Fuel for Thought

Truck Lines

By Greg Huggins
Posted Sep 20th 2023 5:05AM

Why are so many trucking companies called  [insert name] truck lines? Why not just [insert name] trucking or [insert name] company? Well, there is a very good reason why some many carrier’s names end with truck lines, tank lines or van lines, and it dates back to about 1935.

Prior to 1935, trucking was on the rise along with more government funding to increase the number and conditions of the nation's roadways. As more and more trucking companies started to take market share from the railroads ( the only viable land based source of transportation prior to trucking), the struggle to keep control of certain markets between railroads and trucking companies came before Congress many times. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Motor Carrier Act (MCA)and the Interstate Commerce Commision (ICC) was appointed to include trucking companies under its regulatory rules, along with its then current jurisdiction over railroads and pipelines.

At that time, if a trucking company wanted to serve a particular city in another state (interstate commerce), the ICC had to grant the company authority to serve those customers between the two cities. As a result, many trucking companies were granted authority to serve a “line” between their home terminal and the other city of another state, many requests were denied. Thus, the truck line(s) was born. The same is true for tank lines and van lines. This “line” authority was only granted if the ICC determined that a specific destination was underserved by the railroad or other truck lines. 

The trucking industry has come a long way since the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, despite the obstacles that were put in place because of it. 

Since the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which greatly reduced regulations on the trucking industry, there has been enormous growth in the industry and more competition. 

The Interstate Commerce Commision (ICC) was the first regulatory commission established in the U.S., where it oversaw common carriers. It was originally established in 1887 to regulate the railroads due to public outcry over the railroads' abusive practices. In 1995, the Interstate Commerce Commision was terminated and its remaining responsibilities were transferred to other various government entities.

Most of the Interstate Commerce Commission's powers had been transferred to the Federal Highway Administration and the newly created Surface Transportation Board, both of which were controlled by the Department Of Transportation (DOT).

So now when you see a trucking company rolling down the road with the name of truck lines or tank lines or van lines, you can reasonably assume that it could date back to when trucking companies were only allowed, by authority of the ICC, to serve a particular “line” between two cities, across state lines.

See you down the road,