My visit to the ATHS

While in Kansas City, MO, I had the opportunity to take part in a special visit to the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS).

I was somewhat familiar with ATHS, and at one time subscribed to its Wheels of Time publication. However, I really had no true idea of what the organization was all about.

My visit enlightened me.

Incorporated in 1971, the ATHS a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization formed to preserve the history of trucks, the trucking industry and its pioneers.

It has as its mission: “To collect artifacts, information, photographs and other relevant materials pertaining to the origin, development and progress of the motor truck transportation industry; to verify and establish the authenticity and accuracy of the collected information and materials; to place and arrange for placement of all objects, gifts, artifacts and other items on display for educational purposes that relate historically to the development of the motor truck industry; to serve as a repository for donations, gifts and bequests.”

The American Trucking Associations, the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, has recognized the ATHS as the official repository of trucking history.


Amazing collection

The depth and range of materials and objects housed in ATHS’ 30,700-square-foot building is amazing.

There is a comprehensive library and archives containing, among other things, books, magazines and journals; photographs, films, videos and slides; histories of industry pioneers, truck manufacturers and trucking companies; vehicle blueprints and manufacturing drawings; body builder manuals; and maintenance manuals.

There are also displays of uniforms, truck models, trucking industry novelties, chauffeur pins and licenses, and much, much more.

Many items go back to the very early days of trucking.

I was surprised to learn that aside from a fully restored 1919 Traffic that is in the building’s lobby and a 1961 Cline tractor that sits outside the building, ATHS doesn’t have a truck museum.

Establishing one, however, is a dream of Bill Johnson, executive director of ATHS. A major stumbling block is that running a truck museum is a very costly endeavor.

Johnson is a great person to have running ATHS. He has a background in trucking, owns 14 of his own “project” trucks and is a true “truck nut.” His knowledge of trucking history and trivia is overwhelming.


Trucking trivia

I had a chance to corner him during my visit and peppered him with questions. He answered all without hesitation, always throwing in fine details, historical facts and bits of trivia.

By way of example, I had never heard of a “corduroy road” until Bill mentioned it while addressing a question of mind about old trucks. It is a road made by placing logs side-by-side perpendicular to the direction of travel.

Each year, the ATHS holds a National Convention & Antique Truck Show that includes - naturally - displays of historical trucks, swap meets, exhibits and a speakers program.

Next year’s event is set May 31 to June 2 in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

The ATHS has chapters in AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI and WY. There are also chapters in Canada and Australia.

The ATHS is always looking for donations.

So the next time you clean the office or the garage and need to get rid of trucking paraphernalia, instead of tossing it, heading to a swap meet or putting in on eBay, consider sending it along to ATHS.

There, that part of industry will be preserved and available for others to see.

ATHS’ website is