I’ve spent my career in transportation creating and implementing new products that take advantage of technology to improve freight transportation. I’ve had the opportunity to work on aircraft, submarines, conveyors, trucks, trailers, trains, and satellites. What we have done to move material and freight in this world is astounding.
Yet, even today, people walk miles with jugs on their head to bring water to a village in Africa. Beasts of burden are still used to pull wagons. Wheel barrows with a single wheel still move material for construction workers and landscapers. Bicycles and motor scooters are the preferred method of delivering freight in some crowded cities. Whether it is no wheels, one wheel, two wheels, 4 wheels, the classic 18-wheeler of trucking, or the hundreds of wheels of a train, freight must be moved.
That got me to thinking a bit about the past, as we write, legislate, and project the future of freight transport with such things as drones, autonomous vehicles, last-mile delivery, smart trailers, hyper loops under the ground and more. A little research on the past for powered freight transport leads me to believe 2020 is not just a good term for perfect eye sight and a perfect vision of the future. It seems, 2020 is also the 250th anniversary of powered freight transport.
Here’s a brief, very brief, history of powered freight transport to consider:
- 1769/1770 First steam powered truck by Captain Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
- 1776 First attempt at a steam powered ship by French nobleman Claude-François-Dorothée, marquis de Jouffroy d’Abbans, on the Doubs River at Baum-des-Dames in the Franche-Comté
- 1804 First steam locomotive by Richard Trevithick
- 1881 First semi-trailer towed by a steam powered tractor
- 1895 First internal combustion truck by Karl Benz
- 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act for the interstate highway system in the USA
- 1903 Powered flight
- 1956 TMC of ATA starts as the Regular Common Carrier Conference Maintenance Committee
- 1980 Motor Carrier Act and deregulation
- 2020 Electric powered trucks reborn after nearly 100 years
The next 10-15 years are going to see significant milestones in powered freight transport. 250 years for steam powered trucks and ships, 225 years for steam powered trains, 125 years for internal combustion powered truck and powered flight. As we look to the future of powered freight transport, let’s not just remember the past, but learn from the past to improve the future.