The truck rental industry is an expansive, continually evolving industry that impacts every market in the United States. Today, the truck rental industry is a $19 billion industry, supporting tends of thousands of businesses and jobs. But, how did the industry start? How did companies like Uhaul and Ryder begin?
To understand the history of truck rental, we first have to understand the history of the car-rental industry. The first documented car rental took place on July 22, 1904. (More than a hundred years ago!) According to records, a bicycle shop in Minneapolis was the first business to advertise cars being available for rent.
The car-rental industry really began to take off in 1916. That’s when Joe Saunders began his rental business with a single car – a Model T. The business grew quickly. By 1917, Saunders had formed Saunders Systems with family members and had 120 Model T vehicles available for rent.
When did the truck-rental industry really start to take shape? That’s in in 1933 when Ryder was founded by Jim Ryder with a single truck. By 1937, the company had expanded to 15 trucks, and in 1949, Ryder had 500 trucks available for rent.
Around that same time, in 1945, Sam Shoen and Anna Mary Carty Shoen founded Uhaul. Except, Uhaul was originally started with trailers – not trucks. The Shoens started Uhaul to solve the problem of how to rent a trailer in one city and drop it off in another city. As families were returning from overseas and moving around the United States, Uhaul’s business grew quickly. By 1959, Uhaul had more than 42,000 trailers available for rent!
Penske truck was started in 1969 with three locations in Pennsylvania and quickly grew to 33 locations by 1981. By 1986, there were 102 locations generating $200 million in revenue. Today, Penske operates more than 240,000 vehicles in its fleet and has revenues of $6.4 billion.
What’s the future of the truck-rental industry? Companies like Uhaul, Ryder and Penske will continue to evolve and offer additional services. New startups such as Fetch truck rental are entering the market, using new technology to offer self-service ways for customers to rent trucks by the hour or day. In addition to self-service technology, developments in self-driving technology, artificial intelligence and electric-powered vehicles will continue to shape the industry.
The past 100 years has been an incredible time as the truck rental industry was born and shaped by many pioneers. The next 100 years should be just as exciting as technology continues to change how we use and interact with cars and trucks.