If You Have It - It Has Been on a Truck

If You Have It - It Has Been on a Truck. I heard that saying years ago and now found some information that actually shows some of the details that actually might support that claim. My research this week took me to the American Trucking Association website where I learned some very interesting facts that also made me go hmmm....

Did you know:

  • That the The U.S. trucking industry is comprised of more than 214,000 for-hire carriers and more than 276,000 private carriers, 95.9 percent with fewer than 20 trucks?
  • More than 80 percent of U.S. communities depend solely on trucking for delivery of their goods and commodities?
  • In 2006, the trucking industry hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight, or over 69 percent of total U.S. freight tonnage. Rail was the next busiest mode moving 13.3 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage.
What would happen if the trucks in America are slowed down, or worse yet, stopped entirely even for a short span of a week or two? What if those small trucking businesses that represent a large percentage of the trucks, can't afford to stay in business? That would leave us with only a franction of our existing trucking companies bearing the brunt of ALL of the trucking requirements! Not so good.

The American Trucking Association website had  a file available called "When Trucks Stop, America Stops" (downloadable Adobe pdf file) that outlined some pretty amazing scenarios for our economy, food supply, manufacturing, banking, and even just plain retail, should a disaster, either economic or natural, disrupt the trucking industry.  I highly recommend reading it.  They state "The unimpeded flow of trucks is critical to the safety and well-being of all Americans. However, it is entirely possible that well-intended public officials may instinctively halt or severely restrict truck traffic in response to an incident of national or regional significance." 

I took it a step further.  What would happen when these small business owners can no longer afford the fuel to keep the trucks running? What happens if/when inflation hits and fuel prices rise to such an extent they can no longer operate?

In 2008 when fuel prices skyrocketed, there were wide-spread concerns about independent truckers going out of business because they simply couldn't operate when diesel was bumping $4.00 a gallon. (see WKRG article here). CBS reported that Truckers even converged on Washington D.C. to protest record high gas prices in April of 2008. A 2008 article in the Orlando Sentinel stated, "Consumers may not realize it, but the rising price of diesel is hitting their wallets, too, as the prices of groceries, clothes and other goods are tied to transportation costs. 

"Everything that you see in the supermarket has to travel by truck," said Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations. "Everything you see in the mall has to travel by truck."

We probably all remember the fuel surcharges that airlines began to impose on travelers, later to be exchanged for permanent baggage fees, in order to maintain profitability.

Did you know that even safe drinking water is at the mercy of the trucking industry? The American Trucking Association's article goes on to say, "According to the Chlorine Institute, most water treatment facilities receive chlorine in cylinders (150 pounds and one ton cylinders) that are delivered by motor carriers. On average, trucks deliver purification chemicals to water supply plants every seven to 14 days. Without

these chemicals, water cannot be purified and made safe for drinking. Without truck deliveries of purification chemicals, water supply plants will run out of drinkable water in 14 to 28 days." 

Also think about who will deliver:

  • Fuel to the airlines what will also ship mail, manufactured good, and supplies
  • Medical supplies, medicine to hospitals and pharmacies
  • Waste removal - garbage
  • ATM's - a typical bank replenishes its ATMs via armored truck delivery every two to three days
The conclusion of the American Trucking Association's report was that "As demonstrated by the analysis of just a few key industries, restricting or shutting down all truck operations in response to a natural disaster, elevated threat level, terrorist attack, or pandemic will have a swift and devastating impact on the food, health care, transportation, waste removal, retail, manufacturing, and financial sectors."  (I notice that they don't mention any kind of economic disaster, like inflationary fuel prices that potentially eliminate many small trucking businesses.)

So what happens if truckers can't afford to stay in business? What if they can't afford to fill their trucks with fuel and deliver the 70% of America's goods? What if there is a disaster and trucks are forced to stop due to federal, state, or local edicts? Are you prepared for empty grocery shelves?  Or ATM's that don't have money to dispense?  Your prescriptions available at the pharmacy?  Or if gas stations that haven't been able to get a delivery of fuel in for days or even weeks?

Do you have your "insurance policy" of emergency preparedness in place?  Do you have a supply of food and water?  Have you thought of making sure you have enough cash on hand to last for several weeks? Have you considered what you would do if you couldn't buy anything at the store for weeks on end? Are you at the mercy of trucks?

Image: Bill Longshaw /

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