January 10th, 2014 | Phoenix Truck Driving Institute

For the past two hundred years, change has been the only constant for the trucking industry in America. In the early 1800s, most freight in the new United States traveled on boats trawling the coasts and traversing navigable rivers. To facilitate quick movement of goods from factories in the east to customers in the expanding west, entrepreneurs built a network of canals stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. In the second half of the nineteenth century, railroads revolutionized the transportation industry. By the 1880s, powerful railroad tycoons had connected the manufacturing base of the east coast with the agricultural production zones of the west, creating for the first time a national truly marketplace. The much more versatile motor truck began to emerge during the first decades of the twentieth century, as the automobile overtook horse-drawn wagons for both personal and commercial use.

As motor vehicles became more reliable during the 1920s and 1930s, small trucks began to appear more frequently on American roadways, as truckers could run on more flexible schedules than trains and undercut the high fees charged by many railroad companies. Still, early trucks were limited; in an era where a 150-mile run constituted a long haul, trucks served primarily to deliver goods from rail depots to areas inaccessible by train. The modern trucking industry was born in the two decades following World War II, as engineers perfected such innovations as multiple-axle beds, diesel-burning V8 engines, and standardized, detachable cargo containers. At the same time, the Federal Government began construction of the Interstate Highway System, which allowed for heavier payloads, faster speeds, and more reliable road conditions. By 1970, the modern semi truck had come to dominate the freight industry in the United States and throughout the world.

Changes to the trucking industry have continued to the present day, with modern researchers continually finding new ways to make trucks greener and more fuel efficient. Whatever the future holds, however, Phoenix Truck Driving Institute will continue to train the nation’s best drivers.