COBWEB CORNERS: The trucks take over
By Mel McFarland
In the 1920s there was an interesting invasion going on, Trucks!
The question as to whether the horse and wagon or the truck was most efficient or economical was being argued by farmers. In 1918 the cost for using horse and wagon from farm to town was about 80 cents a ton mile, which means 80 cents to haul a ton of product a mile. To use a truck was 75 cents a ton mile. The cost for operating either was such that it was no big advantage to switch if you had a good team of horses, and many big farms had several teams.
The truck had proved its value during the war, and even the Army was getting rid of its horses and horse-drawn vehicles. Every year the cost of using horses was going up, and the cost for trucks was going down. In some areas, horses were still quite a bit cheaper than trucks, but on average the trucks were winning.
Out in the Great Plains there were two problems that really caused difficulty for trucks. No places to get fuel! It was a long way from many towns out to farms, and then the same to the fields. The truck's reliability was a major concern, too, as the roads were not made for cars, much less trucks. On short distances in and around towns, trucks were great.
To the "modern" farmer, who wanted the latest aids, trucks and their cousin, the tractor, were in demand. The old traditionalists may have had a steam tractor, but gas trucks?
The increased efficiency of trucks and gasoline vehicles would make great advances in the 1920s. It helped that more mechanics were being trained to work on engines. The increased demand for many crops brought demands for improved production and transportation. As the demand for better roads for cars brought new highway construction, trucks saw the benefit as well.
There was even a truck manufactured in Colorado Springs for our altitude and mountains. It was soon put out of business when better ones came along.
Horses could still be found in fields up into the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. When World War II came along, most farmers had tractors and trucks. Since then almost everyone wants a truck.