As Heavy Duty Trucking celebrates its 100th anniversary, we will be taking a look back at the last 100 years of trucking and how HDT covered it, both in print and online at Truckinginfo.com.
1940s: Building Trucks and Highways
In 1940, Consolidated Freightways and five Western motor carriers formed Freightways Manufacturing, creating an innovative cab-over-engine truck that featured weight-saving aluminum components, so operators could haul more freight. In 1942, Freightways changed its name to Freightliner Corp.
World War II brought 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 robbed from other trucks.
Highway building continued. The 160-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940. In 1944 Congress authorized a 40,000-mile highway system linking 90% of U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more.
The magazine 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 it went national in the 1960s as HDT.
1950s: Trucking Growth
The magazine was now owned by the Hutchinson family, which would own it until 2012. A 1953 article predicted, accurately, that with trucking-minded Dwight Eisenhower in the White House, motor transport could look forward to growth of as much as 20% by 1956.
The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized the greatest long-range highway program ever undertaken, to build an Interstate system to meet traffic needs into 1975. Better highways meant diesels started to catch on, thanks in part to Clessie Cummins’ promotion of the engines in Indy race cars since the ’30s.
Better highways also meant the birth of the “travel plaza” or “truckers oasis.”
A 1950’s historical promotional documentary made by P.I.E. (Pacific Intermountain Express) a defunct trucking company, called “Wheels of Progress,” showcased the company’s uniformed professional drivers.
1960s: Changing Industry
In 1963, motor carrier revenue exceeded rail freight revenue for the first time in history — and the Clean Air Act passed, legislation that would have far-reaching consequences for trucks. A 1965 article on “trends in horsepower” said it was up and going higher, with fleets moving from 250 hp to 280, 335 and even 350 and 375 hp. In a 1967 interview, Ford’s chief engineer of turbine operations predicted turbines would “rule Interstate routes in the ’70s.” In 1969, the popularity of V-8 gasoline engines peaked, with more than 67% of new trucks equipped with them.
In 1964, we reported on Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa’s conviction of mail fraud and jury tampering. Before he went to jail, Hoffa pushed for “stabilizers, drive-alert systems, anti-jackknife equipment” and other safety technology.
Dave Dudley’s song “Six Days on the Road” painted 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.
1960s: 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 moving to double or semi trailers with city tractors rather than straight-truck “bobtails” for in-city pickup and delivery. Another feature highlighted the rotary combustion engine as a “promising new power source for certain highway applications,” a third the size of a gasoline engine and 60% lighter than diesel.
And in May 1968, in a story titled “Owner-Operator: He sits high in the saddle,” HDT noted that manufacturers were eager to sell owner-operators a nice “home on the road.”
“Some of them make $15,000 or more, and sometimes for nine months of work,” we reported. “And the future appears to be unlimited for this ‘independent’ businessman.”