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Let’s tip our hats to the nation’s trucks

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Trucks, trucks and more trucks.

Anyone who has traveled our nation’s highways, especially its interstates, is fully aware of the vast number of trucks out there today.

To get an idea of just how many, go out to a good, safe location near Interstate 95 and observe. If you count the number of trucks in each direction during a five- or 10-minute span, you might be amazed.

It’s the same situation throughout the nation.

According to the website, more than 15.5 million large trucks now travel our nation’s highways. Together, they log some 140 billion miles each year and use more than 53.9 billion gallons of fuel.

To put that in perspective, their combined mileage is the equivalent of circling the earth 17 million times.

Although the trucking industry has become a major force in this country with a colorful history, it has only been in existence for a relatively short time.

During the 1700s, goods traveled mostly on water, and from the mid- to late 1800s, trains and horse-drawn vehicles did most of the hauling.

With the invention of the gasoline-powered automobile around 1900, shipping goods by truck became an option. And as roads were built and improved to handle the cars more Americans were driving, the trucking industry also benefited and became more popular.

By 1914, almost 100,000 trucks were using America’s roads, but the road surfaces were still not good enough to handle speeds above 15 miles per hour, and that fact hampered progress somewhat.

The 1920s saw advancements, including better rural roads and the introduction of the diesel engine, which was more fuel-efficient than its gasoline-powered cousin.

President Franklin Roosevelt started talking about building an interstate highway system in 1941, but World War II mandated other priorities, and the matter didn’t get another push until President Dwight D. Eisenhower took up the cause in 1954.

Even then, it took a couple of more years to figure out how they were going to pay for the new highways.

And just like other issues today, interstate highways had their complainers and debaters among special-interest groups representing rail, trucking, tire makers, oil companies and farm industries.

Thank goodness they got it all worked out, because it’s hard to imagine what kind of shape this country would be in economically today had it not been for the interstate highways and the trucks that use them.

With the interstates, it became easier and quicker to move items between cities, and the larger trucks could travel at higher speeds through both rural and urban areas.

Shipping goods by truck today without using the interstates would not only cost more but also could take 10 times longer to get there.

More important, a trip to Disney World with the family in bumper-to-bumper traffic along U.S. 301 could conceivably take close to a week or more instead of the 10-12 hours like it takes today.

While U.S. 301 is a nice road, having to rely on it today for all travel between New York and Miami would result in a monumental mess and the world’s largest traffic jam.

The trucking industry has a significant presence in this area, with numerous trucking companies, truck stops, distribution centers and the many businesses that rely on them to deliver goods. All contribute greatly to the economy and are responsible for the livelihoods of countless workers.

Trucks definitely play an extremely important part in today’s world and that should continue to be the case for many years to come.

The old adage “If you’ve got it, a truck probably brought it” still rings true.

Keith Barnes is a reporter for the Johnstonian News. Email him at