The History of the Semi Truck

semi truck

The semi truck has evolved incredibly since its inception.

Alexander Winton invented the semi truck in Cleveland Ohio in 1898, and he sold the first manufactured semi truck in 1899. The concept of the semi truck actually came about as a way to handle the delivery of Winton’s manufactured vehicles, as cars that were driven to their customers would experience wear and tear and the delivery would be quite expensive. Winton created the automobile hauler as a way to address this, and in 1899 he started manufacturing the hauler for his own and other car manufacturer’s use. Over a hundred years, the concept that Winton pioneered evolved from a two wheel semi trailer to the eighteen wheeled, three axles semi-trucks that we have today.

The First Semi Trailer

The first semi trailer involved a modified short-wheeled touring vehicle (the tractor) with a cart (the trailer) attached to its rear end. This car had an engine in the rear rather than in the front like today’s vehicles, so the platform sat on the top end of the engine and rested on a pair of wheel on the other end. It could hold one automobile.

Early Semi Trailer Designs

Credit should also be given to August Charles Fruehauf, who built a carriage in 1914 to transport his boat. He called it a “semi-trailer”, and went on to develop it for additional usages such as hauling lumber. He started the Fruehauf Trailer Company in 1918, which remains a leading maker of semi trailers today.

Some credit should also go to John C. Endebrock, who in 1918 developed the “trailmobile” — an iron chassis mounted on wheels and springs that trailed behind the iconic Ford Model T. Early trailers required three men to hook up the chassis to the car, but this design allow for easy use by a single operator. Trailmobile remains an important brand name today.

The logging industry is particularly responsible for the progress and popularity of the semi truck. Peterbilt, a truck company based in Washington, solo trucks exclusively for hauling logs from the forest to the lumber mills. Frustrated with the method of transporting logs by river or horse, T.A. Peterman build trailers designed to haul logs from refurbished surplus army trucks.

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