The Origin Of Trucks

Benz-Gaggenau BL 10 platform truck

Firstly, where does the word truck come from? It appears it was first used for the wheels on a ship’s cannon and was extended to carts carrying heavy loads. Before gas powered trucks were steam trucks, though they weren’t that widespread.

While vehicles remained expensive, luxury items, the truck wasn’t that popular either. There were many cheaper ways to transport goods – carts, canal boats, railways and so on.

The first trucks had wooden wheels clad in iron. The Phoenix was a later model, a converted car that ran on coal gas, lamp oil as well as gasoline.

Early Trucks

Karl Benz came up with the first truck in 1895 which was in turn altered to become an autobus. In 1896 Gottleib Daimler produced a horseless wagon with 4hp. Although it was said to carry 3300 pounds many disagreed – presumably this was too much for them?

Because of the lack of interest in Germany Gottleib Daimler tried selling the product in England, as coke and coal was cheaper than in Germany. There may have been a speed issue too. Up to 1896 the speed limit was 4mph. It was advertised as being able to transport 1500Kg but it wouldn’t be until 1901 that a truck could outdo the steam alternative as a test run between a motor truck and a steam truck in Liverpool proved.

They would also be promoted in Paris by the French Automobile Club in 1898. The wooden wheels referred to above were a hazard as they were liable to catch fire.

Süddendeutsche Automobilfabrik’s truck used a steel frame and steel wheels along with wheels and pistons. Before that German trucks had used a belt drive.

Other versions were created by Peugeot and Bussing. Only after the Second World War were things like pneumatic tires and power brakes introduced. The diesel engine was introduced in 1923. All of these were styled as large delivery vehicles, not pick ups as we think of them today.

The First American Truck!

Autocar created the first truck in the US with a choice of either 5 or 8hp and two-cylinder engine in 1899.

The first pickup truck was “vehicle no 42” in 1896. After that a modified Ford Model T called The Runabout had a similar design. The first Chevy truck was created in 1918 also using the Model T chassis. The chassis would continue for some time, in 1935 the same chassis would be used to create a station wagon for Chevy, though they did need to alter the load bearing capabilities of the vehicle and remove some of the body panels. These were open-cab vehicles and included such items as specialist hickory wood wheels.

EV Trucks?

There were a number of electric trucks being produced as early as 1907 with strong suspension and gears, such as a 5-ton truck produced in Indianapolis.

Model T Tow Truck

Tow Trucks

The tow truck was created in 1916, basically from necessity. Created by Ernest Holmes in Tennessee it hooked up cars (either broken or crashed ones) using chains and pulleys to take them to the wreckers. The tow truck company and the associated wrecking business was taken over by Miller Industries.

The Volvo’s first truck in 1928 had a four-cylinder engine and although it was said only to allow 1,500Kg many people overloaded it with little side-effect.

The truck, like all early vehicle styles, was only finding its way at that point since there were no huge freeways and has come a long way since.

Why Semi-Truck Turning Is So Hard

For trucks, turning can be one of the hardest things you can do. Why? Read on and find out.

If a truck wants to u-turn (180 degrees) for example, a truck park must allow for a minimum turn path, a truck of 18 wheels needs about 20’ to turn, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels.

Because a truck cannot make a turn in a small radius, they need to swing wide, meaning they must start the turn in the second lane to the left. There is an increased risk of a tip over or roll over if a truck tries to turn in too small a radius.

During any turn there is an increased risk of accident, and if there are only two lanes, trucks should avoid turning left. A truck may collide with a vehicle heading toward it from the front or there may be a right turn squeeze play accident from a vehicle trying to turn alongside it.

Squeeze-play Accidents

Squeeze-play accidents can happen in two ways. First because the trailer turns tighter than the cab and cars tend to assume they are safe if the cab isn’t going to hit them. However, the rear tires on the trailer can strike and even climb over a small car that is overtaken on the inside of a turn. It’s never a good idea to attempt a turn at the same time as a truck even when there are two turn lanes.

The second type of squeeze-play happens when drivers are lured into it. Because trucks need to swing right in order to turn left the truck gives the illusion it is turning right. Car drivers see the left blinker on, but assume the driver really meant to go right.

Trucks also have a larger blind spot than cars which means if they put their left turn signal on a car may feel safe pulling up next to it on the right. When the truck driver turns right to begin his left turn any cars in the way would be crushed, generally at the roof but it can be squeezed against a barrier.

How to Turn a Truck:

If you’re driving the truck, it is important to use signals when turning. It’s important to use windows and mirrors to check what is happening and do not move too quickly. It’s vital that you not put yourself in a position to have to back up the vehicle in the middle of an intersection.

To enter into a right turn, ensure that you have enough space from the curb and do not swing into the far-right lane. Conversely, if a truck makes a left turn it needs to first move right.

Different truck turns can be performed in different gears, right turns should be done in third gear, while left can be done in fourth gear. If it is a big right-hand corner with a turning lane (also known as a slip lane) it may be done in fifth gear. A slower vehicle turns more sharply.

Turn signals need to be up-to-date, mirrors should be correct for the size of the vehicle. The driver needs an adequate level of experience, qualifications and training. Unfamiliarity, such as a new route and different conditions may change things. Or the driver could be distracted which includes being tired.

This is just a simple guide, and it should be noted that you need a considerable amount of training to drive a truck, fortunately for other users of the road!

Avoiding Accidents:

It is vital not to overtake a turning truck.

If you’re driving a vehicle near a truck, to prevent accidents always stay away from a truck’s blind spots, especially if it is an 18-wheel truck. Only pass one when there is a great deal of room and do not pass on the right. Should a truck be indicating, give it a wide berth.

Car drivers shouldn’t think of a truck operating like a regular vehicle and just be more patient.

11% of all crash deaths in 2019 involved trucks but 74% of them involved a large trailer, while 24% involved single unit trucks. It is vital as a car driver to stay a safe distance and only pass when there is a great deal of room, especially if it is indicating.