A Brief History of Road Graders

We love road graders and I know you do too! And because Dirt Dogs Excavation lives and breathes the dust of road graders and tractors we thought we should share some of fascinating information about the history of road graders to help expand the appreciation level and love for this incredible invention which is often overlooked.

Global sales of graders is estimated to be $4.27 billion. But the grader business wasn’t always that big. In fact it started out as small spin-off from the horse and buggy business! The photo above shows an example of one of the earliest models – a horse-drawn grader.

Modern road graders are seriously powerful machines used for earth moving, road work and installing driveways so they deserve a little thought and respect. To that end…here’s our short history of road graders.

A Brief History of the Road Grader

The first road grader, also known as a motor grader or simply a grader, was invented in the late 19th century. A guy named Richard Austin in 1885 invented the first grader which he humbly named after himself…the “Austin No. 1 Grader“.  (Its shown in the photo up above.) Richard was a blacksmith from Chicago, Illinois, who designed  that horse-drawn contraption for the purpose grading and leveling dirt roads. It featured an adjustable blade and a wheeled frame, allowing it to effectively smooth and shape road surfaces.

The Austin No. 1 Grader was considered a significant innovation at the time, providing a more efficient and mechanized method for road construction and maintenance. It provided the overall “grader-blade” concept and laid the foundation for subsequent advancements in road grading technology.

Graders have undergone significant improvements and have transitioned from being horse-drawn to being powered by engines.  Thus the “motor grader” was born.

old road grader

The 1920s and 1930s saw significant improvements in motor grader technology. Companies such as Caterpillar, Allis-Chalmers, and Galion began producing motor graders with internal combustion engines, which greatly enhanced their performance and versatility. During this period, road graders gained popularity and were increasingly used in road construction projects.

During WWII road graders helped us win the war!

During World War II, road graders played a crucial role in military operations and infrastructure development. Here are a few ways road graders were used during that time:

  • Construction and Maintenance of Airfields: Road graders were extensively used in the construction and maintenance of airfields for military aircraft. They helped prepare the ground by leveling and grading the terrain, removing obstructions, and compacting the soil to create smooth and functional runways.
  • Road Construction and Repair: Road graders were employed to construct and repair roads and highways in various theaters of war. They helped in clearing debris, filling in potholes, and grading roads to facilitate the movement of military vehicles, equipment, and supplies. Road graders were vital in ensuring that transportation routes remained accessible and reliable for troops and logistics.
  • Construction of Temporary Camps and Bases: Road graders were used in the construction of temporary military camps, bases, and depots. They helped prepare the sites by leveling the ground, grading areas for tents and structures, and creating access roads and parking areas.
  • Field Engineering: Road graders were utilized by military engineers for various field engineering tasks. They assisted in creating defensive positions, leveling ground for installations such as artillery emplacements and anti-aircraft gun sites, and constructing temporary bridges and crossings.
  • Supply Line Maintenance: Road graders played a role in maintaining supply lines by repairing and improving roads and routes used for transporting troops, equipment, and supplies. They helped keep the roads in operational condition, ensuring efficient logistics and communication throughout the war.

Yes indeed, road graders have quite a remarkable history!

Just a couple other factoids…

Caterpillar Inc. is an American corporation that’s famous worldwide for its construction vehicles – and it’s currently the world’s leading motor grader manufacturer. It also makes the largest grader in the world…the CAT 24.
–  fuel tank capacity of 240 gallons
– 54 ft
– 151,000 lbs

You might also enjoy watching the video below about the 10 largest motor graders in the world.

If you need help with your dirt road or driveway or any kind of earth moving project in Colorado – keep us in mind! Dirt Dogs Excavation has their own road grader (below) for excavating work as well as smoothing out dirt roads and driveways all across the Front Range of Colorado.