When it comes to vital infrastructure, HGVs are absolutely the unsung heroes. Many of us forget that without HGVs and their drivers, businesses would be unable to access the supplies they need to create their products, and wouldn’t be able to ship them around the country either. Without HGVs, businesses like Amazon would collapse. But that begs the question – what did we do before HGVs existed? And how did HGVs end up being so important to our economy? We’re going to share some answers, by taking you on a tour through the history of the HGV.
To find the beginning of modern HGV driving, we need to look back to the early 1900s. Back then, goods were transported on medium-sized trucks, which more resembled our modern vans. And while it could be a lucrative job, it was considered very undesirable. This was partly because of the limited road network, but mainly because truck tyres in those days were made of 100% solid rubber. This made them very hard, and very uncomfortable to drive on. But around 1912 the pneumatic (or air-filled) tyre was invented, and that changed things. It was suddenly more comfortable to drive a truck, and the journeys could often be done a lot faster as well, setting the foundations for our modern HGV industry.
Around the same time, a big shift was happening in America. New road networks were being built across the country, and new large vehicles were being built to drive on them. But manufacturers and retailers were unsure about using them. So the Seattle Chamber of Commerce held a demonstration, and sponsored a loaded HGV to drive from Seattle to New York (which was quite a feat in those days). The trip took 31 days and was a massive success, convincing American businesses to adopt this new technology and starting the explosion of national and international haulage growth.
Electric lights were rarely found on cars before the 1920s, but around this time they become compulsory, and therefore pretty common! This might not seem like a big thing, but it meant that it was now safe for HGV drivers to drive through the night, effectively doubling the amount of time they could work and how quickly they could make deliveries. This set a chain reaction in motion, and the whole shipping and freighting process sped up, with businesses rising to meet the new demand.
Around the same time, an enterprising engineer realised that if they fitted a fifth wheel to the central beam of HGVs, they would radically speed up the process of picking up and dropping off trailers and loads, which also sped up the delivery process. Combined with electric lights, HGVs had never been better equipped, or more efficient. Coupled with the building of thousands of new roads, the HGV industry surged, and there were over 329,000 long-haul HGVs registered in the UK by the 1930s.
Of course, war changes things, and in the UK life was suddenly very different. Before 1950 there were a limited number of HGVs doing long-haul trips, thanks to the high price of diesel and petrol. But the war meant that we needed to be able to ship supplies to key areas in the country, as well as transport large numbers of soldiers across the country. HGVs were manufactures at an astounding rate to support this, resulting in a total of over 227,000 new HGVs being manufactured during the way. This huge demand also led to the birth of many new haulage companies, many of whom are still operating to this day.
So you see, the HGV had humble beginnings, but it’s grown into a thriving industry that we all rely on every day. And it’s still evolving, with the creation of the electric HGV and the self-driving HGV, haulage will continue to evolve with societies needs. If you would like to become a HGV driver, we would love to help you get there. To find out more, just get in touch with the team today.