Evolution of the Semi-Truck: A Short Summary

Today we see them on roads and highways in multiple colors; giant metal beasts hauling one, two, sometimes even three trailers at a time, it’s the semi-truck. They get us the supplies we need for just about everything we do in life, but where did these semis originate and how did they get to where they are today? Let’s look at the past, present, and future of the semi-truck.

Wagons, Trains, and Automobiles

Where do we begin to date the invention of the semi? It may be up to opinion at this point, but we’ll place it somewhere in the horse and wagon days. Horses pulled wagons full of people and their belongings and aided them in their journeys of moving from one place to another. For a while, besides horse drawn wagons, the only form of transportation of people or goods was by train which was limited to the railway system. The invention of the automobile or “horseless carriage” followed, but these first automobiles were mostly used to transport people and some goods short distances. Driving these cars cross country wasn’t imaginable until 1903 when Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker drove Alexander Winton’s motorcar invention, the Winton Six, from San Francisco to New York City. For the first time the continent could be crossed in an automobile proving to take significantly less time than horse or train.


With more opportunity for hauling and traveling cross country quicker, the need to haul bigger loads grew and led to the invention of the semi-trailer. The credit can be given to August Fruehauf who started off building horse drawn wagons. In 1914 he was approached by a man who wanted to haul a boat, but wanted a mechanism that would allow him to attach it to his Ford Model T. After Fruehauf successfully constructed a hitch mechanism using the truck and a wagon, he called his invention the “semi-trailer.” This concept grew and continued to grow with the development of the Federal Highway Act of 1916 followed by the Federal Highway Act of 1956 which developed the countries highway systems. Companies were now designing on-highway semi-trucks which today can support a haul of up to 3 trailers.


Many companies started making heavy-duty commercial semi-trucks and innovators such as Freightliner joined in and designed lighter truck components using aluminum rather than traditional steel. They started in 1950 with their Eastern Freightliner designed to haul a single semi-trailer. In 1953 they introduced the first overhead sleeper designed for long-haul applications and continued changing the game for semi-trucks until its 2017 general public release of the Cascadia line paving the road for on-highway trucking. The Freightliner Cascadia Evolution is the semi-truck choice for Armada Trucking Group, focusing not only on safety, fuel-efficiency and up-time, but also on the highest level of comfort for our long-haul drivers.

Electric Trucking

The talk of electric semi-trucks is becoming more and more prevalent especially with the push for cleaner energy and protection of the environment. The Freightliner trucks have come a long way and continue to pave the road for a cleaner future with their innovations. In 2022, Freightliner will begin production of its 100% battery electric semi-truck, the eCascadia. Is the electric semi the future for trucking? We’ll visit that topic in-depth soon.

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