FreightWaves Flashback: Motor carrier finds private telephone network way of the future

The many industries that make up the world of freight have undergone tremendous change over the past several decades. Each Friday, FreightWaves explores the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.

The following is an excerpt from the April 1961 edition of the Florida Journal of Commerce magazine, which over the years grew into American Shipper. FreightWaves acquired American Shipper in July 2019.

Click here to view the entire edition of the Florida Journal of Commerce – April 1961.

Central Truck Lines find telephone net beats radio

Central Truck Lines, one of the nation’s largest carriers, has just completed two years in which they have had the use of their own private 2,000-mile telephone system. The results have proven conclusively the investment was a wise one.

Central Truck Lines, covering a periphery bounded by New Orleans, Atlanta, Savannah and Miami, had the tremendously complex problem of keeping its 1,280 pieces of equipment in contact and constant touch. Some years ago, two-way radios were added to many of the vehicles to help solve this problem. However, that was far from satisfactory.

Working with AT&T, Central installed a private telephone system between all of its major terminals. With the telephone system, individual offices can talk to any office on any of their four circuits.

The circuits star-burst from the General Office in Tampa to New Orleans, Atlanta, Savannah and Miami. All offices along the routes of each of the four circuits are in direct contact with any other office. In addition to the individual contact afforded by the system, conference calls involving any given number of offices are held. These conference calls, using offices’ loudspeakers for groups in each office, are a handy means for sales conferences, executive discussions and other business functions as well as the normal use for handling the control of freight.

Dewitt Lyman, Jr., in charge of Central’s complex System Dispatching Office, states that the system allows a great number of vehicles to be utilized to the utmost. After delivering a shipment to Valdosta from Tampa for instance, the truck might be starting back to Tampa with an incomplete load. The phone system allows for fast, immediate action when the System Dispatcher hears of a load for Tampa waiting in Thomasville. Through the facilities of the phone system, he can get in touch with the truck in time to pick up the additional payload.

Lyman’s System Dispatch Office is a model of modern shipping techniques. The Central traffic control system is looked upon by the trucking industry as one of the finest in use. The system has been devised almost completely by the Central Truck Lines people themselves.

The system is “housed” in a room which is so arranged that each and every vehicle is visible by “eye” – the room is covered by racks which hold different colored cards. Each card is designated for the particular type of vehicle. Its location “on the boards” shows exactly where the vehicle is at the moment and when it will be due in and what it carries.

When a road problem arises, the phone system is used and the card is changed correspondingly. With the system, the Dispatch Office, working around the clock six days a week, knows the exact location of each of the 1,280 transports.

Since the addition of the phone system about two years ago, Central has proven the worth by giving faster service to its clients and by keeping its own internal operations as speedy and simplified as possible. In a day when time is money, Central’s private phone system helps keep rising costs down.