Every time you drive down the highway, you are likely to see a semi truck traveling down the road, too. Today, semi trucks are a common sight, but there was a time where it was rare to see a large truck on the road. Before the invention of automobiles, freight was moved by train or horse-drawn wagons.
In the 1900s trucks had solid rubber tires that made trips very rough and slow. It took a month for a truck to drive across the U.S.! Around 1920, air-filled tires were introduced, allowing the trucks to travel at higher speeds.
When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, it had a big impact on truck use and development. Trucks were needed by the military, so truck manufacturers focused on engineering reliable vehicles appropriate for combat. These engineering tactics were passed down to the trucks that were being used for freight transportation to improving them, too. Another reason trucking increased during this time period was due to the increase in freight being transported. The railroads were becoming more congested, leaving people to turn to trucks instead.
The number of paved roads increased during the 1930s, resulting in an increase of trucks used for freight transportation. From 1910 to 1930, the number of trucks on the road increased by about 320,000! In 1933, the American Trucking Associations was founded to serve and represent the interests of the trucking industry as one unified voice.
Along with the increase in trucking, came more government regulations for the industry. For example, the hours of service regulation was introduced in 1938 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Motor Carrier Act was introduced in 1935.
The trucking industry grew even more when the Interstate Highway System was created in the 1950s and 1960s. The new system allowed big trucks to travel at higher speeds across the country.
Today, the trucking industry collects, on average, $650 billion in revenue each year. Currently, there are about 5.6 million registered semi trucks in the U.S. Even though there is a trucker shortage right now, the industry is still growing and necessary to transport freight around the world.
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