Car Hauler Industry Tips, Industry

The History of Auto Transport: How Car Hauling Got Where It Is Today

by Kacie LaCombe

It’s easy to take for granted how simple and convenient the process of transporting cars from coast-to-coast has become. Yes, the long hours and the Tetris-like loading and unloading of vehicles can still make car hauling challenging work, but advances in technology have made the coordination of transporting loads and managing operations far less painful than before. 

Apps and software aren’t the only solutions that have made the lives of carriers and shippers easier, either. From humble origins that allowed manufacturers to transport one car at a time to technology that replaced pen and paper, here’s a look at the progression of auto transport solutions that have turned car hauling into a sustainable business. 


The first semi-truck

At the tail end of the 19th century, the emergence of the automobile posed a particular challenge: How do these machines get sent to their final destination once they’ve been built? Alexander Winton, who founded the Winton Motor Carriage Company in 1897, wanted to ensure that customers received new vehicles without any mileage on them. His solution was the first semi-truck, a modified car with a flat cart that could transport just one car at a time — with the help of three people. 

As automobiles grew in popularity, manufacturers needed methods that would allow them to move vehicles at scale. Finished versions of the Ford Model T, the first mass-produced automobile, were loaded into specifically designed rail cars in 1910 — often within 24 hours of their final assembly. Typically shipped at the expense of the dealer, the Model T could either be delivered assembled or disassembled, which could result in several logistical challenges for dealers to encounter upon arrival. 


Highways and high-speed internet

The construction of highways in the United States gave way to the interstate car hauling boom. With a lack of regulations more than a century ago, ultra-long trucks carried one to two levels of cars in a variety of creative methods. Regulations in the 1930s soon led to safer hauling methods and familiar-looking car trailers that would serve as a prototypical form of how cars are hauled today. But with the passage of the The Motor Carrier Act of 1980, the interstate trucking industry was vastly deregulated, resulting in greater levels of competition for car hauling services. 

Load boards and Transportation Management Systems (TMS) have been a staple of trucking since the industry’s inception, taking the form of a literal message board with notecard-written descriptions of freight pinned to them. In the late 1970s, technology helped bring load boards into the digital age, enabling truckers to view potential loads displayed on monitors in truck stops that could be coordinated by phone. And by the 1980’s, the TMS had been popularized for logistics, supply chain, and enterprise resource planning management. 

The internet eased the way to the first online load boards of the mid-90s, allowing carriers and shippers to connect over the web. As today’s preferred method of keeping car haulers moving, internet-based load boards make it easy to advertise and bid on loads and routes nationwide. 


The auto transport platform

Today, carriers and shippers have access to the most advanced version of what has been built before them. With an all-in-one solution, like Super Dispatch, carriers and shippers leverage a single platform with all the technology they need to successfully manage loads and coordinate transport. By combining load boards, digital documents, and powerful integrations, carriers and shippers are delivered a modern, flexible transportation solution.

And although it may have been difficult to imagine how data and automation would play a major role in today’s trucking industry, they remain a natural extension of the same work Alexander Winton started more than 100 years ago: efficiently hauling cars from point A to point B. 


Super Dispatch is one of those advanced solutions honored to be a part of this industry’s history. Want to learn more about how our all-in-one platform can help your business? Request a free demo now


Published on August 31, 2021


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