BECAUSExthe motor truck is a work machine, it is relatively ponderous and slow; but what it lacks in speed and grace of design is more than made up in the spectacular nature of its varied activities. It does not make such a direct personal appeal as the pleasure car, since not many look upon the business vehicle now as a machine from which any personal pleasure or direct benefit can be derived. When, however, the mind dissociates from the mention of commercial motor vehicles the thought of mere substitutes for horse-drawn trucks and delivery wagons, it will become evident that the term embraces a great variety of types-all, in fact, that are not classed as private pleasure cars. While motor truc)s are business vehicles, they are not necessarily prosaic. In due time more interest will be shown in so-called commercial motor vehicles than in private pleasure cars. The masses in the cities will come to realize that they have as direct a concern in motor omnibuses. taxicabs, sightseeing cars and the varied types of municipal vehicles and cars for Federal purposes as they have in runabouts, touring cars and limousines. In the self-propelled fire apparatus with which all progressive cities will be supplied in a few years, the people will .see the instruments of thrilling rescues of human lives and property. In motor patrol wagons they will see the means for prompt quelling of riots and removal of dangerous and disorderly persons; in motor ambulances the vehide for relieving human, equine and canine suffering; in the motor mail wagon the mechanism for hastening communication. When we consider the conditions th3t will prevail when these types of power vehicles and the great variety of other forms for industrial and mercantile purposes have been generally adopted, and when we shall have an opportunity of comparing the clean, smoothIY"paved streets, the freedom from flies and germ carrying dust, absence of the noise of pounding horse hoofs and steel tires, reduction of traffic congestion and the elimination of the harrowing sight of horses prostrated by midsummer heat or crippled by winter's icy pavements, with conditions that prevail now, every thinking person will be iHpressed with the idea that the pleasure car with which the civilized world has been obsessed for more than half a decade is, after all, a relatively small factor in a revolutionary change in a method of transportation almost as ancient as the human race, and that this change touches the life and has a direct bearing upon the well-being of every individual in the city. Aside from the striking nature of public services in which motor vehicles are engaged, there are many applications of A tilting body operated by means of a hand winch and rollers. This operation does not require any greater physical exertion than the cranking of an ordinary gasoline motor. the machines to private enterprise that are most interesting. All sorts of work, from thawing frozen water pipes in an emergency, to drawing plows in the farm felds, come within their scope of utility. At least 125 distinct lines of trade are using the trucks built by a single blg manufacturing company that produces only machines of three tons capacity. It is natural. of course, that the motor truck should have been adopted more generally by the lines of. business that found the horse least capable of doing the work required : either because of its difficult nature or because of long distances to be covered in a short time and long hours of service that would seriously fatigue the best animals. Just to c:te one kind of work that is beyond the capability of horses to do successfully, it will be remembered perhaps that early last spring several sixty-ton steel girders for the new Municipal Building in New York were hauled frol! the river front, near the Battery, to the location of the building at the Manhattan end of Brooklyn Bridge. Thirty-six horses, hitched in an almost unmanage-able' string of eighteen teams, were used for draft purposes, and because of the interruption of traffic and confusion that would have been caused in the metropolitan streets of such an outfit during business hours, the girders were hauled during the night and on Sunday. In their passage' numerous iron manhole covers were crushed in and considerable damage was-d6ne to-the. street paving. It is' not difficult to imagine the vociferous bedJam that accompanied the movement of the teams and the noise made by ODe hundred and· forty-four iron-shod hoofs, and the almost insurmountable difficulty of making the long string of horses pull in unison, and of turning corners sllccessfully. A five-ton electric truck used for the same purpose in another city moved with ease a trailer weighing five tons and loaded-with a steel girder which alone weighed twenty-six tons. One of the most exacting branches of transportation work is that of the big express companies, which receive and send their shipments by fast passenger train and must perforce conform to railroad schedules. All of these companies use some motor wagons, and one in particular, which has used steam, gasoline and electric-power wagons continuously for the last eighteen or twenty years, now does the major part of its transfer and delivery work with electric wagons in the principal Eastern cities. The gasoline trucks owned by another of the national express companies are operated on a tim< schedule as exact as the railroad time sheet, and are kept in service twenty hours out of twenty-four, with a double shift of drivers. August'12, 1911 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 141 Delivery work for department and dry goods stores ealls for the covering of routes too long to be successfully served by horses. One New York store has a route of more than sixty miles that is covered daily by one motor wagon and one driver, with an average of about one hundred stops for delivery of parcels. Horses, of course, could not be used in this case, for even if two changes of teams were made in the day, the speed could not be maintained. Some big department stores make their long hauls into outlying residential sections at night, and make their local deliveries the next day from distributing depots. In this -way one big house keeps its heavy trucks running twenty-two hours a day except on Sundays, when they are ,given a thorough inspection, cleaning and adjusting. A trip on one of these department store o express trucks in the middle of the night wOuld prove quite as novel and interesting as a night run of the same duration in a touring ear under Ordinary circumstances. Coal, beer, lumber and machinery trades and many lines of heavy manafacturing whose hauling is hard on horseflesh have adopted the motor truck freely and are getting excellent service from the machine. Peculiar conditions that obtain in some of these businesses have resulted in the development of special quick loading and unloading methods whereby the vehicle can be kept on the move during the maximum number of hours daily, thereby realizing the priJl-c:pal advantage that it possesses in superior speed and endurance over horses. Ooal dealers order their power trucks ftted with bodies which are provided with chutes. and which can be raise: above the frame of the chassis at a sharv angle so that they will empty their loads of from three to ten tons by gravity ill from five to fifteen milutes, with little or no shoveling. Contractors are becoming frequent purchasers of motor trucks ftted with dumping bodies that can be discharged of their loads sometimes in less than a minute. Most of the dump trucks so far built are tipped by the manual turning of a crank, but several have been built to order that are equipped with power-operated tipping mechanism. One of these is a seven-ton gasoline truck that, is often used for hauling hot asphalt. This material has a tendency to stick, and consequently the body had to be constructed to tip to an angle of forty-five degrees. It takes only forty seconds to elevate this body with power from the engine and discharge the seven-ton load. Ingenious quick loading and unloading methods have been developed by the lumber trade whereby a motor truck can take on a load of three to seven fons of lumber as a unit in a few minutes, the turning of windlasses by hand serving to rOoIl or slide the load from a horse truck upon the power vehicle, which then leaves the yards to deliver it. The horse trucks are driven to the different lumber piles to be hand loaded, and thence to the wagon shed to await the motor truck, a single team of horses sufficing for about a score of such wagons. The loads can be discharged from the power trucks by releasing ropes or chains at the rear end and allowing the lumber to roll back by gravity or by rolling the load back by turning the cranks on the rear end rollers until the ends of the boards drop to the ground. Then the truck is driven out from under the forward end of the load. A leading department store in New York and another in Pittsburg operate eight or' more three-ton trucks each that are especially arranged for quick loading and unloading. Light bodies of crate construction are built to fit inside the regular covered bodies. When a truck arrives at the store this inner body is withdrawn upon a hand truck to the rear, and on this is taken to any floor in the store by means of a freight elevator to be loaded. A duplicate crate that is waiting ready loaded is put in its place and the truck starts off with it. Tile reverse process occurs at the other end of the truck's route. In a record load for one of these trucks at Christmas time were 3,000 parcels. Ordinarily the propel' loading of the packages requires from one to three hours, so that the system enables the truck to make two or three times as much mileage as would be possible if it had to stand idle while undergoing the ordinary loading and unloading processes. The average daily miceage of seven of these trucks used during , a ffteen-month· period in New York was seventy-two miles each, counting twenty-six working days to the month. Several of the machines averaged one hundred and ten miles a day for months at a tim3. The combination of vehicle and power plant that constitutes the motor truck renders the machine available for many elasses of work heretofore done by hand and by portable or stationary engines. In fact, it is a self-moving portable power plant. In its most common form as such it is fitted with a winch or w:ndlass, US'lally under or just back of the seat, which is turned by power from the vehicle. The winch may be gear driven from the engine of a gasoline machine, or turned by a small independent electric motor sup)JJ:ed with current from the battery of ail electric truck. In either case the winch can be used for a variety of purposes. Both types of trucks are used by a large safe manufacturing company which utilizes the power winches for loading the safes en the platform of the truck QY drawing them up a pair of skids and also for hOisting the safes to and lowering them from windows of any floor in taU office buildings. This method has the advantages of being quick, safe and cheaper than the old way of having ' a gang of workmen turn a hand windlass. Fewer men are needed, passersby on the walk and traffic in the street are inconwenienced for a shorter time, and custamers of the company are better satisfed by the briefer interruption of their office work. A few years ago all telephone, telegraph and electric light and power wires that were placed in underground conduits were drawn into place by gangs of laborers who turned huge wooden capstans that had to be set up in the street, anchorel in position by iron pegs driven in th!) pavement and moved from block to block on wooden 1'011ers which were taken from behind and put in front as the capstan moved 'along for the next successive step in the work. Compare this primitive procedure with the present-day way. in which cables of wires are drawn into place under the street by power winehes on heavy five-ton motor trucks. In Ne'w York, one electric light and power company uses half a dozen such trucks for this purpose, and also for the more spectacuIar work of erecting the heavy ornamental cast-iron electric light poles used-for city lighting. These poles are thirty' feet long, and are much 100 heavy to be set up by laborers without a derrick. But the truck, with its power winch, makes easy work of the task. By way of an aside, it is pertinent to observe right here as an indication of the 'trend toward the horseless condition that is predicted for large cities in the near future, that the New York Edison Company has abandoned altcgether the use of horses in Manhattan and a large part of the Bronx, and employs instead a “fleet” of eighty electric trucks and delivery wagons. Within the next .five years, al(] probably sooner, it will get rid of all Its remaining animals, as will also the New York City Fire Department, some of the express companies and many retail houses in the metropolis, some of which are now operating from fo_ty to nearly one hundred motor delivery wagons. In addition to the ways already mentioned, the power plants of motor trucks are used in an auxiliary way for pumping water out of manholes in the streets cf cities.
This article was originally published with the title "The Versatile Motor Truck" in Scientific American 105, 7, 140-141 (August 1911)