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Truck Drivers

History

The first trucks were nothing more than converted automobiles. In 1904, there were only about 500 trucks in the United States. At that time, there was little need for goods to be transported across the country. Manufacturing was such that the same products were produced all over the nation, many in small "mom and pop" operations so that even small towns could supply all the food, clothing, tools, and other materials that people needed. Today, manufacturing is centralized and "mom and pop" stores are all but gone, increasing the need for a way to move consumer goods to every corner of the country.

In World War I, the U.S. Army used trucks for the first time to haul equipment and supplies over terrain that was not accessible by train. After the war, the domestic use of trucks increased rapidly. In the 1920s, the nation became more mobile as streets and highways improved. American businesses and industries were growing at an unprecedented rate, and trucks became established as a reliable way of transporting goods. In fact, trucking companies began to compete with railroads for the business of shipping freight long distances.

Since World War II, other innovations have shaped the trucking industry, including improvements in the designs of truck bodies and the mechanical systems in trucks. Tank trucks were built to carry fuel, and other trucks were designed specifically for transporting livestock, produce, milk, eggs, meat, and heavy machine parts. The efficiency of trucks was further increased by the development of the detachable trailer. Depending on what needed to be shipped, a different trailer could be hooked up to the tractor.

In addition to these technological advances, the establishment of the interstate highway system in 1956 allowed trucks to deliver shipments with increased efficiency. Along with the development of new trucks with better gas mileage, trucking companies now could offer their services to businesses at cheaper rates than railroads.

Trucking today is central to the nation's transportation system, moving dry freight, refrigerated materials, liquid bulk materials, construction materials, livestock, household goods, and other cargo. In fact, nearly all goods are transported by truck at some point after they are produced. Some drivers move manufactured goods from factories to distribution terminals, and after the goods arrive at destination terminals, other drivers deliver the goods to stores and homes. Certain carriers also provide shipping services directly from the supplier to the customer.

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