History hits the road

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The trucking industry in this country is chock full of history: indeed, one need look no further than Kenworth Truck Co., celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, or Mack Trucks and its iconic Bulldog logo, both of which recently surpassed the 114 year mark in 2014.

Peterbilt Motors Co. recently notched its 75th year in the truck making business and is taking its celebrated history on the road via a “mobile museum” of sorts.

I got the chance to take a quick tour of Peterbilt’s custom-built, double-expandable, 53-foot trailer-based museum (pulled appropriately by a Model 579 “Anniversary Edition” tractor) at the 2014 Mid America Trucking Show.

You can see the photos by clicking here but you’ll probably also be able to personally view this unique “rolling exhibition” as it’ll be hitting the road for a year-long tour of the U.S., stopping in at some of the 280 or so Peterbilt dealerships across the country as well as a variety of trucking events too.

[As an aside, check out the “SuperTruck” project Peterbilt and Cummins – along with a variety of other suppliers – worked on in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy over the last few years; a truck that can reportedly achieve 10.7 miles per gallon in on-highway operation.]

Some of the items on display in Peterbilt’s mobile exhibit include:

  • A “history wall” that highlights significant milestones and Peterbilt product introductions through the years, from the first truck manufactured in 1939 to the company’s recent Model 579 highway tractor and Model 567 vocational truck;
  • A full cab and sleeper cutaway;
  • A Paccar MX-13 engine;
  • Interactive kiosks that let visitors configure their own Model 579;
  • Digital displays that allow for full 360-degree virtual tours of Peterbilt trucks.

Peterbilt of course brought a wide array of its vehicles to the 2014 Mid America extravaganza (models you can view by clicking here) but this trailer is an attempt by the OEM to create a more interactive and entertaining experience for customers and potential customers with not only its product line but its history in the trucking business as well.

Yet Peterbilt isn’t the only OEM rolling out a “mobile history museum” this year; in fact, Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. crafted what it’s calling a special edition “Legacy Museum” trailer that it also showed off at the 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show.

“To commemorate our 100 year anniversary, we created a special museum trailer equipped with interactive screens, historical photographs, rare memorabilia and a 25-minute documentary film chronicling our story as it relates to important moments in history,” noted Craig Bennett, Utility’s senior VP-sales & marketing, during a press conference at the show.

He noted that the company’s “Legacy Museum” trailer is designed with four interactive touchscreen monitors and audio equipment for viewing movies, photos, and browsing through Utility’s historical timeline.

At the front of the trailer, an eight-seat movie theatre features a home-grown documentary entitled One Hundred Years of Building Trailers: The Utility Centennial Story, with additional displays showing off a World War II memorabilia shadow box that contains the original (and classified) movie reel of Utility’s designed M23 Ammunition trailer being tested by the U.S. Army.

The OEM even brought one of the oldest Utility trailer models it could find to display in its booth at Mid America; a 1923 flatbed wagon, designed to be pulled by horses.

It’s quite something to see an antique like that wagon and realize just how far the trucking industry has come over the past century or so. And it’s also quite eye-opening to realize that the pace of technological change now gripping this business is only going to keep speeding up from here on out.

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