Trucking Through the Decades: 103-Year History of Where We Came From
Herbert Wolding, founder of H. O. Wolding, celebrates his 103rd birthday on October 15, 2015 and in honor of him, we thought we’d take a brief look at how H. O. Wolding has evolved alongside the trucking industry.
Herb was born in 1912, just two years after the dawn of the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. Gear drives, improvements in transmissions and the exploration of tractor/trailer combinations also emerged in the early 1910s. Within a few short years, the first state laws for tractor/trailers were established limiting gross weight to between 18,000-28,000 pounds and maximum truck speeds of 15 miles per hour. Being from the small, Central Wisconsin farming community of Nelsonville, WI, Herb spent much of his youth helping his father haul milk by horse and wagon (sled in the winter) back and forth between his neighbors’ farms and the local creamery.
As often happens, new trucking technology developed rapidly during the First World War to fill a need for long-distance transportation of cargo. The two forerunners in the race to solve the country’s transportation needs were the White Motor Company and Mack Trucks who played major roles in the development of the diesel engine, the fifth wheel coupling system and power brakes and steering. During this time, a lot of energy was also spent on improving the condition of the nation’s roads, especially in rural America.
In 1935 with the support of his wife Evelyn, at 23 years old and still in the midst of the Great Depression, Herbert purchased his first used truck and hand-built a wooden wagon on the back. He did this work at his in-laws home because they had electricity on the farm. That same year, Congress created and passed the Motor Carrier Act and employed the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate the blossoming trucking industry. Just one year later, Herb purchased his first brand-new truck: a Chevy one-and-a-half ton with and insulated box van to continue his father’s routes hauling milk to the Nelsonville dairy plant. Herb purchased a second truck in 1940 and opened a repair shop in downtown Nelsonville to service his small fleet and to also build the trailers for his trucks. HO WOLDING quickly began expanding its operations to haul a variety of freight including vegetables, potatoes, cement building blocks, coal and grain. All the freight hauled during this time had to be hand-loaded and unloaded by the drivers.
Serious talk for the development of interstate systems began shortly after the conclusion of WWII, but construction didn’t begin in earnest until Eisenhower pushed the issue in 1954. This new system of interstate highways helped HO WOLDING really grow and expand into a national transportation company. Wolding continued to haul many intrastate Wisconsin products such as cranberries and paper to and from the mills, but also branched out to haul in many other states. During this time, Woldings began hauling an unexpected commodity: pickle brine! Before being hauled by truck, brine had been hauled in open air vats on train cars, but deliveries often were delayed and inconsistent. Herb saw an opportunity and volunteered to haul a load of brine from Central Wisconsin to Milwaukee. The pickling plants were so enthused by the efficiency of this method, that freight lanes opened up all over the country and HO WOLDING hauled brine to locations as far as North Carolina.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, Wolding trucks were white cabover GMCs and with new gross weight limits of 80,000 pounds, HO WOLDING was hauling a variety of products all over the country. Herb found himself in need of a much bigger headquarters in order to have room to park and service his trucks and for a bigger office for his operations team to work in. This need prompted the move from their small Nelsonville shop to its current location in neighboring Amherst.
With Herbert at the helm, he was joined by several of his children, his grandchildren and, eventually, even a few great-grandchildren. In his many decades running H. O. Wolding, Herbert seized many opportunities and stayed on the forefront of the trucking industry by taking risks and maintaining a long-term vision. He saw the transportation industry evolve from horse drawn sleds to the rapidly evolving technology-based industry it is now. Many old drivers will tell stories of Herb waiting many late nights in the office for his drivers to return home safely and H. O. Wolding is very fortunate to the drivers and the employees who have dedicated themselves to helping this company expand into what it is today.