>Has the Trucking Industry Changed >Government and Regulations >Unions >Deregulation >Electronic Logging Devices

early 1900s trucking

Why since the early 1900s is the trucking industry still the same? A good deal of may be asking how I could say the industry is still the same, but when you take a look at trucking jobs in the 1900s, they were much the same as now. Yes, we have big large cars with plenty of horsepower and can go across the nation in three days, but the drivers” job is still the same.

The first trucking company was started in 1894 by the Jones Motor Group in Spring City, PA by John Jones. Then the organization was named Jones Drayage Company, and Mr. Jones hauled product locally by way of a single horse and cart. As the years went by, they purchased more horses and wagons and in 1912 bought their first truck.

A year later in 1895 Mawson and Mawson started their business in Langhorne, PA and they started the same way with a reliable horse and buggy. The Mawson family hauled freight throughout Southeastern PA. By 1928, son Kenneth joined the business, and by then trucks were in operation. The two pulled gypsum board, heavy metals, and machinery throughout New England.

My point is trucking is still the same as far as the job; a driver was hauling freight from point A to B. The only change now is we have a bigger truck, with many more conveniences, better roads, and a lot more horses. Drivers then were underpaid just as they are now.

Why Has the Trucking Industry Not Changed

When the trucking industry started in the early 1900s, there were no rules or regulation established for how long a driver could work or if they required any time off. It was much the same for all industries starting at the beginning of the industrialized revolution. The wage for all sectors was marginal, but people were glad to work and would work all the hours they could to make a living for themselves and their families.

Everyone was quick to find out people working all these hours was not going to be productive in the long run. As might be expected there were too many workplace injuries and as far as any kind of workplace morale boosters, they were unheard-of then. The trucking industry soon found out requiring a driver to work without rest would not be feasible; way too many truck accidents, injuries, and crashes. Trucking companies could find other drivers’, but they could not keep buying new equipment.

Companies Then and Nowtrucking in the 1940s

Money people soon found out there was money to be made in this newfound industry. The industrialized revolution was just getting started in the United States; companies and people needed to have freight, equipment, and goods transported from place to place. Many trucking companies sprang up, and trucking jobs were in high demand. Companies then did not overthink about the driver well-being or how much they were getting paid, there only thoughts were making money and moving freight.

Is anything different now? Yes, we have better equipment, better communication, and better overall living conditions while on the road. In spite of having GPS trackers, cell phones and computers, one of the number one complaints from drivers’ today is communication, just as it was in the 1900s. Drivers were underpaid then and another significant criticism from most drivers’ today is pay.

Government and Regulations

The trucking industry was taking off and fast becoming a significant industry. A new way to move goods quickly around our growing nation. Those with money could see the opportunities here, and everyone involved in warehousing, manufacturing, and road building wanted a piece of the pie. There was only one unforeseen problem looming on the horizon, and that was the government and railroads.

Everyone knows the railroads were started with a lot of support from the government. Therefore, the government was not going to allow the trucking companies to steal freight from the railroads, chiefly when they owed them so much money. The Hours of Service Regulation were put into effect in the 1930s as a way to curb an out of control trucking industry, and seemingly to protect workers form overly demanding employers.

Trucking companies were, and many still demand too many hours from their driver. The real reason the HOS Regulations were mandated was too slow the growth of the industry so to protect the railroads. Read on of my earlier articles on government interference in our industry and how they can’t fix anything – If It’s Broke Let the Government Fix It.


In the 1890s when the Teamsters Union began it was something that was badly needed at that time for overworked and overburdened employees. There can be no question companies were taking advantage of their workers by not paying sufficient wages and working way too many hours. Trucking companies were the same as other companies at that time; drivers’ were driving too many hours, with very little rest.

The unions were created and demanded better working conditions, better pay and better benefits. It was something seriously wanted at the time, by most employees. There were a lot of ups and downs over the years with strikes, some needed some not, and many confrontations between employees, their union, the companies, and the government.

Does it not sound a lot like what goes on today? Due to corruption in the Teamsters Union, they have lost much of their membership thereby losing money, influence with the government, companies, and workers. But the conflicts with drivers’, governments, and companies still continues.

Before Deregulation

In the 60 years from 1935 until 1995, federal and state authorities imposed restrictive, intricate and ineffective rules around pricing and regions that were initially intended to limit trucking’s ability to overtake the railroads. With the coming of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) basically decided which companies became interstate motor carriers, what they transported, where they hauled and the prices they charged. It was a dominant political bureau that was also where corruption ran rampant.

Carriers could not easily keep doing business as usual. They had to apply for rights —or authority—to transport freight in the regions where they already did business. Carriers had to document their previous service in the specific lane they were asking for. And this wasn’t easy since the ICC was very confining in their interpretation of proof of service and this opened the door to what could be called crony capitalism.

In 1948, Congress sanctioned carriers to meet as an association and legally fix prices and terms of service for given areas. They had to maintain prices based on the least rate, and carriers that belong to the organization could not charge less than a certain percentage of the established standard. (That’s when an industry-wide discount system was born.)

Now 1980s freightliner

After the passing of inter-and intrastate regulations in the 1980s and 90s,decreased barriers for recent competition meant many more carriers in the marketplace. Enhanced competition forced LTL and truckload companies to focus on customer demands. The effects were significant savings for shippers and important strides for those carriers that were able to provide top-notch service. Service became quicker and more reliable, which made it simpler for businesses to eventually run in a “just-in-time” manner and decrease inventory warehousing.

There are many arguments for and against deregulation, it all depends on who you talk to, and there are not many driving today that were there when it took place. I was there in the 80s, and looking from a drivers’ standpoint I do remember the number of new trucking companies that were started. In an effort for these companies to make money and keep their trucks running the freight rates regularly decreased, along with driver’s pay.

As a result of all this, the driver pay never increased when you factor in inflation. Drivers continue to falsify their logbooks, and DOT Regulations for truck drivers’ continues to rise. The ELD mandate went into effect in late 2017. It’s stated purpose was to decrease accidents, ensure drivers’ were getting their much-needed rest, and a way to ensure they did not falsify their logbooks.

We all know, once again it was mainly money involved, as it was through the efforts of our American Trucking Association, trucking companies that were still unionized, the insurance companies, and many other public safety groups that the ELD Mandate was passed. These groups donate to our politicians on a regular basis. It was once again passed with very little input from the average driver and did nothing to boost driver morale.

Demand Respect trucking with the new electronic devices

Through all these years the industry has seen many changes as far as equipment and all the advancements in technology. We have better forklifts and more efficient ways to load and unload trucks. Now a driver can communicate with the dispatchers better; cell phones so a person can call from the cab of their vehicles, and truckers all have GPS maps for routing. Without a doubt, truck stops are more modern, and drivers’ have a lot better food to eat.

In spite of all the modern day conveniences, many things are still the same as they were years ago. When I go out and talk to drivers’, they all say the same things as they were saying back in the 1930s. The things drivers’ would like to see most now are:

  • Pay By the Hour
  • Fair Wages
  • Treated with Respect
  • Hire Professional Drivers and give them the opportunity to do the job
  • Workplace Communication with Management

Having good, reliable equipment is also at the top of the list, but the bottom line, if you will sit down and talk to an experienced driver, they will tell you, pay, fewer regulations, workplace communication, and be treated with respect are on top of the list.


The drivers’ as a whole should start demanding respect, quit trying to find ways around the hours of service and start running legal. As long as there are a few that want to bend the rules, the companies will continue taking advantage of the driver, and yes I understand everyone needs to make a living. Long-term gain is better than short-term satisfaction.

When the ELDs came out, drivers’ immediately started to figure out ways to get around these silly rules, just as they did in 1935 when the HOS laws went into effect. When John Q Public finds out they are not going to get their packages delivered overnight or fresh produce delivered to the grocery stores; only then will companies get together, demand the government change things and trucking jobs may improve.

Thank You for reading my post and Please Comment Below!!

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