Trucking Through History
Posted by Cliff J. on May 8, 2017 in Trucker Focus

History of the Semi Truck Before the invention of automobiles in the U.S., both people and freight were most commonly moved by train or horse-drawn vehicles such as buckboards and stagecoaches. A lot has changed since then.


The semi truck owes its existence to the manufacture of private passenger cars. In the late 1890s, The Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland needed a way to deliver its new cars to buyers who lived all over the country. Driving the cars individually was out of the question because of the wear and tear it would cause, so company owner Alexander Winton created an automobile hauler that could carry a new vehicle on a trailer.


Winton’s first version used a modified touring automobile in the back with a cart in the front. That design was soon modified to put the trailer in the back, and he sold his first “semi-truck” in 1899. However, each rig could only hold one car at a time—a significant limitation. Winton and others kept improving truck design, with some notable early milestones being:


  • 1914—Detroit blacksmith August Charles Fruehauf builds a detachable trailer to attach to a Ford auto- mobile and coined the phrase “semi-trailer.” He founds the Fruehauf Trailer Company four years later. Photos courtesy of Fruehauf Trailer Historical Society SPRING 2017 PAGE 3
  • 1915—Charles H. Martin patents the fifth wheel coupling device.
  • 1916—Mack introduces its first rear-axle truck.
  • 1918—John C. Endebrock created the “trailmobile”— an iron chassis mounted on wheels that could be pulled behind a model T.
  • 1930s—George Cassens creates a four-car auto trailer that was pulled with a two-ton Dodge truck.
  • 1939—Peterbilt starts selling semi-trucks.
  • 1953—Freightliner introduces the first overhead sleeper.


Fast-forward to 2016, when the first self-driving truck makes a 120-mile trip to deliver cargo in Colorado, and you can see just how far truck design has come from those early days!

Cliff J. is our Trucking guru
I bring over 30 years of trucking industry experience to Acuity. I worked my way up from driving to managing the safety operations of a transportation company, culminating in owning and managing my own regional trucking company. My main goal at Acuity is to help you, the motor carrier, the owner/operator and the driver better understand the insurance industry and help shape Acuity’s products and services to better meet your needs. I regularly provide ongoing trucking training to Acuity employees to help them understand the unique needs of those in the trucking/transportation industry. With over 30 years in the transportation sector, as both a company driver and as owner and manager of a trucking company, I have first-hand experience that helps me understand the challenges truckers’ face, and detailed knowledge of transportation regulations. My experience coupled with a background in insurance loss control can help answer and provide solutions to any issues that may arise.

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