Tanker Truck History

John Pizzo
Hello and welcome to another article of Pizzo’s Petroliana. This month I'm talking about tanker trucks that delivered the fuel and oil to the gas stations.
Tank trucks began to appear in the United States in 1910. Standard Oil companies including Conoco were foremost among the early users, but other refiners were soon persuaded to purchase their own fleets. Another sight was the road sprinkler or oiler which were early tank trucks used to control the large amount of dust on dry dirt roads.
During the late 19-teens the tanker truck began to evolve into an interesting machine with the name of the gasoline brand and the oil company brightly painted on the tank and door. A few horse-drawn wagons continued to serve some retailers into the 1920s but were being replaced.
Looking back at it, there was an overlapping period when tank-wagons were still being acquired and motorized tank trucks were being manufactured and introduced. Both were seen on the road at the same time.
Trucks made during the 1910 period had hard, solid rubber tires. Air filled tires began to appear around 1920 or before and were often optional.
Sometimes they were mounted on a pair of wheels, but not provided for all wheels. This situation changed quickly after 1925. Wooden spokes persevered on some truck models into the 1920s but were nearly gone by 1925, replaced by steel.
Tanks were built by riveting until acetylene and electric welding became the best way of building tanks at some point in the mid 19-teens.
As far as tanks were concerned, welding was a fast way to build tanks and gave a better seal. Heil Company, a truck body manufacturer and tank fitter, attributed welding as being a great advance in tank building beginning in 1910. Although most tanks were round, oval tanks were being put on some trucks. These would become more common in time.
The tank compartments needed to allow different kinds of fluids to be transported and at the same time this helped to subdue surging when the tank truck was on the road. Nearly all of the motorized tankers in the 1910-1920 period were conventional tank trucks.
However, around 1920 a separate full tank trailer was attached to the tank truck in rare instances by a few companies for big hauls. Full trailers, semi-trailers and tractor-trailers became common in the next decade.
Thanks for reading, hope it was enjoyable and informative. Keep cruisin'.

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