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:
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!