As far as shape, construction, rubber-tyred wooden wheels and the steering are concerned, the first truck was very similar to it's forerunner which was the carriage. In 1896 it was offered by Daimler and Maybach with a one-liter two-cylinder in-line engine delivering 3 kW (4 PS) and could transport loads of up to 1,5 tons. The engine was mounted in front of the rear axle (2 years later it was moved to the front). On a flat road it could reach a speed of approx. 10 km/h, inclines of up to 10% were possible with a small load. The front axle was held by two transverse mounted leaf-springs, the rear axle by coil-springs with appropriate wheel guidance. The block-brake, which was operated by a crank instead of a pedal, was applied directly to the steel wheels. The outside band-brake- and after 1902, the inside drum-brake, replaced the block.
The driver and co-driver sat unprotected in the open and only later did they, at least get a seat which was heated by the cooling system. The consumption was a good bit over 10 liters/100 kms (approx. 23,5 mpg). The torque was transferred from the engine to the rear axle through a belt drive. Two years later gear-wheels and chains were used. Only after the turn of the century did the petrol engine finally assert itself over the much heavier steam-engine. This would stay this way until the middle of the century, because the development of the Diesel-truck took a long time and had to struggle to gain acceptance among the buyers. Pneumatic tyres, all-wheel drive and the first three-axle trucks however, appeared a lot earlier.
To even carry out the starting procedure, almost required a knowledge of mechanics. Using a type of bicycle-pump, the necessary pressure was pumped into the tank and the respective fuel-lines. While driving, the pressure had to be kept up from the drivers bench and the fuel-cocks were mounted directly in the engine. With a bit of luck, enough petrol came through so that one could ignite the flame at the glow-pipe. Only then was the well known cranking of the relatively low compression two-cylinder possible.
The common feature of the first generation of engines, (also in the Benz Tricycle ) was the static, non-adjustable engine RPM, which at a max. speed of a good 10 km/h, was not really a problem. Instead of gearheels, leather belts were either tightened or loosened over various sized pulleys making it possible to cope with slight inclines. At least with this method, there was also a reverse gear, indeed, it had to be engaged by foot.
Up to this point, everything was still possible. However, the vehicle, weighing up to 2 tons, still had to be steered and, in the event of an emergency, also braked. The primitive center-pivot steering with a chain which travelled around the vertical steering column to each side of the rigid front axle, required a great deal of effort. Apparently, even more strength was necessary, to operate the brakes. At least, apart from the hand-crank for the brake shoe which was applied to the rear wheels, there was also one which was operated by a pedal, to one of the gear shafts. Considering the impressive loading capacity, despite the very low speed, the question of safety simply did not arise. 03/09