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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Increasing need for truck maintenance spurs industry growth

Outlaw describes the history of the trucking industry's need for maintenance. Early trucks required extensive maintenance, but as technologies improved, and as record-keeping and coordination increased, that need diminished. Outlaw goes on to describe the growth of organizations that contribute to managing the industry and the rise of separate industries devoted to meeting the needs of truckers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Thomas Outlaw, June 5, 1980. Interview H-0277. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
One other kind of direction would be the other sorts of industries that came out of the trucking industry. I'm thinking of things like mechanics and machinery, repair people and equipment servicing and all of these kinds of industries. Could you talk any about the growth of those related… Or do companies make it traditionally a practice to conduct those things themselves within their own company, or are there specialized servicing mechanic companies?
JOHN THOMAS OUTLAW:
Starting back with more or less the Model T Ford, naturally most any man that had a little adaption to being a mechanic could almost fix a unit. And when the operations began to expand into different areas, this light equipment just couldn't stand great distances. So the trucking industry, we'll say in North Carolina, a carrier would probably have three or four places to repair his own equipment or at least have it maintained, say from here to New England, New York. It was just understood that the truck was going to break down in those days and have flat tires and so forth, so the carriers began to think in terms of how to prevent that. And then they began to make demands on the manufacturers for bigger and better equipment, which the manufacturers did supply. And the equipment then started off with the gas motors, and in as little as 50,000 miles they'd have to have an overhaul. And there were always repairs to be made, and that's the reason why a number of carriers would have any number of different maintenance places up and down the highways. At least they would make a contract with a garage or something to fix their equipment. And then came the diesel, and the diesels, almost from the very beginning, could operate 100,000 miles without any major repairs. And now today they have diesels that operate way above 300,000 miles without any major repairs. And usually then they bring them in because of the distance they've travelled, and they have what they call preventive maintenance. All the diesel records are kept, so that they know exactly what is being needed to be replaced. For instance, if a carrier is having a problem with a certain thing about a tractor trailer, they could tell the manufacturer right quick, "Well, this item is breaking down on this unit, and we want you to give us some help here." I have known manufacturers to send their top personnel to a company to review and see the operations and go over it and correct problems that come about. Just like in the safety end of it, where the Safety Council was formed, by the early fifties it was necessary to form a Maintenance Council within the Association, and that Maintenance Council still meets now on a monthly basis, more or less in Charlotte for that area, and then a few years ago we organized another Maintenance Council around the Triad Area, and we have one that was organized two years ago in the eastern part of the state at Wilson and Rocky Mount and that area. But these men get together, and they have the very top engineers to come down, and if they're going to have something new like a fuel pump or anything that needs to be explained, where the individual's got to work on something they are not accustomed to or know something more intricate about a certain part of a truck, they send these people in, and they lecture to them and give them the full background on it. And, too, if any of the carriers are having a problem in safety or maintenance or whatnot, they can talk among themselves and get information. They're very free with this type of thing. Now the Interstate Commerce Commission, of course, besides regulating rates, regulates accounting and that type of thing, and we organized an Accounting Council within the state in the late forties. And these accountants get together, and quite often the Interstate Commerce Commission would issue an order that maybe would be absolutely impossible to comply with, or such and such a thing that would not be a reasonable way of arriving at a certain line item, the cost or whatnot. So these members will form a committee, and they'll go before the Interstate Commerce Commission representing either this Association or a group of carriers and very often can get it modified or changed, so they do a very good job there. The Sales Council… Back in the old days, anybody could be a salesperson. In fact, they'd just call and say, "Do you need anybody to haul?" or something like that. Now we have very fine young men calling on customers with real knowledge of their company and real knowledge of their rates, and they're professional salesmen. And we have a very large Sales Council and a very outstanding one.