PORTLAND, OREGON … Freightliner LLC observes its 60th year in business during 2002 and is marking the milestone with a program of events and celebrations.
Freightliner kicks off its anniversary observance with the display of two historic trucks at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, March 21-23. The display includes a 1942 Freightliner COE (cab over engine) truck and a 1930s-era conventional truck, both fully restored to original condition. The trucks will be featured in the Freightliner Trucks exhibit at the Mid-America Trucking Show and at company and industry events throughout the year.
“For six decades and throughout our tremendous growth, Freightliner has remained dedicated to leadership in commercial vehicle manufacturing and to helping our customers operate their businesses more efficiently,” Freightliner LLC President and CEO Rainer Schmueckle said. “We look forward to continuing to fulfill this charter in the 21st century.”
Freightliner LLC’s beginnings are intertwined with those of Consolidated Freightways Inc. and with Leland James, the founder of both companies. James wanted lightweight, more durable trucks that could haul more legal payload for his trucking company. He was dissatisfied with the designs of the day and the response from existing truck manufacturers, so James took up the project himself and began experimenting with lightweight designs using aluminum components.
In 1940, Portland, Ore.-based Consolidated Freightways Inc. and five Western motor carriers joined together to form Freightways Manufacturing Company Inc. The partner companies shared the vision of a lightweight, longhaul truck that would allow for higher payloads. Working out of a small garage in Salt Lake City, Utah, Freightways Manufacturing managed to design and produce an innovative COE truck that featured weight-saving aluminum components, so operators could haul more freight.
The hyphenated “Freight-Liner” nameplate first appeared on a Freightways truck in 1940, referring to the truck-and-trailer combination that the company then built. The Freightliner nameplate first appeared on a truck in the summer of 1941.
In August 1942, Freightways Manufacturing Company Inc. changed its name to Freightliner Corporation, marking the birth of the company that would become North America’s largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer.
By mid-1942 the Utah plant was building parts for airplanes and ships but was shut down in 1944 for the balance of World War II. Freightliner Corporation resumed operations in Portland, Oregon, in 1947, with a small factory near the Consolidated Freightways facilities. The company produced 30 trucks that year for Consolidated Freightways, and 40 in 1948 when it began sales to other carriers.
In 1950, Freightliner inked a sales agreement with White Motor Corporation that lasted until 1977. Freightliner built custom trucks and White dealers sold them. Freightliner debuted its long-nose conventional in 1973 and set up its own independent dealer network in 1976.
Freightliner was acquired by Daimler-Benz AG in 1981, setting the stage for dramatic increases in production and sales, as well as expansion into export markets.
With the resources and backing of Daimler-Benz (today, DaimlerChrysler), Freightliner has become the industry leader in the North American heavy-duty truck market and one of the continent’s largest manufacturers of medium-duty trucks. The company now markets and sells heavy- and medium-duty trucks under three brands – Sterling (started in 1998 after the acquistion of Ford’s heavy truck business), Western Star (acquired in 2000) and the traditional Freightliner brand.
The Freightliner LLC family of companies now also includes American LaFrance (fire and emergency services vehicles), Thomas Built Buses (school buses) and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (chassis for walk-in delivery vans, school and shuttle buses and motor homes).
In 2002, Freightliner LLC is the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America, owned by the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world, DaimlerChrysler. The company operates manufacturing facilities in three countries and employs 14,000 people across North America. Freightliner is dedicated to technological excellence in vehicle design and manufacturing and backs its products with world class customer support.
“Freightliner has come a long way since those early days of innovation with Leland James and we are writing a new chapter in the history of our company as we implement our new strategic plan,” Freightliner CEO Schmueckle said. “But those core values -- technological innovation, helping truck operators achieve maximum productivity and treating customers right -- live on and thrive in the new Freightliner.”