From the very first crude version of trailer spotters, it is easy to see that the yard truck industry has overcome many hurdles. It was a different time in the world, and almost all industry was influenced by the youth of the post-war baby boomers. This was a generation with courage, vision, and determination to create products that the world had never seen.
When the pioneers of the industry had a vision in the late 1950’s, they probably never imagined it would go this far. In 1958, Ottawa Wire and Steel, a small steel plant in Ottawa, Kansas, started assembling versions of a spotter dubbed the “Yard Hustler”. History was made, and material handling and supply chain industries would forever be changed. These trucks were specifically made to load and haul cargo with the use of a 5th wheel in such a manner that the driver never has to dismount the truck. This saves hours of downtime per day.
Now, we see mammoth machines like the Kalmar Ottawa T2 and fully driverless units in the ports of Hamburg, Germany. Even here at Eagle Mark 4, where we once manufactured our own spotters, we have been amazed at the advancements made in the trucks and in our industry. These machines have come a long way.
As the market has grown in recent years, companies of all sizes have realized the benefits of having this unique truck, and how it is become a vital part of their operation. Whether it be a factory, trucking terminal, or even a large-scale ship port, this is hands down the most efficient way to shuttle loads of freight and get them in route to the consumer. Regardless of new technological improvements, this has never changed.
Fast forward to the 21st century… Component innovations are rapidly catching traction in the industry. Government regulations play a large part on equipment just like they do in an automobile, so there is not always a seamless transition when a new rule or features are put in place. But, like our forefathers, we always learn to overcome.
The latest models of terminal tractors are geared toward safety and driver ergonomics now more than ever. Models like the Kalmar Ottawa T2 were purpose-built to reduce downtime and reduce operational headaches. These trucks can take tighter turns, they can carry heavier loads, all while still saving up to 10% in fuel each year. With technology in the Cummins diesel engine, Bendix antilock braking technology, and Allison transmissions that learn driver’s habits, these trucks are easier than ever to operate safely and efficiently. With fuel economy being a large part of trucking, the big players in the market have come out to play with hybrid options as well as full EV units. They are slowly gaining popularity as they work out the kinks.
So, where will the industry stand 20 years from now? How about 50 years?
I remember as a child searching through my father’s toolbox for a wrench or hammer and thinking that I had the ability to create anything. Now with artificial intelligence, advances in GPS technology, and next generation innovators at the helms of companies, what will future mechanic’s tools look like? I am willing to bet a little different.