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How Did Pickup Trucks Get Their Name?

Pickup trucks are everywhere in the United States.

They’re perfect work trucks for various jobs, and many people make them their everyday vehicles. 

But how did trucks get their name in the first place?

The exact origin of the term “pickup truck” isn’t clear. The first factory trucks were shipped in crates, and the workers had to “pick them up” to assemble them. The name could also have come from drivers picking things up and putting them in the bed to transport them.

How Pickup Trucks Got Their Name?

Close-up photo of the back of a Ford pickup truck.

The best-selling vehicle in the United States is the Ford pickup truck.

The Ford company is intertwined with the history of motor vehicles in America, so its popularity isn’t that surprising.

Not only did Henry Ford design and build the first popular factory truck, but he’s also credited with coining the term “pickup truck.” 

Ford was inspired to produce factory trucks after farmers and fieldhands modified the original Model Ts to use as work vehicles. 

In 1925, the Model T Roadster was released with a pickup body and a cargo box on the back.

The cargo space made the vehicles much more useful for hauling items and made life easier for farmers, construction workers, and laborers. 

The phrase is credited to Ford because, in the early trucks, the cargo box was sold separately.

Since this cargo box was called the “pickup box” and was picked up at the parts department, the name “pickup truck” stuck and became a common way to refer to the vehicles. 

In all likelihood, “pickup” was probably used well before Ford adopted the name. 

The term likely refers to the ease and convenience of hauling objects in the truck’s open back – this new style of vehicle allowed people to “pick up” items and transport them much more efficiently. 

The term “pickup truck” combines the original meaning of the word “truck” with the word “pickup” credited to Henry Ford.

Since then, “pickup truck” has been a normal way to refer to vehicles with an enclosed cab and an open, spacious back end. 

The Original Pickup Truck

Henry Ford may have popularized pickup trucks and may have even formerly named them, but he wasn’t the first to sell them. 

Ford’s Model T was popular, but other manufacturers sold what could be considered trucks years before Henry Ford started. 

Autocar, the oldest vehicle brand in America, did it first, though not as well. 

They built and sold the first pickup truck in 1899, and it’s the earliest known vehicle focused specifically on helping with work. 

Other manufacturers also sold what could be considered pickup trucks.

Most of them were just cars with a box or flat space on the back, and these early truck beds were sold separately. 

Additional parts were also sold separately – many dealers sold the car’s frame, and people built them on their own.

It gave people a lot of freedom regarding their vehicles and what parts they wanted to add on or leave off. 

But Where Did The Word “Truck” Come From?

Paper question marks on brown paper.

The word “truck” comes from the late 14th-century term “truckle,” referring to a small wheel, roller, or pulley system used to transport goods. 

It could also be used as a verb for moving heavy loads, and eventually, people bestowed the term “truck” on vehicles doing just that. 

Today, many different vehicles are considered trucks, including garbage trucks, recycling trucks, dirt trucks, concrete trucks, etc. 

The one thing they all have in common is that they haul stuff around.

Pickup trucks were made for the same reason, though they usually have a lighter load and are used for more general purposes. 

In some places, the term “truck” refers to the vehicle’s weight and size more than its design.

There, pickup trucks are just called “pickups,” and the word “truck” is reserved for much larger vehicles that transport things around.


The term “pickup truck” wasn’t common until Henry Ford released the first popular factory pickup truck in 1925. 

The name comes from two complementary origins: owners picking up the cargo box from the parts department of the Ford factory and the vehicle’s ability to pick up and move loads of items.

People probably used the term “pickup” before the vehicles were popularized, but credit for both the factory truck and the name is generally attributed to Henry Ford.

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