We take for granted trucks rolling up and down the highways and through our communities. That obviously was not always the case.
Back about 1930 there was an effort to outlaw truck freight lines in North Dakota. It was backed by many in the business community including the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce.
The business leaders were trying to protect the railroads from the loss of business associated with a scheduled truck line running from community to community around the state.
For Jamestown this was a big deal. Serving as a regional hub for the Northern Pacific the railroad was a major employer in Jamestown.
But Jamestown said it was trying to save the small communities with the effort. The logic was the truck lines would only serve the bigger towns in North Dakota. This meant that any freight going to the small towns would still have to move by rail. If the railroad lost the freight business of the big towns the rates for freight to the small towns would rise putting them at a disadvantage.
This was back in the era where there were some controls on this type of business. The North Dakota Board of Railroad Commissioners had the final say on any truck line.
It appears from the newspaper articles the requests to start a truck line came before the commission quite regularly. And the state and local chambers fought them each time.
In the end their efforts were to no avail. Trucks became the standard for hauling freight over the next decades. This followed the development of better trucks and the construction of better roads. One of the arguments against allowing truck lines was that they could never serve small towns because the roads leading to these villages were often too poor to support truck traffic.
Since 1930 trucks have become bigger and faster and our roads have become better. In 1950 the state of North Dakota decided that every county seat should have at least one paved road leading to it. At the time it meant a huge road construction project all across North Dakota.
Trucks and railroads each offer their own efficiencies and pose their own problems. Railroads move heavy bulk commodities from place to place more efficiently than trucks. Trucks can travel to areas trains canâ€™t and pick up the freight right at the farm or business.
The railroad track requires less maintenance and any repairs are the expense of the railroad line.
Trucks use the roads. When a road requires maintenance it is the taxpayer that picks up the bill although the trucks do pay license and user fees towards our road system.
Back in the 1930s the decision was the truck or the train. For many commodities we donâ€™t have that choice any longer. We just have the choice of how we maintain our roads.