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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s People on the Move Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Grand Plan Stop the Bulldozers! A New World for America's Auto Culture The Interstate Economy See the U.S.A. Crawl and Sprawl Safety
16: On the Interstate:  I-10, 1956–1990

The Interstate Economy

The new interstate highway system brought a huge increase in long-distance trucking. The new roads made truck travel easier, swifter, cheaper, and safer. They allowed bigger trucks to carry more freight on faster schedules. Traffic congestion on urban streets and two-lane country roads could be bypassed. Costs were lower, with less wear and tear on vehicles. Businesses erected new warehouses and factories outside of cities on cheaper rural land near the interstates.

Associated Truck Lines warehouse terminal, Landover, Maryland, 1969
Associated Truck Lines warehouse terminal, Landover, Maryland, 1969
Commercial enterprises and distribution centers moved from the edge of town to interchanges along the highways.
El Paso Truck Terminal on I-10, 1966
Large multiservice plazas, many owned by oil companies, replaced mom-and-pop stores that once catered to truckers and other travelers.
El Paso Truck Terminal on I-10, 1966

How Trucking Grew

In 1950, some 173 billion ton-miles of commercial intercity freight traveled by truck. (A ton-mile is one ton carried one mile.) As the interstate system grew, commercial freight by truck more than tripled to 555 billion ton-miles in 1980. Easing of federal restrictions on trucking prices and routes came in the 1980s, and commercial truck freight grew to nearly 650 billion ton-miles by 1985.

U.S. Intercity Commercial Freight chart
Peterbilt conventional tractor, 1984
Peterbilt conventional tractor, 1984
Working conditions have improved since the beginning of trucking, with better roads, bigger trucks, and more conveniences in the cab, but hauling a load is still grueling work. For the long-distance trucker, the cab is both home and office. Cecil Curry, the driver of this tractor, hauled building materials, agricultural products, industrial parts, and consumer goods across most of the United States.
Citizen's band radio
The oil crisis-which brought lower speed limits, more police enforcement, and gas shortages-made the CB radio a necessity for truck drivers. It let "good buddies" talk to one another as they drove.
Citizen's band radio
Daily log
Daily log
Federal law regulates truckers’ hours on the road, and keeping a daily log is part of the job.
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