The real boom for the intermodal synergy between container ships and trucking came after the birth of containerization by Malcom McLean in 1956, enabling easy loading and unloading of TEUs onto trucks.
Every single truck drives around on anywhere from 10 to 28 rubber tires. And the road to trucking runs through Akron, Ohio.
Akron, founded in 1825, was for many years the home of Goodyear, B.F Goodrich, Firestone and General Tires – the largest tire companies in the world. Interestingly enough, the city’s location was actually dictated by another mode of transportation: water. Located at the mouth of the Ohio and Erie Canal, which operated from 1827 until 1861, the canal connected Ohio with other canal systems, making Ohio the 3rd most prosperous state for a number of years, peaking in 1855. With time, railroad lines expanded, eventually leeching away all profitability from the canal system. When a flood overwhelmed the system in 1913, it was deemed unprofitable to reopen. The supply chain had migrated over to rail and the canal was sold to a hodgepodge of private and public consumers.
In 1871, Goodrich opened his factory in Akron, where it would remain until the 1980s. As other rubber manufacturers moved to Akron as well, the city underwent a booming period of growth, with almost 60,000 rubber workers employed in 1930. The city saw affordable housing being built, a rapidly expanding population and extensive community involvement. BF Goodrich, commissioned by Ford to provide tires for Ford’s new car, also jump-started the nascent automobile industry. The first trucking boom, in the 1920s, was largely due to much improved tires (and, of course, marked improvements in the road system). In 1956, when the United States passed the Interstate Highway Act, the trucking industry’s path to success was paved.
Since then, with the exception of Goodyear, the rubber plants have moved out of Akron, leaving the city with 100,000 fewer residents than it had at its prime, in 1955. While Akron, originally a canal city, migrated towards trains and then gave birth to the trucking industry, the migration of rubber factories in some way represents the triumph of maritime shipping. BF Goodrich now manufactures its tires in 74 plants spread throughout 19 countries. Firestone tires are also manufactured worldwide, although a larger portion of plants are indeed still based in the United States. International shipping, made possible by more efficient maritime capabilities, continues to rise annually. But trucks are and will remain the dominant way to move goods within the United States. And every single truck will be driving on tires that owe at least some of their past to Akron, OH.
Bruce Serfass, a logistics consultant and transportation professor with decades of experience in the field, was kind enough to provide some more information about Akron, Oh:
The old Roadway Trucking Headquarters is still standing in Akron although now owned by one of the Akron Hospitals and used for their computer systems.
Goodyear is the only tire manufacturer that still has their headquarters in Akron but NO passenger tires are produced in Akron any more that I am aware of but they do produce some specialty tires, rubber belting, etc. Goodyear Hts area in Akron were homes built by Goodyear for employees. Firestone Park area were homes built by Firestone for employees. If memory serves however, I think Firestone was the supplier for Ford Motor company in the early days as Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford were good friends as well.
Akron is also home to the All American Soap Box Derby.
The large black item in the aircraft factory picture is a blimp (zeppelin) hanger and is still there and actually can be seen from where they run the Derby championships. There are confirmed reports that clouds formed and rain fell inside the hanger. Blimps were used to patrol the east coast during WWII looking for German submarines but now fly high over head to bring aerial coverage for sporting events. I think the aircraft that was built at the Goodyear facility during WWII was the Corsair used by the Navy/Marines.
The College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering is actually at the University of Akron. Last I saw, the University of Akron had one of the top 10 engineering programs in the country.