The History of Trucks From Pickups to Macks

Trucks on the highway

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The first motor truck was built in 1896 by German automotive pioneer Gottlieb Daimler. Daimler's truck had a four horsepower engine and a belt drive with two forward speeds and one reverse. It was the first pickup truck. Daimler also produced the world's first motorcycle in 1885 and the first taxi in 1897.

The First Tow Truck

The towing industry was born in 1916 in Chattanooga, Tennessee when Ernest Holmes, Sr helped a friend retrieve his car with three poles, a pulley, and a chain hooked to the frame of a 1913 Cadillac. After patenting his invention, Holmes began manufacturing wreckers and towing equipment for sale to automotive garages and to anyone else who might be interested in retrieving and towing wrecked or disabled autos. His first manufacturing facility was a small shop on Market Street.

Holmes’ business grew as the auto industry expanded and eventually its products earned a worldwide reputation for their quality and performance. Ernest Holmes, Sr. died in 1943 and was succeeded by his son, Ernest Holmes, Jr., who ran the company until he retired in 1973. The company was then sold to the Dover Corporation. The founder’s grandson, Gerald Holmes, left the company and started a new one of his own, Century Wreckers. He built his manufacturing facility in nearby Ooltewah, Tennessee and quickly rivaled the original company with his hydraulically-powered wreckers.

Miller Industries eventually bought the assets of both companies, as well as other wrecker manufacturers. Miller has retained the Century facility in Ooltewah where both Century and Holmes wreckers are presently manufactured. Miller also makes Challenger wreckers.

Forklift Trucks

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers defines an industrial truck as a "mobile, power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier materials." Powered industrial trucks are also commonly known as forklifts, pallet trucks, rider trucks, fork trucks and lift trucks.

The first forklift was invented in 1906 and it hasn’t changed much since that time. Before its invention, a system of chains and ​wenches was used to lift heavy materials. 

Mack Trucks

Mack Trucks, Inc. was founded in 1900 in Brooklyn, New York by Jack and Gus Mack. It was originally known as the Mack Brothers Company. The British government purchased and employed the Mack AC model to transport food and equipment to its troops during World War I, earning it the nickname “Bulldog Mack.” The bulldog remains the company’s logo to this day.​


The first semi-truck was invented in 1898 by Alexander Winton in Cleveland, Ohio. Winton was initially a carmaker. He needed a way to transport his vehicles to buyers around the country and the semi was born – a massive truck on 18 wheels using three axles and able to carry significant, weighty cargo. The front axle steers the semi while the rear axle and its double wheels propel it forward.

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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Trucks From Pickups to Macks." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, July 31). The History of Trucks From Pickups to Macks. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The History of Trucks From Pickups to Macks." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).