I first saw one late one night while I was doing some not-so-legal driving around the Tacoma dock areas. On the waterfront, seeing semi-tractors hauling containers around was nothing new. You learned to weave around them and the odd Greyhound bus without causing too much attention and the road was your own. But it wasn’t the regular Freightliners and Peterbilts that caught me off-guard…it was the one funky-looking little tractor hauling your average container trailer that made me pull over and just observe for a moment: the greenhouse for a single driver offset to the left, a stubby little thing, but more than capable of moving any of the trailers from the port around. I hadn’t seen a terminal tractor before that point. I was used to semi tractors thanks to my father’s over-the-road long haul career, but I had never seen anything so dedicated to one task, designed to be useful for one simple directive and nothing more. Frankly, I was impressed with it’s compactness and it’s outright robustness.
While companies like Autocar and Tico sell versions, the origin story goes back to the Ottawa Steel days and the first examples of a basic, two-wheel-drive shunt truck. From early development to becoming one of the biggest brands in the field with a product that filled a niche nobody really knew about until they saw their first truck, these yard mules are backbones in many freight operations around the world.