TIP 50 years; a logistic history of innovation and change. Part 1

Just one factor has remained the same in our sector throughout our 50-year history that we are celebrating in 2018: constant change. TIP Trailer Services prides itself on its ability to embrace change and to support its customers’ quests for innovation.


At TIP Trailer Services, change and innovation are quintessential elements of our DNA. We view them as opportunities to deploy our expertise and find new ways to add value to our customers’ service and experience.

Trailer history

It is interesting to rewind history to see how the trailer has changed. The first semi-trailer truck was invented by Alexander Winton in 1898 in Cleveland, Ohio. He started off by producing cars but realised that he couldn’t transport them to their new owners without increasing their mileage and damaging “wear and tear”.  Winton invented the semi-trailer truck, which carried one vehicle on a trailer to deliver his cars and production began in 1899. [source: fueloyal*]

Early technological advances

The next major advances in technology came after World War I. They included pneumatic tyres, electric lights and power brakes and closed cabs. Mack Trucks of New York invented the automatic starter*.  Peterbilt, a coachbuilder in Washington State, built the first trailers adopted for carrying cut timber*. The first modern semi-trailer trucks began appearing. The diesel engine did not become common in trucks in Europe until the 1930s and in the USA until the 1970s. [source: wikipedia]

Trailer evolution and material science

The technology story for trailers and trucks from the 1930s to the 1950s mirrors the evolution of materials sciences. For example, in the 1950s aluminum started replacing steel as the material of choice for building trailer and truck bodies. 1960s trailer manufacturers used new materials such as plastics and foam to line containers to help with temperature control. [source: trailer-body builders]

Standard European containers

In 1951, the Swiss Museum of Transport and the Bureau International des Containers (BIC) selected a standard-sized container for Western Europe, based on the Netherlands’ system for consumer goods and waste transportation called “Laadkisten” (meaning “loading bins”), in use since 1934. This “intermodal container” can be transported on the roads by a trailer, on ships, by air or rail worldwide, thereby facilitating global transportation. [source: Wikipedia]

Trucks go electric

The 1960s saw the introduction of the electric motor for powering trucks. Smith’s Delivery Vehicles in the UK produced a 1.1 tonne milk delivery truck powered by an electric motor with a 50 km range and a top speed of 40 kmph, capable of transporting 80 cases of milk. The owner of the company said: “There is only one other vehicle in our operation that we can move for less money, and that is our wheelbarrow.” [source: trailer-body builders]

1980s computer age begins

From the 1980s, computer technology has been a major driver of innovation in trailer and truck technology. Manufacturers used computers to improve the precision and quality of vehicle manufacturing. Some fleets started using computers to manage their businesses. The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) was invented for remote tyre pressure monitoring. Then in the 2000s, fleets began using the internet to promote themselves, check order status or inventory levels, and place orders. Telematics became widely adopted to help drivers navigate more efficiently. It also enabled fleet managers to monitor their trucks and trailers more effectively on a remote basis.  [source: trailer-body builders]

TIP and history

Throughout its 50 years’ existence, TIP has had great respect for the history of its industry and the lessons it can draw from it, to ensure that its customers enjoy the best possible experience, and services.

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