Alexander Winton invented the semi-truck in 1898 and sold his first manufactured semi-truck in 1899. This concept came in the midst of more than one hundred fifty patents of automobile and engine designs that he filed. This Scottish man started his career manufacturing bicycles in Cleveland and moved into the construction of “horseless carriages” in 1896. He sold his first manufactured car in 1898, and this led him to inventing the concept of the semi-truck to handle the delivery of his manufactured vehicles.
Winton promoted his new Winton automobile by touring the country with the vehicle and challenging others to car races. This marketing strategy worked well and, by the end of 1898, Winton Motor Carriage Company had sold twenty-two automobiles, followed by one hundred the subsequent year. Not all customers lived in or around Cleveland, and the delivery of the vehicle posed a problem. How to bring the car to the client without burning mileage on the vehicle? He addressed this issue with a new concept that he called an automobile hauler that could carry the new vehicle on a trailer. In 1899, Winton Motor Carriage started manufacturing the hauler for its own use as well as other car manufacturers.
The concept used a modified short wheeled touring automobile with a cart attached to it. The platform sat on the top of the engine portion and rested on a pair of wheels on the other end. The platform could only hold one automobile. Before the cart was mounted onto the pulling car, the automobile to be delivered was wheeled onto the ramp of the cart and fastened to the platform. The edge of the platform resting on the ground was then elevated and attached to the top of the trunk of the pulling vehicle.
Winton kept his mind on engine designs and did not pursue further the design of his first semi-truck. George Cassens took the vehicle hauling business to the next level in the 1920's. As a car salesman needing to deliver the cars that he sold, he relied on car haulers extensively. When in the early 1930's, manufacturers attempted to ship the new cars directly to the buyers, he realized that the shipment costs were prohibitive for the car manufacturers. He stepped in and offered to haul the cars from the manufacturing site to the car owners. He devised a $1,850 four-car auto trailer that was pulled with a two-ton Dodge truck.
Credit needs to be extended to August Charles Fruehauf, a Detroit blacksmith, who built a carriage for a person who wanted to transport his boat in 1914 and officially called it a “semi-trailer.” He duplicated the carriage for additional usages such as hauling lumber. In 1918, he incorporated the Fruehauf Trailer Company.
Adaptation to the Model T
John C. Endebrock had experience in building horse carriages and used his wisdom in developing the “trailmobile,” an iron chassis mounted on wheels and springs that could be trailed behind a Ford Model T. This 1918 design was conceived so that it would be easy for a single operator to hook the trailer to the car. Earlier trailers required three men to hook up the chassis to the car.
Over a century, the four-wheel design from Winton has evolved into an 18-wheeled articulated semi-truck with three axles. Today, semi trucks transport more than 670,000 tons of goods each year in the United States that are taken to destinations by 3.5 million truck drivers. This represents more than 70 percent of all U.S. freight delivery.
- Photo Credit american vintage truck image by Pierrette Guertin from Fotolia.com
Who Invented the Car?
Two Germans, Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, both took credit for making the first car. Eventually the car companies that they founded...
History of Cabover Trucks
Cabover trucks -- also identified as Cab Over Engine (or COE), cab forwards and forward control -- are typically tractor-trailer rigs in...
The History of Semi Trucks
Semi trucks, also known as semi-trailer trucks or tractor-trailer rigs, transport more than 70 percent of the goods in the United States...
History of Air Brakes
Depending on hydraulic fluid to operate, a braking system can be dangerous. A simple leak could lead to the death of many...
How Are Semi Trailers Made?
Semi trailers are some of the strongest and most versatile implements on the road today. While seemingly simple, these huge pieces of...
Who Invented the First Automatic Car?
The invention of the first automatic car is more evolutionary than the result of a single invention. Frenchmen Louis-Rene Panhard and Emile...
When Was the First Pickup Truck Built?
The first pickup truck can trace its roots to the turn of the 20th century when farmers modified horseless carriages for heavy...
Who Invented the Chevy Truck?
William "Billy" Durant and Louis Chevrolet started the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911. Durant had been the CEO of General Motors until...
When Was the First Ford Truck Made?
The Ford Motor Company built its first factory assembled pickup truck in 1925. But an impatient public was way ahead of Henry...
- Inventions of 1899
- How to Buy a Semi Truck
1950s Semi Trucks
The Federal Highway Act of 1956 transformed the United States, during a period of phenomenal economic growth in postwar America, from a...
Types of Semi Trucks
A semi, or tractor-trailer combination, is a tool, like a ratchet -- and like a good ratchet, it's designed with toughness, modularity...