The Invention, History and Evolution of the Semi - A Salute to Alexander Winton and the Carriers of today!
When a truck driver emerges from the sleeper cab in his or her big rig in the morning and steps out to walk into the truck stop for a cup of coffee, and maybe a shower, it's easy to be singularly focused on just getting on with the day.
Sometimes, though, it's nice to look back and think about the history of the profession, and the history of the massive piece of equipment that is used to haul goods around every country on earth to keep each of us clothed, fed and everything in between. If you are buying it, a semi-truck brought it to the store you are purchasing from. With that said, what's the history of those semi-trucks?
Alexander Winton, a 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, in the midst of more than 150 patents of automobile and engine designs that he had also filed. 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.
Alexander Winton then went on to conceive and later that same year invent the semi-truck. Soon after, in 1899 he was selling his first manufactured semi-truck.
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. However, the automobile could only hold one car.
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.
Others to salute for their roles in bringing the modern Semi into the fold as today's modern source of ground transport include:
George Cassens who 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.
August Charles Fruehauf was 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.
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 U.S. alone that are taken to destinations by 3.5 million truck drivers. This represents more than 70 percent of all U.S. freight delivery.
A semi-trailer truck is the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers to carry freight. It is variously known as a transport (truck) in Canada; semi or single in Australia; semi, tractor-trailer, big rig, or eighteen-wheeler in the United States; and articulated lorry, abbreviated artic, in Britain and Ireland. A semi-trailer attaches to the tractor with a fifth wheel hitch, with much of its weight borne by the tractor. The result is that both tractor and semi-trailer will have a distinctly different design than a rigid truck and trailer.
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