Curtis Publishing ran the trucks in three shifts, sharing drivers. Since it took hours to load and unload 10 tons of cargo, one truck, with fresh batteries, would be driven to the post office laden with finished magazines for delivery. A second truck would be stationed there empty and charging, which the driver would then take to the train station to be loaded with paper and pick up a third truck, already loaded, to drive back to the printing plant.
Six drivers would do the same thing 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Each truck carried as much as 661 tons of freight a day and worked 48 hours straight.
There was no gearbox. Instead, the trucks had a second wheel below the steering wheel on the column for forward and reverse control. Drivers turned it clockwise for forward, or counterclockwise for reverse. With mechanical brakes on only the rear wheels, giving the truck some reverse power was also helpful for stopping.
The Curtis Publishing Company, founded in 1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became one of the largest and most influential publishers in the United States during the early 20th century. The company's publications included the Ladies' Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post, The American Home, Holiday, Jack & Jill, and Country Gentleman. In the 1940s, Curtis also had a comic book imprint, Novelty Press.
Commercial Truck company of Philadelphia built 5-ton electric trucks as far back as 1908.
They belonged to the Curtis Publishing Company, which printed and distributed the Lady's Home Journal, the Saturday Evening Post, The American Home, The Country Gentleman, Holiday, and Jack and Jill.
The company maintained a fleet of 22 Commercial Trucks, built nearby, to haul coal and rolls of printing paper to their plant, and to distribute the publications to the post office and to local newsstands. It took 6 hours to charge its and had a top speed of 15 mph. Once the batteries were completely depleted (approximately 10 years), they were then rebuilt versus replaced; further extending their useful life. During their 50 years in service, the batteries were rebuilt several times, and the trucks were only twice held for repairs for more than two hours when needed.
Drivers sat up front, high above the headlights.
Bodies were made of Red Oak, and the trucks initially had an open cab with a convertible top shielding the driver. Later, removable steel cabs were made by a local body shop. Each truck weighs 15,700 pounds.
The trucks employed four-wheel drive, using a single 16-hp GE electric motor behind each wooden wheel with its solid rubber tire. Top speed was 12 mph empty—2 mph above the legal limit in 1912— and 8 mph fully loaded.
These A 10 Standards, with a 132-inch wheelbase, ran on nine 500-pound 5-ft. long, lead-acid batteries producing 10 volts and 382 amps. They were charged six hours a day while being loaded or unloaded. Little seems to be known about the range of the trucks with these batteries, but they can also be driven with modern 12-volt automotive starter batteries.