When Dwight saw the light

Unlike me, truck driver Rich Kuhlstein, 64, remembers travel before the interstate. “There was so much stop-and-go driving, everywhere you went,” he says. “Now you can drive coast to coast and never stop.”

For that, you can thank Dwight Eisenhower. He was commander of a military convoy that in 1919 drove from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. It took 63 days, averaging 6 mph.

The poor condition of U.S. roads, compared to the German autobahns he had seen in World War I, convinced Eisenhower that America needed a similar highway system. Decades later, as president, he lobbied for the act that created the system. June 29 will mark its 50th anniversary.

Now, at 46,837 miles, interstates represent only 1 percent of the nation’s roads but carry more than 20 percent of its traffic. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state departments of transportation, is celebrating this massive accomplishment by re-enacting the 1919 convoy. It begins June 16 in San Francisco. (See story, Page 14.)

It’s hard to imagine how maddening long-haul operations would be without these highways. And it’s too bad the public doesn’t realize the extent to which our industry’s fees and taxes have supported.

“Good stuff – trucks bring it,” has been the American Trucking Associations’ recent slogan. Let’s remember this month that virtually all that good stuff gets to its destinations on some very good highways.
—Brad Holthaus, Publisher