The first tractor trailer

It may seem from its omnipresence on America’s highways that the semi-trailer has been around forever. In a sense it has—coming into existence not long after the birth of the auto itself, and for good reason: As the auto industry grew and cars were sold, a way had to be developed to transport those cars to the destinations of their buyers.

But first, paved roads had to be developed, and that didn’t occur until the decade of the 1910s. And at that, it wasn’t until the 1950s and ’60s that our familiar cross-country interstate system came into being that enabled shipping and freighting to come up to a level par with the railroad and freighters.

An early carmaker from Cleveland, Alexander Winton, in 1896 was experiencing the very real need to get cars to customers from across the country. And he had to do it in an efficient and economical manner. The concept of the “automobile hauler” came to Winton two years later, when he manufactured the first semi-truck with the sole purpose of transporting automobiles. This account from the website of Great Western Transportation:

“The first semi trailer used a modified 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 portion and rested on a pair of wheels on the other end. This may be a bit confusing as most cars and trucks have engines in the front; this car had an engine in the rear.”

A year later, Winton Motor Carriage began producing the hauler for not only its own use but for other car manufacturers as well. There was one proviso, however. The platform only held one automobile. 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. Today’s RGN flatbed trailer, the removable gooseneck, utilizes the same principle of being driven onto, then hitched, to the tractor.

Logging and semis have an old history too, but that’s for another time.

One more mention of historical fact: Tenmet proudly provides the finest in comprehensive truck/tractor and semi-trailer repairs and parts. And our fully furnished 24-hour mobile service truck fleet is always at the ready for roadside calls and customer-location service work.

Tenmet aims to keep you rollin’ right. Depend on The Dependables…Tenmet!

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