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The Trucking Industry: A Research Guide

Historical Background

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Desolate country road near Brushy Prairie in LaGrange County, Indiana . 2016. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A study of early roads reveals they were poorly constructed and repaired only when farm work was slow. Interestingly enough, when these very roads became frozen with snow and ice, roads became easier to transport goods as the roads became smoother and farmers were able to use pungs (sleds) to carry their produce to market. The benefits of frozen roads for truckers continues today particularly when hauling timber. Early roads consisted of plank roads, log roads and plain dirt. Additional materials used in construction included: shells, gravel, brick, oil, tar, sand-clay, gumbo, marl, stone, burned clay, slag and steel truck. Streets were paved with cobble-stones installed by hand. A system using horse power as well as steam power to run a series of machines to move, smooth and compact the earth and put a hard surface on top ensured better and more efficient routes to deliver goods as time went on.

The earliest use of “truck” to connote a physical form of conveyance appeared in the seventeenth century: “a little wheele used under sleds. Gunners call it a trucke”.1 The progress of the movement, which included the enactment of a national road-building program in 1916 can be traced in journals such as Good Roads: Devoted to the Construction and Maintenance of Roads and Streets. World War I brought about greater use of trucks when trucks began to replace the cavalry. More information about the history of roads in this period and how deregulation changed the course of trucking in the United States may be gained from examining the published histories of various trucking companies, a number of which are listed in this guide.

Selected Books

This section describes selected works detailing the history of roads and trucking to the present, which provide historical context for the study of autonomous trucking. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Notes

  1. Childs, William R. Trucking and the public interest: the emergence of Federal regulation 1914-1940. Knoxville, Tenn.: The University of Tennessee Press, 1985, p. xv.  Back to text
  2. "Good Roads movement," Susan Croce Kelly. Encyclopædia Britannica ExternalLast accessed December 8. 2020. Back to text
  3. Good Roads; Devoted to the Construction and Maintenance of Roads and Streets. New York: E. L. Powers Company, 1895. Back to text  
  4. Childs, William R. Trucking and the public interest: the emergence of Federal regulation 1914-1940. Knoxville, Tenn.: The University of Tennessee Press, 1985. p.2  Back to text