major cities were connected by rail. While this improved the distribution of goods, trains could only go where tracks were laid.

Because trains had a limited reach, the shipping of goods continued to rely on horse-drawn wagons to reach areas that were outside of urban centers. By the late 1800s, the first automobiles started emerging as a replacement for horse-drawn carriages.

Interesting Fact – The first semi-trucks were simply a wagon pulled by a steam-powered tractor that moved goods short distances (usually from a factory to an urban center). From this, the term “tractor-trailer” was coined.

Early Trucking History

When World War I (1914 to 1918) broke out, countries needed to find a more efficient way to move troops and supplies. Since railways were easily targeted and damaged by enemy forces, the train systems of Europe were not a reliable way to move supplies. The military began using a fleet of trucks to transport supplies quickly and efficiently. This success laid the foundation for the trucking industry.

Interesting Fact – Before the 1920s, tires were made of solid rubber. The invention of pneumatic tires allowed trucks to travel at higher speeds.

The Growth of the Trucking Industry

The 1930s brought massive developments to the United States’ transportation systems. Following the Great Depression, President Roosevelt signed the New Deal creating numerous public work programs to get American’s back to work and stimulate economic growth. The expansion and creation of paved roads allowed automobiles and trucks to reach previously inaccessible areas of the country.

Following World War II (1939-1945), the United States government began discussing the development of an inter-regional highway system (or Interstate Highways). Under President Eisenhower, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was signed into law authorizing $25 billion to construct 41,000 miles of highway over 10 years. This allowed trucks to travel at higher speeds from one city to the next.

By the 1970s, approximately 18 million trucks were operating in the United States.

Trucking Today

Today, the trucking industry is an economic powerhouse. The US market is valued at over $790 billion and employs 947,000 truck drivers. This industry continues to have a positive outlook.  It is estimated that the demand for truck drivers will increase by 2% every year until the year 2029.

JR’s Expedited Freight proudly traces our roots back to these early times. There is no job we cannot handle. Get in touch with us to get set up for hauling. Call 1-812-401-4466 today!


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