Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Rig Chronicles: The Peterbilt

One truck that most people will know the name of, even if they’re not at all interested in cars or trucks, is the Peterbilt. It’s a truck I can actually mention to people, and they’ll nod and actually know what I’m talking about, because everybody knows the Peterbilt.

As with the Kenworth, the logging industry played a big part in the development of the Peterbilt and indirectly, so did World War I.
World War I spawned a need for more efficient deliveries of food and supplies, and the government was forcing more and more motorized trucks into service. Previous to this, there had been a lack of good roads to drive on, which had held back the trucking industry. As the need for better transportation grew due to the war, so did the need for better highways and the government willingly provided them.
This development sped up society and increased efficiency on many levels. T.A Peterman’s lumber business was growing fast and floating freshly cut logs down the river from the forest to the mill, or hauling them off to the mill by horse, no longer seemed efficient enough, so he started developing technologies and building trucks that could accommodate his needs.
(Peterbilt 350 - one the first trucks built after WWII)

Peterman started by rebuilding army surplus trucks, constantly upgrading and making them into better models by improving the technology. Soon he developed a need for a place where he could build custom logging truck chassis, and in 1938 he acquired the assets of a virtually dead truck manufacturer (Fageol Motors, Oakland, CA) and started producing custom trucks. Peterman’s trucks were built exclusively for his lumber company and they were specifically designed and customized to meet all his needs within the industry. His trucks became available for sale to the public in 1939. Peterman was mostly concerned with the quality of his trucks and produced only 100 trucks a year. He started sending his engineers into the field so they could make modifications to their trucks based on issues that truckers were facing in their day-to-day operation.

During World War II, Peterbilt was contracted by the government to produce heavy-duty trucks. The experience and skills that Peterman and his engineers acquired during this time was invaluable, and were later applied to his commercial trucks after the war.

In 1945, Peterman passed away and his widow sold the trucking company, without the land, to seven Peterbilt managers, who were able to expand the business and soon Peterbilt became a large-scale producer of big rigs.

(1955 Peterbilt)


In 1958, Peterman’s widow decided to sell the land and develop a shopping center. The owners of Peterbilt were reaching retirement age by this time and had no desire acquire more debt by buying another manufacturing plant for the business. They ended up selling Peterbilt to PACCAR (Pacific Car & Foundry Co.), who in the past had been better known for manufacturing railroad cars. In 1945, PACCAR had bought Kenworth Trucks and they were becoming a renowned manufacturer in the heavy truck industry, so Peterman’s Peterbilts would be in good hands with them.

T.A Peterman’s passion for his trucks and his dedication to the quality of his product spawned a loyal following of truck lovers and truck manufacturers from the very beginning. Through the years, the trucking world’s loyalty has not faded nor strayed, and that is why the Peterbilt is still one of the most known and reputable trucks of today.

3 comments:

Marie Reed said...

I am learning so much from this blog! I can understand your passion for these beauties! Your blog design cha,ged again. You've been a busy bee:)

Fuso Trucks said...

I love the picture of the 50's trucker and his truck.

Phillip Taylor said...

I agree to this post. Peterbilt is one of the most known hauling trucks. They're very reliable on any transportation and they're also very useful on moving heavy equipments.

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