Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Ultimate Multimodal Concept - The Future of Freight and Road Haulage as Seen 80 Years Ago

Tomorrow's World View of Where We Should Be Now
Shipping News Feature

US – WORLDWIDE – There is much to be said in favour of involving scientists when deciding how an industry is likely to develop and, as recent articles show, freight and logistics can benefit directly from work undertaken planning telematics, wind resistance and even completely new forms of transport. One wonders however whether the good associate professor of Physics at Kansas State Agricultural College, Eric R. Lyon, would be red faced, if faced today with the seemingly sure pronouncements he made for the future of ocean freight and the road haulage sector way back in 1933.

The December issue of ‘Popular Science’ magazine in that year put forth the professor’s vision of an amphibian super truck which he christened the ‘Navitruck’, a 1,500 tonne monster based on a boat hull, complete with ice breaking bow, coupled to huge wheels ‘as high as a bungalow’ with tyres thirty feet in diameter, ten feet wide and running on ‘gear driven rims’ constructed over a pneumatic inner tube segregated by bulkheads so that ‘in case of a leak, a man can climb through a manhole in each tire section and make a repair’, supported by the electric compressor which will ‘maintain a constant sixty pounds of pressure’.

Not satisfied with one form of propulsion, like a schoolboy fantasy, the prof adds two more! An endless track system mounted between the wheelbases ensures safe transit over rough terrain, whilst the propeller, mounted of course at the rear by the rudder, provides the drive for any aquatic sections of the journey.

The good professor’s musings give a picture of the American landscape as it was eighty years ago, he talks of commercial highways, privately owned and operated, but sees them as just forty feet wide unidirectional highways easily maintained, as the surfaces, sand or gravel, would be self-levelling, rolled flat by the weight of the leviathans passing over them (and far cheaper to construct than a railway). The trucks negate the need for bridges in Lyon’s mind as they will ford any river with ease. He sees them as ‘land ships’ which, as they carry a similar payload to a small cargo vessel, will be able to match freight rates by either land or sea and even obviate some handling charges.

The juggernaut would be controlled from a bridge mounted for’ard, have hatches with derricks to load the cargo (the professor obviously didn’t see the coming of the container age), a main diesel powered engine mounted alongside a huge generator to power the various electric motors as the mighty beasts forged new paths across North and South America, Africa and Asia.

The professor of course could not see the coming conflict about to engulf the world yet bringing with it, as conflict so often does, a host of technical and technological advances that would see the world of logistics, and indeed the world at large, transformed for ever.