Experts on Tour - Al Mroz

American Truck History

From prehistoric time when human beings discovered metallurgy and petroleum, advances in their uses and applications were gradual until the Industrial Revolution. During the 1800s advances in metallurgy and new discoveries and uses for petroleum led to rapid technological advances that allowed the development of the steam engine and proliferation of railroads and steam vessels. The invention of the gasoline engine would be the next major event in the Industrial Revolution. The development of large-scale oil drilling and the invention of vulcanized rubber would have a major effect on the development of the motor vehicle.

At the turn of the last century (1900) it was still uncertain which motive power was going to be best suited for road transport. Trucks were evenly divided between steam, electric and gasoline power. This reflects on the question today as to which fuel will be best suited for the upcoming century when problems with petroleum availability and ecological concerns challenge manufacturers to find new answers.

During the first two decades of the 20th century and especially during World War I necessities for faster and efficient mass transport of goods and war materiel induced hundreds of companies to build tens of thousands of trucks for use in Europe. Many innovations took place, especially four-wheel-drive, but lack of interchangeability of components for example, created chaos, the type of confusion that today's manufacturer's meet when old lessons are not learned.

Economic hard times such as that of the Great Depression forced many companies out of business, but it also forced the strong into greater innovation, bolder design and new ways of doing business. Wars, including the Second World War, Korean War and Vietnam War, also forced advances in organization and technology, but at a tremendous cost of destruction and loss of life.

By the 1970s oil shortages forced companies to reconsider efficiency and alternative fuel. Truck design and manufacturing made great strides as a result of these global stresses, but these stresses eventually have become the masters of societies as the quest for transport of goods has relied increasingly on the availability and control over petroleum, metals and other vital materials around the world.

Al Mroz grew up in California's Silicon Valley where he attended the University of the Pacific and San Jose State University, studying industrial design. He worked at several high-tech companies as a machine designer and technical writer. His hobby has been collecting and restoring classic motor vehicles. The most recent such project was a 1947 Ford 1-ton panel truck.

In the early 1990's Mroz began publishing articles on trucking and truck history for such magazines as Pickup & Delivery, Go West, Trucker's News, Transport Topics, Vintage Truck and Antique Power, and later for such magazines as Army Motors, Society of Automotive Historians, American Truck Historical Society and Old Time Trucks. In 1996 Mroz wrote and published The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks and commercial Vehicles with Krause Publications. He continues to publish articles on transportation and motor vehicle history. He is a member of SAE, Society of Automotive Historians and American Truck Historical Society.

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