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A History of Tractor Trailer Commerce in America

A semi tractor-trailer comprises a truck with an engine (also known as the tractor) and an attached trailer which is used for hauling cargo. Tractor trailer refers to both the truck and the attached trailer and is sometimes called an 18-wheeler due to the number of wheels on the combined units About 60,000 pounds of goods and commodities per person are delivered by tractor trailers every year. The trailers are typically 53 feet long and fully loaded, weigh between 20 to 30 times as much as passenger cars. Deaths in crashes involving large trucks are on the rise. The number of fatalities involving large trucks has increased by 27 percent since 2009 according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2016 report. How did semi-tractor trailers evolve to become the leading mode of interstate commerce in America?

In 1898, the Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland, Ohio, sold its first 22 “horseless carriages” off the factory line. Since the vehicles needed to be delivered to customers hundreds of miles away, Alexander Winton developed the first of its kind – a primitive tractor trailer which joined a touring vehicle with a trailer. Winton did not pursue further development of the tractor-trailer but remained in the business of improving engines, manufacturing and selling automobiles. But the evolution of tractor trailers continued as other craftsmen fabricated improved models that were only possible when roadways began to crisscross the nation during the prosperous roaring twenties. Early developers such as Detroit blacksmith, Charles Fruehauf, of the Fruehauf Trailer Company, John C. Endebrock of Trailmobile, Peterbilt of Tacoma and Mack Trucks paved the way for tractor trailers as the leading mode of interstate commercial transportation in America.

When interstate commerce outgrew America’s vast network of railroads, President Roosevelt signed an unfunded act entitled the National System of Interstate Highways in 1944. It wasn’t until 1955, that the Clay Committee handed a report to President Dwight D. Eisenhower estimating the current use of the nation’s highways:

“…approximately 48 million passenger cars, 10 million trucks, and a quarter of a million buses, operating on 3,348,000 miles of roads and streets.”

In an effort to move the nation forward, the report concluded:

“We are indeed a nation on wheels and we cannot permit these wheels to slow down. Our mass industries must have moving supply lines to feed raw materials into our factories and moving distribution lines to carry the finished product to store or home. Moreover, the hands which produce these goods and the services which make them useful must also move from home to factory to store to home.”

The question became not if, but how to fund a national superhighway project. The two groups providing the modes of commercial transportation – the railroaders and truckers, shared a resentment toward each other that made the road to funding less than smooth. When the Fallon Bill failed to levy a disproportionate share of taxes against the trucking industry, the Fallon-Boggs bill passed overwhelmingly with a modified schedule of tax increases. President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 funding interstate highways and forever changing the way commodities and goods are transported in America.

Dedicated Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyer

Today, more than seventy percent of all goods and commodities are transported by semi tractor-trailers; that’s approximately two fully loaded trailers of commodities and goods trucked annually per person. Eleven percent of all crashes in the U.S. involve large trucks; 73% tractor trailers; and 21% single-unit trucks. The IIHS reports than 97% of all fatalities in 2016 involving a passenger car and a large truck were occupants of the passenger vehicle.

People in small vehicles are vulnerable when it comes to sharing the roads with tractor trailers – titanic in comparison to automobiles. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident involving a large truck or semi-tractor trailer, you need to level the field by hiring a lawyer, like a respected Auto Accident Lawyers Indianapolis, IN. By acting quickly, your attorney can stop the spoliation of evidence before it begins.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Ward & Ward Law Firm for their insight into truck accident cases.


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