History of the Trucking Industry – The Driving Force Behind Our Economy

Written by on October 4, 2012 in Career - No comments | Print this page


Truck driving is perhaps one of the most underappreciated jobs of our modern society. These hardworking professionals have fueled our very economy for over 100 years. Without their able hands, none of the basic commodities such as food, clothes, medicines and the like would ever reach our neighborhood. Here we take a look at the history of truck driving and the industry, so we can better understand their part in building a great country.

1920 to 1950 – Rough Roads Ahead

Travelling hundreds of miles through rough roads and unfriendly environments, long haul drivers place their safety on the line each and every day to keep our society running. While the recent advances in technology have undoubtedly eased the life of drivers, there was a time when these individuals had to fight through the darkness, loneliness, and danger in order to get their job done.

Before CB radios, truck drivers used “telegraphy” or a choreographed array of hand signals to communicate with other drivers on the road at day time. Embattled by lack of proper traffic lights and communication devices, many of these drivers only had their wits and strength to rely on. Even during the 40s and 50s, a number of trucks still ran without a working heating system to protect their drivers from the cold.

1950 to 1970s – Highways and Unions

Moving out of the 50s and going into the 60s, a growing number of truckers began to recognize the cost-efficiency of diesel over gasoline powered trucks. This decade also marked the beginning of the country’s Interstate system as spearheaded by General Eisenhower although at this time, the US can only boast of the Route 66. Despite these less than inviting circumstances, truck driving was still a much sought after and respectable career.

By the end of the 60s, all of this was about to change with the establishment of the Teamsters Union that required trucking companies to acquire Union cards in order to get a load for shipment. Numerous strikes ensued as the union and shipping company owners fight for power with the day to day drivers stuck in the middle. What ended this era of struggles and violence was the impending energy crisis. It is at this time of economic crisis that the federal government issued the 55MPH speed limit and soon, pretty much all drivers are heading out with their CB radios. The Late 70s saw the passing of the Deregulation Bill of 1979 which was a mixed blessing for drivers and owners. As the market opened up to allow smaller companies and individual driver/owners, the drivers themselves found themselves earning less and less over the next couple decades.

1980 to Present – Deregulation and Growth

At the dawn of the 80s, the reign of the Union cards was put to a close and the trucking business is once again roaring back to life. This decade also brought in an increase in the number of lady truck drivers as stereotypes breakdown and the need for all trained drivers increases. With the prospect of earning big bucks, investors flocked to open their own trucking business and by the 90’s it was evident that the country is in need of more drivers.

Like all other professions, truck drivers have gone through a rich history of ups and downs but if there was one thing that ties all these individuals together it is their dedication and commitment to weather any and all kinds of challenges both on and off the road.


This is a guest post.  Bryan has been watching the trucking industry for over a decade as a writer for TruckertoTrucker.com, where you can find used trucks like these ford trucks for sale here.


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