The History of Auto Transport
Auto transport history can be traced back to the 15th century with steam and gasoline automobiles. However, the first automobile was invented by a German designer named Karl Benz around 1885. It wasn’t until the late 1890’s that the automotive industry began to take shape in the United States.
Hand in hand with the automotive industry came the auto transport industry. To get these cars to where they needed to be, the railroad was the primary means of transportation. However, the transport was slow, not to mention expensive, so the auto dealers began to purchase the cars directly from the manufacturers themselves.
The First Semi-Truck
Scottish-American automobile designer Alexander Winston started in Ohio as a car manufacturer in 1896. It didn’t take Winston long to realize that he needed a better plan to get his cars to his customers.
That designer-mind of his worked, and he found that by loading an automobile on top of a flat cart attached on top of an engine and behind the back of a modified truck, he could have his cars transported more easily.
And it was then that the first semi-truck was born! In 1899, Winston sold his first manufactured semi-truck and was soon inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the Automotive Hall of Fame.
There was just one problem…
His semi-truck could only transport one car at a time. Then, with demand for automobiles going up, manufacturers began to take things into their own hands and design their own semi-trailers.
In Comes Bi- and Tri-Level Auto Transport Shipping
By the 20th century, the need for car shipping grew by a great deal. Trains were burning the rails doing what they could to keep up, fitting as many cars as possible. Flatbeds, too, were carrying what they could.
But just like an era prior, the transport was just too expensive for most dealers — and those who wanted to buy automobiles.
In the mid-’50s, Volkswagen engineers collaborated with German railroads to design a two-level flatcar. Each flatcar was able to carry 10 vehicles at a time! This design proved to be extremely successful and completely changed the game for car shipping.
By 1960, there were even tri-level railroad carriers in play, which could move 12 cars at a time.
By Air and By Sea
For the most part, in the early ’40s, airplanes were used to transport people or goods. However, the demand for a means to efficiently transport cars was on the rise, so the need to use air transport began.
The first auto transport by air dates back to the late ’40s and early ’50s. One of the biggest-known air transport carriers was Silver City, which transported automobiles between England and France throughout the late ’40s to the ’60s.
Because cargo ships were able to transport large quantities of cars, they too became useful. It started in 1957, when the US Military contacted the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, located in Chester, Pennsylvania. This ship was fitted with a stern and interior ramp, making it easier to load cars onto the ship.
By 1973, The European Highway was on the seas and able to carry 4,200 automobiles at once!
Modern-Day Auto Transport
Auto transport history has evolved rapidly since the early ’80s. Today, cars are usually transported by car-carrier trucks, equipped with the best technology and design — you’ve likely driven behind one at some point in your life and marveled at how all the cars stay on!
Air and sea auto transport are still used when shipping cars overseas, whether it’s newly manufactured cars or someone is relocating to a new country. And while air auto shipping is a simple way to transport a car, it’s still a pretty expensive one.
There are many cost-effective ways to ship your car, truck, SUV, or anything in between, including working with our team at Number 1 Auto Transport. We are highly experienced and love what we do, and we will help you find the lowest cost and most reliable method to ship your vehicle!