How A Frustrated HGV Driver Transformed Shipping Forever

When it comes to modern heavy machine shipping, thre is one innovation that completely changed the game and made the modern fast-paced world of sea freight logistics possible.

Interestingly enough, one of the first people to really see its benefits was a lorry driver turned businessman by the name of Malcolm McLean.

Mr McLean founded the McLean Trucking Company, which at the time was one of the biggest road haulage companies in North America, but after the Second World War, there was a rapid expansion of not only car sales but also the size of cars, meaning that traffic was starting to become a major issue.

Frustrated by this, Mr McLean decided to start trying to transport goods by sea, but because of US regulations at the time banning people who already owned a road freight firm from starting a shipping line, he simply bought one that could sail up and down the US coasts.

His second step was noticing the potential inefficiency of transporting an entire HGV on a ship, so he redesigned his trucks into a container and a truck bed and would just ship the former to its destination.

Once this was done, he fitted a flat deck to the top of the tankers he owned to place the containers on them, and by 1956 had shipped 58 box trailers from New Jersey to Houston, Texas. It was 25 times cheaper to load and unload them, and so he could offer lower prices.

This system became a prototype for containerisation, which has since become the primary way in which nearly every type of good is shipped across the world, and participated in the standardisation of shipping containers, creating in part the 20ft units that are used today.