Growing up as the son of a trucker, I fell in love with our industry and the people in it. My friends thought it was strange that my house was filled with all sorts of trucking swag from vendors and the company store.
On weekends, we would pile into my father’s van and take road trips to places like Dalton and Knoxville. Our family vacations consisted of visiting the company’s terminals in Laredo, Oklahoma City and Fontana, California. Whenever we were on the road, my father would point out different trailers and tell stories about the companies and their founders.
This had a lasting impression on me. I idolized my dad and dreamed of knowing as much about trucking as he did. His stories were about the people, the gossip, or history of the companies. I learned about whom he admired and whom he considered a rival. Regardless, it was always fun to sit back and hear his version of the industry.
When I came back into the trucking industry three years ago from a tech startup sabbatical in payments, I often recall those conversations with my father. I realized that much of the history of the industry is preserved in memories and little of it is written down or preserved online. Often, the companies that disappear from trucking are forgotten by most.
Each Friday, we are going to relive the story of a trucking company from our industry’s past. Our goal is to create a living archive of the trucking industry.
I hope you enjoy the stories written by the folks from the industry and the FreightWaves team.
–Craig Fuller Founder, FreightWaves
Introduction to the Online Haul of Fame:
Long before interstates criss-crossed the American landscape and truck stop neon lights blinked their welcome to road-weary drivers, American pioneers dreamed of western expansion. Manifest Destiny was a widely held belief that the United States was destined to expand westward across North America. As the prophecy fulfilled itself and the nation expanded, the need for an effective transportation network presented itself. A second westward expansion responsible for ensuring that the growing nation not only survive, but thrive and grow, was inevitable.
The history of the United States has been uniquely shaped by transportation, especially by the railroads and by over-the-road trucking. As the nation grew, and the national population filled in the corners, transportation networks evolved to reach them. Railroads, once the most common method of transportation, became too slow and too impractical to service the evolving and remote new territories. Dirt roads were paved, and railroads began losing business to trucking companies capable of delivering much better service. In the 1930s, trucking companies were regulated in much the same way the railroads had been, and companies competed against one another for routes of service. The race for expansion was on. Beginning in the 1950s and continuing throughout the 1960s, the nation constructed a new Interstate Highway System, linking major cities across the country.
As the transportation network expanded, it fostered within it a unique American culture – the culture of the open road. Truck stops and roadside attractions popped up along famous routes, such as Route 66. There was an almost romantic quality to the adventure of the open road and to being a truck driver, driving into the sunset to deliver a pay-load. In the 1960s and 1970s, trucking was further romanticized by hit songs and movies.
Drivers took great pride in their profession and their employers. Several recognizable logos appeared over the years, only to disappear after deregulation occurred in the 1980s. As the industry continued to grow and evolve, several of the companies from the Golden Age of Trucking seemed lost to the highways of time.
This tour seeks to preserve the history of several of these companies that paved the way for today’s trucking industry. The legacy of these companies has provided the foundation for the industry as we know it. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Check out our first article in the Online Haul of Fame: Builder’s Transport