100 Years of Trucking Coverage: 1940s to 1960s – Fleet Management




As Heavy Duty Trucking celebrates its 100th anniversary, we’ll be looking back over the past 100 years of trucking and how HDT has covered it, both in print and online at Truckinginfo.com.

1940s: construction of trucks and highways

In 1940, Consolidated Freightways and five western motor carriers formed Freightways Manufacturing, creating an innovative cab-over truck featuring weight-saving aluminum components so operators could haul more freight. In 1942 Freightways changed its name to Freightliner Corp.

World War II imposed legal limits on the number of non-military trucks sold, as truck factories built war machines. Tires were rationed and trailer production stopped. Many fleet shops become mini-factories, building vehicles from “junk” parts stolen from other trucks.

Construction of the highway continued. The 160-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940. In 1944, Congress authorized a 40,000-mile road system connecting 90% of US cities with populations of 50,000 or more.

The magazine’s name went through several iterations, including Western Truck Owner, Western Motor Transport, Motor Transportation in the West, Western Trucking Motor Transportation, and Western Trucking before going national in the 1960s as HDT.

1950s: Growth of Trucking

The magazine was now owned by the Hutchinson family, who would own it until 2012. A 1953 article predicted, accurately, that with trucking enthusiast Dwight Eisenhower in the White House, motor transport could expect growth of up to 20% by 1956.

The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized the largest long-range highway program ever undertaken, to build an interstate system to meet traffic needs through 1975. Better highways meant diesels began to spread, in part through the promotion of engines by Clessie Cummins. in Indy racing cars since the 1930s.

Better highways also meant the birth of the “travel plaza” or “trucker’s oasis.”

A historic 1950s promotional documentary made by PIE (Pacific Intermountain Express), a former trucking company, called “Wheels of Progress”, featured the company’s uniformed professional drivers.

1960: Changing industry

In 1963, motor carrier revenues exceeded rail freight revenues for the first time in history – and the Clean Air Act was passed, legislation that would have far-reaching consequences for trucks. A 1965 article on “horsepower trends” indicated that it was on the increase, with fleets increasing from 250 hp to 280, 335 and even 350 and 375 hp. In a 1967 interview, Ford’s chief turbine operations engineer predicted that turbines would “rule the interstate highways in the ’70s”. In 1969, the popularity of gasoline V-8 engines peaked, with over 67% of new trucks being equipped with them.

In 1964, we reported on the conviction of Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa for mail fraud and jury tampering. Before going to jail, Hoffa lobbied for “stabilizers, driving alert systems, anti-jackknife gear” and other safety technology.

Dave Dudley’s song “Six Days on the Road” portrays truckers as amphetamine-fueled speed demons. A 1967 Western Trucking article, “Highway Nightmare”, interviewed a “long line” driver, once addicted to narcotics, about why drivers used drugs and the dangers involved.

1960: HDT is born

In January 1968 the magazine went national and changed the name to Heavy Duty Trucking. The cover story asked, “Are Bobtails doomed?” Fleets were switching to double trailers or semi-trailers with city tractors rather than straight truck “bobtails” for city pick-up and delivery. Another feature highlighted the rotary combustion engine as a “promising new power source for certain on-road applications”, one-third the size of a gasoline engine and 60% lighter than diesel.

And in May 1968, in an article titled “Owner-Operator: He’s Sitting High in the Saddle,” HDT noted that manufacturers were eager to sell owner-operators a nice “home on the road.”

“Some of them earn $15,000 or more, and sometimes for nine months of work,” we reported. “And the future seems limitless for this ‘independent’ businessman.”

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