Have you ever wondered who invented the semi-truck, when it was invented, and why? At the beginning of the 20th century transportation was going through a period of change, including the affordability of producing cars and their availability. Due to automobiles cornering the market, other automotive-based inventions were introduced, such as the semi-truck. The different types of semi-trucks you see traveling the highways nowadays is from the development of a semi-trailer created to transport one single car. Two inventors are credited for the creation of the semi-truck, with each design serving a similar purpose.
Winton invented the semi-truck in 1898 and sold his first manufactured semi-truck in 1899. He went into the car making business in 1896, and in 1898, his company, The Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland sold their first 22 manufactured cars causing a need for the cars to be delivered to their buyers, especially since they lived all over the country. This presented a major dilemma. If the cars were driven to their new owners, miles plus wear and tear would occur on the car, as well as an expensive delivery. This dilemma led Winton to invent the idea of the semi-truck to handle delivery of the cars. Winton presented this problem with a new idea that he described as an automobile hauler that could transport the vehicle on a trailer.
August Charles Fruehauf
Fruehauf was a blacksmith from Detroit who constructed a carriage for an individual who needed to transport his boat in 1914. Fruehauf officially called this carriage a “semi-trailer”. This carriage semi-trailer was attached to a Ford and became a hit. Fruehauf then went on to develop the carriage semi-trailer for other uses, such as transporting lumber. In 1918 he merged his businesses into the Fruehauf Trailer Company, which continues to be a leading maker of semi-trailers today.
Semi-Tractor Trailer Invention Description
The first semi-trailer used a revised short-wheeled touring automobile (the tractor) with a cart (the trailer) attached to the rear of it. The platform sat on the top of the engine part and rested on a set of wheels on the other end. Although most vehicles have engines on the front, this one had an engine at the back.
The platform was able to carry only one vehicle. Prior to the cart being set onto the pulling car, the vehicle that was being transported was wheeled onto the ramp of the cart and secured to the platform. The edge of the platform that was sitting on the ground was then raised and secured to the top of the trunk of the pulling vehicle. Today a flatbed trailer, known as a removable gooseneck, uses the same idea of being driven onto the tractor and then fastened.
Development of the Semi-Truck
Although Winton is one of two individuals who is credited for the creation of the semi-truck, he did not pursue the design of his first semi-truck but instead concentrated on improving engine designs. However, other industries had a demand for semi-trailers and continued to expand on the semi-trailer concept.
John C. Endebrock had experience in constructing horse carriages and used what he knew to create the “trailmobile”. This was an iron chassis that was set on wheels and springs that could be trailed behind a Ford Model T. This 1918 design allowed a single operator to easily attach the trailer to a car, whereas earlier trailers required three men to hook up the chassis to a car.
In the 1920’s, George Cassens took the business of hauling vehicles to the next level. Cassens was a car salesman who depended on car haulers to deliver the cars he sold. In the early 1930’s, he tried to ship new cars straight to the buyers but soon realized that the cost to ship them was excessive for the car manufacturers. Cassens created a $1,850, four-car auto trailer that was pulled by a two-ton Dodge truck to help haul the cars from the manufacturing site to the car owners.
Over the next 100 years, the two-wheel semi-truck that Winton invented has developed into an eighteen wheeled semi-truck with three axles. Without the invention of the semi-truck, the transportation of goods would be exhausting and difficult. However, thanks to those who invented and developed it, semi-trucks today haul hundreds of thousands of goods each year by way of 3 million truck drivers.