For many centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution, inland haulage was the province of horses. Whether these beasts pulled heavy carts along roads or plodded along the towpath drawing behind them a laden barge, horsepower was the beating heart of the haulage industry. |
Then, with the rise of the steam engine, the horse was no longer the only way to power goods across land. While horse-drawn carts were still common, an increasingly large proportion of the haulage industry used railways to move goods, and in the 1900s, when the internal combustion engine became more powerful and affordable, the ancestors of the modern-day HGV were born.
From this point, motorised transport by road became an increasingly vital part of the industry, being one of the major reasons for the construction of the motorway system that dominates road transport today.
The Story of the Road Haulage Industry
In The Road Haulage Industry, Chris Woodcock charts the evolution of haulage from pre-industrial horsepower to contemporary motorway-based transport. Woodcock’s spellbinding account of the development of the HGV, the relationship between the roads and the railways, and the building of motorways doesn’t end with logistics. Woodcock explores the businesses that sprang up around the new haulage system - as well as the system itself - studying the cafes and garages that persist to this day.
Ideal Glove Compartment Reading
The 56 pages of the book belie the detailed picture it builds of the industry, as well as the workers themselves, and a wealth of vintage photographs help bring Woodcock’s account alive. The compact size of the book also makes it ideal glove compartment reading - even the busiest driver could find time to get through it.
Possibilities for Expansion
Despite packing a lot into its 56 pages, however, we were left wanting more. Haulage nerds may be disappointed by the lack of laser-focused technical detail, while those interested in the narrative aspect of the history may find themselves wishing for a longer, more comprehensive account of the lives of the people mentioned in The Road Haulage Industry. A more satisfying account of the industry as a whole might need to be longer, whereas a work this short might be better focused on a more specific area or time period. Moreover, it would be interesting to take this work in the context of worldwide haulage, and to understand it in the context of sea, air and rail transport - as well as road transport.
A Good Read for a Wide Readership
In spite of this, however, The Road Haulage Industry remains a detailed and informative introduction to the development of road haulage. It’s likely to be best appreciated by former and current workers within the logistics industry, who will enjoy learning about the roots of their current work. Those with a more general interest in history as well as those with a particular interest in haulage would also find it interesting. Hopefully other writers will learn from Woodcock’s clear, concise and accessible style and follow this work with a fuller account of road haulage. Until then, we recommend this book to those seeking an introduction to the topic.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching jobs in road transport within thehaulage industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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