Various steam-powered carriages and vehicles were built in Europe from 1769 through the late 1800s. However, one of the first gasoline-powered vehicles for hauling cargo was built in 1897 by Gottlieb Daimler in Germany. The earliest trucks were essentially self-powered wagons, most of which had an open driver compartment in the front. In 1898 the Winton Company of Cleveland, Ohio, became one of the first manufacturers of trucks in the United States. In 1903 the first truck show in the United States was held in New York City. In 1911 the first transcontinental coast-to-coast trip by a truck was completed in 66 days.
In the early 1900s trucks were used primarily for local deliveries and limited intercity commerce. Roads were poor, and railroads controlled the long-distance shipping of freight. As roads improved and more highways were built, however, the role of trucking in commerce grew in importance. The Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916 promoted the building of paved roads between cities to facilitate travel and commerce. By the end of World War I (1914-1918), more than 600,000 trucks were in use in the United States. Trucks proved to be an invaluable method for moving both soldiers and supplies during the war, and were also used extensively as ambulances for transporting wounded soldiers.
In 1935 the Congress of the United States passed the Motor Carrier Act to expand the role of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), a federal agency that regulated commerce between the states. The ICC was originally created to regulate commercial rail and water transportation. Its new authority allowed the ICC to establish regulations for trucking companies involved in interstate business.
As the nationís highway system expanded, so did the use of trucking to move goods and produce. The construction of the interstate highway system in the late 1950s and 1960s made long-haul trucking not only practical but also highly competitive with rail freight. In 1980 the trucking industry was deregulated, allowing the establishment of many small independent trucking companies. Deregulation stimulated competition in the trucking industry and generally lowered the cost of shipping freight by truck.