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A Hundred Years of Hauling

Tractor-Trailers: A Century of Advancement

2018 is a big year for the trucking industry. Exactly one century ago, in 1918, August Fruehauf launched the Fruehauf Trailer Corporation, based on a trailer design he had created. The same year, John C. Endebrock, founder of the Trailmobile company, began work on a trailer that could be coupled and uncoupled by a single man – the predecessor of the modern fifth wheel. Take a look back at the historic moments that laid the groundwork for the trucking industry as we know it today on this hallmark occasion.

The First Semi-Trailer

August Charles Fruehauf was 46 years old when he created what would ultimately become the first semi-trailer, in 1914. This was the year a local lumber merchant asked Fruehauf – a blacksmith and carriage builder in Detroit at the time – to build him something to haul his boat using his Ford vehicle.

His design was so successful and popular that many people soon asked Fruehauf to build similar models. Four years later, in 1918, Fruehauf created the Fruehauf Trailer Company. Since then, the company has innovated several new designs and trailer concepts, first under August Fruehauf and later under his son, Harvey.

Trailmobile Company’s Hauling Innovations

While Fruehauf was designing and building his version of the semi-trailer, John Endebrock was founding what would ultimately be called the Trailmobile Company. In 1910, Endebrock was pushing his employers at the Sechler Company – a carriage shop – to invest in the future. To him, this meant truck trailers. Endebrock introduced his “trailmobile” (a unit that trails an automobile) in 1914. By 1918-19, he had invented and patented the fifth wheel mechanism. His handmade prototype was very similar to the semi-trailer fifth wheels we see today.

Mack Trucks, Inc.

The start of modern-day heavy-duty 18-wheelers stems mainly back to Mack Trucks, Inc. – a company that started in 1900 as Mack Brothers Company. Inspired by inventions from Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, and others, John Mack envisioned a future of heavy-duty trucks and engines. The company was creating automobiles in 1900, but over the next few decades the brothers experimented with motor cars and trailer-trucks. Mack Trucks has been responsible for dozens of groundbreaking innovations in the trucking industry, including power brakes, and the first hook-and-ladder fire truck.

Modern Big Rigs in 2018

Throughout the 1900s, major companies in the industry continued to make breakthrough discoveries and improvements to heavy-duty trucks, shaping trucking as we know it today. The basic concept remains much the same as it did at its inception in 1914, but technology has, over the years, made the elements more advanced. Today’s 18-wheelers can accommodate up to 700,000 tons of cargo per year!

The Future of Hauling

As we look toward the future of the trucking industry, we see that technology will play an enormous role. Transportation technology has the power to completely change the way we see trucking, with innovations such as automated vehicles, new software, and electronic logging devices. Trucking is now undergoing incredible advances. Although it’s impossible to predict what happens to the industry in the next 100 years, you can bet that GTG Technology Group will be at the cutting edge of innovation every step of the way.


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