Freightliner Trucks: 75 Years of Innovation



Naval engineer Richard James invents the Slinky®.

Moviegoers escape during these hard years by finding hope and inspiration at their local movie house. Hollywood designers exert a huge influence over fashion trends in the United States.

Televisions become a fixture in living rooms across the U.S., threatening to replace radio.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his historic “I Have a Dream” speech during The Great March on Washington. The march becomes the largest human rights rally in American history and helps to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rebelling against the status quo, the subculture of open-minded, free-thinking enthusiasts called Hippies becomes the iconic symbol of an era.

Offering better visibility in tight spaces, the WFHT6288 half-cab dominates job sites and crowded lots.

Disco comes to symbolize the liberation of a generation.

Freightliner expands its product line, introducing the driver-friendly FLL low-cab-forward truck.

The DeLorean® becomes the most iconic car of the era for its Hollywood role as a time-traveling vehicle.

From Pac-Man™ to Donkey Kong™, arcade and video games reach their heyday.

Dolly, the first cloned mammal, proves the theory that a cell taken from a specific part of the body can be used to create a replica of the donor.

Daimler Trucks North America acquires Detroit Diesel, leading to truly integrated designs for truck and engines.

In cooperation with Daimler AG, Freightliner creates the only full-scale wind tunnel owned and operated by a North American truck manufacturer. This wind tunnel plays a major role in shaping the aerodynamic attributes of today’s Freightliner Cascadia model, as well as previous Century Class and Columbia models.

GPS devices change navigating highways and backroads forever, giving drivers directions without ever opening a paper map.

Diesel prices hit a new record high, reaching almost $4.00 a gallon in summer 2008.

Freightliner’s 1000th natural gas-powered truck rolls off the line, cementing North America’s strongest alternative power lineup. CNG and LNG options complement the existing hybrid version of the M2 106.

On May 20, Freightliner introduces the 2014 Cascadia Evolution Class 8 truck model. It’s powered by the new 400 HP Detroit DD15 engine and features some of the most advanced aerodynamic and powertrain enhancements, continuing to set a high bar for the industry.

Using simple hardware and CAD software, plastic wire is melted and shaped to create anything you desire. From everyday applications like art and toys, to major applications like tools and prosthetics, the possibilities are almost endless.


The Department of Energy selects Freightliner to receive a multi-million dollar grant to participate in a five-year R&D initiative focused on improving fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for Class 8 trucks. Completed one year ahead of schedule, Freightliner demonstrates a 50% improvement in overall efficiency.


Daimler is the first manufacturer to design and offer a complete suite of safety systems, called Detroit Assurance™. It features a radar system that mitigates collisions by automatically slowing the truck while keeping a consistently safe following distance between vehicles, and a camera system that provides the driver with lane departure warnings. This is the future of driving.


Freightliner trucks can now be fitted with new 2016 Detroit engines. These GHG17 engines meet the new 2017 Greenhouse gas emission standards a full year ahead of schedule, showing that we’re working towards a greener footprint.

THE 1940s

World War II dominated the 1940s, affecting most countries and people across Europe, Asia and elsewhere. New institutions emerged from the war, including the United Nations and NATO as well as new states and governments such as India, Pakistan, Israel, Vietnam and a divided China. Technologies (including computers, nuclear power and jet propulsion) emerged from the war effort and scientific breakthroughs included quantum theory, nuclear physics, game theory, and radiocarbon dating.

Truck building resumes after WWII and the Freightliner facility moves to the NW Quimby facility in Portland, Oregon.

THE 1950s

From satellites to passenger jets, the 1950s created tremendous technological advancement. Crick and Watson discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. The first ultrasound test took place. NASA was organized. The first nationwide television broadcast showed President Truman’s address to the nation. The first successful ballpoint pen hit the market. The Chevrolet® Corvette was the first car to have an all-fiberglass body. In 1958, the first plastic soda bottles appeared in supermarkets.

Freightliner introduces the four-wheel-drive Mountaineer tractor, offering improved traction on and off the highway.

THE 1960s

The 1960s launched Apollo 11, the first human spaceflight to land on the moon. Muscle cars ruled the American road. Business boomed for the Big Three American automakers, who started rolling compact and mid-sized cars off the production line. The computer programming language BASIC was created. The first computer video game, the first computer mouse and the first Touch-Tone telephones were all launched in the sixties.

Powered by a Boeing model 553 gas turbine, Freightliner’s Turboliner weighs 2,400 pounds less than a similar truck with a diesel engine.

In cooperation with Cummins®, Freightliner develops a prototype power dolly to assist 4x4 tractors pulling double or triples over mountain passes. With no throttle control for the dolly, application of the brakes reduces the engine speed to idle.

THE 1970s

The 1970s gave birth to modern computing: the world’s first microprocessor, the C programming language, rudimentary personal computers, consumer video games, pocket calculators, the first supercomputer and the first floppy disks. The first email was sent in 1971. Stephen Hawking developed his theory of black holes. Audio-division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara takes music on the go for the first time, designing the Sony® Walkman® in 1978.

THE 1980s

Consumer VCRs and video rental stores were commonplace in the 80s. Nintendo® took over the American video game market. Computers experienced explosive growth, becoming a major industry. The IBM® PC, launched in 1981, became the dominant computer for professional users. Apple® introduced the first Macintosh computer in 1984. Halley’s Comet became the first comet observed by spacecraft, with American, Soviet, Japanese and ESA probes taking a look in 1986.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 standardizes truck size and weight limits for traffic on Interstate Highways, bringing national consistency to regulations for the first time.

THE 1990s

The nineties were the dawn of the Information Age and the Internet. Intel® developed the Pentium® processor. Widespread email use prompted Microsoft® to buy Hotmail®. Web browsers were developed. Businesses started to build commercial websites. E-commerce companies like® exploded in size. Digital cameras, CD players, DVDs and MP3 players dominated the market. Apple® released the iMac® computer. Mobile phones started to appear by the end of the decade.

The Freightliner Century Class presents a collection of technological breakthroughs: increased fuel economy, added payload, driver safety, and productivity found nowhere else.

Building on the success of the FLD, Freightliner’s FLD120 70” sleeper is fully integrated with the cab and the raised-roof provides plenty of standing room. The raised roof is wildly successful.

THE 2000s

The Internet connected the world in the 2000s, and the Mars Exploration Rover reached the surface of the Red Planet. The Human Genome Project mapped 99% of human DNA. Google became the world’s most visited website, and Facebook became the world’s most popular social network. Smartphones, texting, wireless internet, hybrid vehicles, GPS, flat-panel TVs, MP3 players, downloading music and shopping online were all technological signs of the times.

Facebook launches in 2004. A few years later, Freightliner drives onto the social networking scene with its own page, hosting an active community of drivers.

THE 2010s

The 2010s brought more ways to connect and customize our experiences than ever before. Mobile apps made for anything—from paying for groceries with Apple iPay to gaming in the ”Cloud” with Minecraft and Angry Birds. We use selfie sticks for our Instagram posts, capture unique angles of the world on GoPro action cameras, and stream our favorite Netflix series while on the go. NASA discovers liquid water on Mars, Google makes the first autonomous driving vehicle, and the SpaceX Dragon reusable rocket lands successfully. Michael Phelps becomes the most decorated Olympian in history, LeBron James and Sidney Crosby lead their teams to victory, and Adele sings her way into our hearts.

To meet EPA 2010 regulations, Freightliner Trucks chooses Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) emissions technology to decrease exhaust particulates while improving fuel economy.


In August of 1942, Freightways Manufacturing changes its name to Freightliner Corporation, led by the company’s founder and CEO Leland James.

Truck building is suspended while Freightliner Corporation builds war materials.

Freightliner introduces the “Eastern Freightliner,” a B-42 tractor designed to haul a single semi-trailer.

The mixture of blues, jazz and country music known as Rock & Roll sweeps the nation as a generation of post-war teenagers comes of age. Pompadours, bobby socks and saddle shoes form the uniform of carefree kids everywhere.

Freightliner creates the first 90-degree tilt cab in the industry, allowing mechanics direct access to the vehicle’s engine for easy maintenance.

Freightliner builds the WFT5366 AWD Cane Hauler for Hawaii. With a GCVW of 76 tons, it was specifically designed to haul sugar cane.

Detroit’s high-horsepower muscle cars rule the road.

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launches. It is NASA’s third manned mission to the moon.

Freightliner begins shifting towards conventional trucks, offering better ride and handling. The Aluminum Hood WFC kicks things off.

Once requiring a claustrophobic contortion act, Freightliner makes catching some Z’s a lot easier with a new easy-access bunk.

Freightliner sees a shift in customer demand from COEs to conventional, long-nose trucks. With lightweight solutions in both models, Freightliner helps customers maximize payloads with configurations that best match their needs.

Freightliner’s proprietary AirLiner® suspension gives drivers new levels of driving comfort, cushioning the cab with airbags built into the suspension. It will eventually become the best-selling air suspension of all time.

As cell phones become commonplace, real life starts to look more like science fiction.

Combining the spaciousness of a conventional cab and the maneuverability and visibility of a cab-over-engine (COE), the Argosy incorporates the first flat-floor design in a COE. It also offers the industry’s first electronically assisted articulating steps, making it easier to get in and out.

Freightliner introduces the Business Class M2, offering the strength of steel with the lightweight corrosion resistance of aluminum.

VCRs, once found in every American home, are replaced by DVD players, offering a more compact and high-fidelity image.

Apple releases the iPad, changing the way people consume information and interact with mobile devices. Motion gesture recognition technology also becomes mainstream, using a camera that identifies human movements in real-time. Both of these technologies are quickly implemented into Freightliner vehicle safety and sales and marketing tools.

Hybrid and fully electric vehicles gain popularity as major auto makers embrace the trend towards driving green. Once an ultra-expensive prototype, they’re now affordable to the masses at a consumer-friendly price.


On August 8, Detroit showcases the revolutionary Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission for Freightliner trucks. It combines the ease of operation of an automatic, with the fuel efficiency of a manual, improving performance and safety.

Freightliner launches the Elite Support dealer certification program. Every Elite Support dealership must be certified annually to ensure consistent high-standard experience with every visit across the Freightliner service network.


With driver wellness becoming an important industry concern, on June 9, Freightliner becomes the first OEM to offer an in-cab exercise system as a factory-installed option in 72" Cascadia sleeper cabs. The FIT System provides full strength and conditioning workout for drivers.


The full production of the 122SD severe duty vocational truck begins. With a GVWR of 92,000 pounds and a GCWR of 160,000 pounds, it is designed for heavy hauling and oversized loads. It is arguably one of the toughest trucks on the road.

As metropolitan city populations become increasingly dense, and daily travel becomes increasingly difficult, entrepreneurial companies begin rivaling the classic taxi cab system. Uber, Lyft, and Car2Go each offer an innovative solution to their respective industries.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. hit a modern record of $2.65 per gallon – the lowest since 2009 – thanks to localized resourcing.

America’s love affair with space travel reignites with the invention of reusable rockets. Instead of abandoning the rocket in the atmosphere upon reentry, the ability to safely land it back on solid ground saves serious cost and offers big advantages to future travel and delivery applications.

Freightliner introduces the first overhead sleeper in the model WF64, which is optimized for long-haul applications while meeting restrictive length laws in place at the time. In addition to its innovative space-saving design, the vehicle can be fueled by gasoline, diesel or liquefied propane, making the WF64 an alternative-fuel solution ahead of its time.

On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper of Motorola® transmits the world’s first cell phone call.

Boomboxes become status symbols, carried on the shoulder or set up on a street corner for an impromptu breakdancing session.

Pagers keep people on the lookout for the nearest payphone.

When a Hollywood writers’ strike threatens to halt scripted TV, producers launch dozens of reality TV shows, giving new hope to amateur singers and dancers nationwide.


The SD line debuts in early 2011, rounding out Freightliner’s vocational offering. The all-new 108SD and 114SD cover a wide range of severe duty applications in the construction, mining and municipal segments.

Detroit launches Virtual Technician™, the first integrated remote diagnostic system available on all Detroit engines for Freightliner trucks. It records engine fault data and instantly provides drivers with a diagnosis and recommendations.


Virtual Reality technologies begin implementing faster computing power and gaining broader appeal than just video game applications. Although requiring a sizeable cost investment, the future of fully immersive environments is very bright.

Another first for Freightliner trucks. On September 18, Detroit announces the complete Detroit Connect™ telematics solution. It is the first OEM provided, factory-installed telematics solution with remote diagnostics and on-board tablets.

The Cascadia Evolution launches with the first fully integrated Detroit™ powertrain with a state-of-the art communication system, engineered and manufactured to work together. The integrated powertrain features a down-sped DD15 engine, the DT12 transmission, and puts power to the road with high-speed ratio 6x4 or 6x2 axles.

Samsung develops a prototype of what they call the ”transparent truck”, which uses a video camera up front and a monitor in back to display the road ahead to vehicles behind. This safety device is helpful in giving any vehicles following the truck much greater visibility in order to pass when clear.

The new Freightliner Cascadia® represents a revolution in the trucking industry. With over one million hours of research and development and millions of miles of real-world testing, the Cascadia® is the result of a sustained, concentrated investment in the future of trucking. The new Freightliner Cascadia represents the best in fuel efficiency, safety, connectivity, quality, uptime and driver experience.

The industry’s first commercial vehicle with an all-aluminum cab debuts. Dubbed the “shovelnose,” or Model 600, it launches the Freightliner brand.

For $15,871, Freightliner sells (to Hyster) the first transcontinental cab-over-engine sleeper that can haul a 35-foot trailer.

Freightliner proudly celebrates 70 hard-working years of dedication, collaboration, and innovation in the trucking industry.

As personal health becomes more of a priority in the public mindset, smart watches gain popularity because they easily track your heart rate, distances traveled, and calories burned.

The adoption rates of personal civilian remote controlled drones rivals that of the personal computer. Once an expensive fringe hobby quickly gains popularity as technology advances and consumer applications multiply. From sporty International race competitions to functional one-hour grocery delivery, the benefits of these machines are obvious but the future is still unknown..

Daimler Trucks announces a $375 million investment to bring new medium duty engine line production to the Detroit facility. The DD5™ engine is initially available in the Freightliner M2, and the new DD8 is available for select Freightliner models starting in 2018.


Freightliner introduces its flagship truck model: the aptly-named Powerliner. Built with big power in mind, its massive 2,000-square-inch radiator conceals an enormous 600 HP engine.

Freightliner builds its 100,000th truck. The vehicle: a powerful 104” BBC stretch cab tractor.

DeLorean photo by Flickr user JoshBerglund19 licensed under Creative Commons Attribution license.

The FLD makes this a landmark year for Freightliner. Available in 112” and 120” BBCs, Freightliner’s first aerodynamic conventional tractor is North America’s best selling Class 8 truck of its time.

Manufactured for the medium-duty market but available for classes 6-8, the FLN Business Class emphasizes improvements in visibility and maneuverability.

Freightliner’s Cascadia debuts, incorporating a range of new aerodynamic, lightweight and maintenance-reducing features. The Cascadia offers an unprecedented range of cab and sleeper configurations, with 113” and 125” BBCs and 48”, 60” and 72” integrated mid-roof and raised-roof sleeper options.


In a spectacular ceremony at Hoover Dam, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck is unveiled. It is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on a US public highway. Sci-fi becomes reality.

Rotate your phone

Freightliner’s exclusive Run Smart Predictive Cruise increases fuel efficiency by utilizing GPS and elevation maps, allowing the truck to see the road ahead and adjust cruise speed accordingly.

Don’t dream about the future.

Drive it.


Welcome to the past, present and future of an industry.

For over 75 years, Freightliner has led the industry in innovation and customer commitment. Start scrolling to explore our history of firsts. And see how our past is shaping the industry’s future.

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75 Years of Innovation