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The Evolution of Transportation Over Time-hublogistics-4pl-ticino-elena-visconti

The Evolution of Transportation Over Time

Let us imagine delivering to Paris in times gone by
The Roman Empire

In our daily lives, transportation services to the French market are essential and something we provide regularly to meet our customers’ demands. It is important to remember that it has not always been as straightforward to transport goods to France. The evolution of transportation has been closely tied to discoveries and the available infrastructure in different historical periods.

If we were to go back to the Roman Empire, a civilization known for its organizational and engineering prowess, we would find one of the earliest complex road systems. Roman roads were the result of precise planning. They were constructed with precision, often following straight or slightly curved routes to connect the major cities of the Empire. The road’s foundation consisted of well-compacted layers of stones and sand. The surface was often made of stone to create a uniform and durable pavement. The centre was slightly elevated compared to the sides to facilitate drainage, and they even had road signs like milestone markers, indicating the distance to Rome. Like our modern highways, there were service stations called ‘mutatio’ where travellers and goods could rest, refuel with water, and have a meal. Their primary purpose was the rapid transportation of troops and goods to maintain order in the Empire, but they also facilitated trade development.

Many sections of Roman roads have been incorporated into roads still in use today. If we were to go back to that time, the journey from Milan to Paris would not take just a few hours but several days.

One hypothetical route might have been as follows:

  1. From Mediolanum in the Roman Cisalpine region, you would take the road to Genua.
  2. In Genua, you would board a Roman trireme to cross the Ligurian Sea to Massilia, modern-day Marseille.
  3. From Massilia, you would take the Via Aurelia to Arelate, modern-day Arles.
  4. From Arelate, you would join the Via Domitia, which traversed Gaul to Lutezia, today’s Paris.

Of course, this reconstruction is one of many alternatives, but it illustrates that the evolution of transportation is a part of history often overlooked in favour of political events and wars.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, many of the ancient Roman roads gradually deteriorated due to several factors: the decline of the Western Roman Empire, the transfer of maintenance to local governments lacking the resources to keep the roads up, wars and barbarian invasions, a lack of knowledge about Roman road technology, and technical resources. As settlements were abandoned and new trade routes emerged due to political, economic, and geographical changes, medieval roads often became rudimentary and poorly maintained. They were primarily made of gravel or packed earth, making them more susceptible to wear and tear compared to the sophisticated Roman roads. Medieval towns often developed along these roads, but they remained dangerous. Despite this, castles and watchtowers were often built at strategic points to control the roads and territory. Many roads crossed rivers, resulting in the construction of bridges, some of which still exist today and are architectural marvels.

Renaissance

During the Renaissance, roads regained significance. It was a period of economic, urban, and cultural growth, making roads essential again for facilitating cultural and economic exchange. Travel during this period became safer for pilgrims, professors, and students traveling to cities known for their universities.

The era of great geographic exploration, which began in the Renaissance, led to the expansion of roads and communication networks in general. New road construction methods emerged, making roads more durable once again. European roads from the Renaissance to the 18th century were characterized by a combination of roads in various states of maintenance. River routes and, especially, maritime routes became increasingly important, allowing for international trade development and connections to the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

More recent times

In the 18th century, stagecoaches became common for transporting passengers and goods between cities. Toll roads also appeared in this century. Such funding contributed to road improvement.

During the Baroque and Rococo periods, some cities started installing street lighting and taking measures to enhance safety. In Italy, the ancient Roman road network was rediscovered and restored.

The transition from the 18th to the 19th century marked a significant phase of progress in European roads and saw the advent of a revolutionary invention, the internal combustion engine. In the 18th century, major roads between cities were levelled and paved. New road routes were opened to connect industrial production areas. The early 19th century saw the spread of railways in Europe, revolutionizing land transportation by providing faster and more cost-effective options for both goods and passengers.

However, it was the advent of the internal combustion engine in the 19th century by inventors like the  Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot and the Germans Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz that definitively revolutionized transportation. These internal combustion engines allowed autonomous movement on roads. The first road vehicle with an internal combustion engine was the “Cugnot Steam Trolley,” a steam-powered vehicle, while Daimler and Benz developed the first gasoline-powered internal combustion engine vehicles.

The invention of the automobile in the late 19th century led to an increased demand for improved roads suitable for motor vehicles. In Europe, roads began to be constructed using concrete or asphalt. Stone and gravel roads remained mostly in rural areas. With the increase in traffic, the need for road signs and traffic regulations became apparent. The internal combustion engine revolutionized society and transportation from the 19th century onwards, making travel more convenient and increasing carrying capacity.

We have seen how over time the delivery from Milan to Paris has changed; now, instead of days of travel, it takes hours, and instead of a cart of goods, we transport very substantial loads.

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40 YEARS EXPERIENCE
OUTSOURCING WAREHOUSES
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WE FIT YOUR NEEDS
TRANSPORT & DISTRIBUTION
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production support
MORE
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DESIGN FURNITURE division
DESIGN FURNITURE SERVICES
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