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History of the Trucking Industry

February 15, 2024

Issue 258

History is one of my favorite subjects! Give me a good book about the Napoleonic Wars, Gettysburg, or conflict in U.S. politics in the 1960s, and I’m locked in. James Baldwin said, “People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” There is an ethos established as a society and culture that we’re meant to examine our historical origins and put some meaning to that context. A while back, I was lying in bed thinking to myself about the origins of freight brokering. Maybe it was an “AHA!” lightbulb moment when someone said, “Hey, I can use this new-found contraption that Alexander Graham Bell invented and call up Smalley’s Trucking to pick up this load rather than having myself doing it!” We might never know, however; all we can do is to stick with the tried and true facts.

In my research on the trucking industry I came across an article that stated before 1980, it was highly regulated. The government set shipping rates through the Motor Carrier Act. In addition to setting rates, they regulated who could enter the industry by issuing licenses. Prior to 1980, brokers could only help move “exempt” items such as agricultural goods like cotton and fruit. In the same article another point mentioned that, “The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 deregulated the trucking industry, allowing for more flexibility in pricing. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) had previously set rates based on factors like distance, weight, and commodity type. With deregulation, the freight brokerage industry evolved, connecting shippers and carriers and negotiating competitive rates based on market forces.” In the midst of deregulation within the trucking industry Allen Lund embarked on a journey to grow his own business. He established a company when C.W McCall’s Convoy song was a huge hit. The energy in the trucking industry permeated the general public with plaid shirts, CBs & CB slang, and trucker hats. The ethereal ripple that begun from deregulation crescendoed into a wave of new opportunity for many.

If you think about the time component between 1976, when ALC was established, and now, remarkable advancements have occurred within our nation’s supply chain. In 2022, the U.S. trucks moved more than 11.4 billion tons of freight in 2022, generating more than $940 billion – both increases from the previous year, according to the latest edition of American Trucking Associations’ American Trucking Trends 2023. Those numbers are staggering! Without freight brokerage would the nation’s supply chain be as interwoven & intense as it appears? Who knows…As time moves forward, we cannot forget Jeremy Irons’ quote from The Time Machine, “We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.” Thankfully, a man like Allen Lund had a dream and turned it into reality. The rest is history…

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