Note: this is one of those rare posts I make that is not military or submarine related.
It is about Lean Systems, however.
We are potentially on the precipice of a national disaster, and I fear that the people in charge do not have a clue of its magnitude.
When I was growing up, my dad worked in the trucking industry. I had a short part of my post Navy career that was also directly involved with trucks, so I have been exposed to their impact my whole life.
You have too, whether you know it or not. The use of trucks to move raw materials, food and finished goods impacts very single one of us. So, the disruption of that supply chain for any reason will have a profound impact on you and your family. It also impacts our national security. The supply chain and distribution networks are the very things that physically ensure we are living in freedom.
The trucking industry refers to the use of road transportation, such as semi-trailers and light trucks, to move goods across overland routes. Most commonly goods are transported from manufacturing plants to retail distribution centers, but there are other common uses such as the transportation of building materials and waste in the construction industry. Trucking is responsible for most of the overland freight movement in the United States, with the market being worth 732.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. At that time, there were over 902,000 truck drivers employed in the U.S., which is less than the industry requires. Owing to this driver shortage, driver costs are the biggest challenge faced by the industry. Broadly speaking, the U.S. trucking industry can be divided into three main sectors: full truckload (FTL), less-than-truckload (LTL), and couriers.
Most common methods of Food Transportation
According to NAFTA food transportation in the US happens in the following modes:
- 70.5% of food transportation in the US is via Truck,
- 17% via Rail
- 8% via Ship
- and 4.5% via Air.
How much of the US Food Supply is imported?
Although the US produces large quantities of food, there are certain food items that need to be imported:
- 20% of all our food is imported
- 70% of our seafood
- 35% of our produce
The bottom line is this. Every artificial regulation that is created to impede the flow of goods and services has a cost. That includes the unrestricted efforts of any administration or group to change the methodology for “green” or other equity reasons. Someone needs to pay for those changes. That will be the consumer. Your costs will proportionately rise with every incremental change.
One example from recent history. The DPF or diesel particulate filter was created to lower the output of one of the obnoxious elements of burning diesel. Every new diesel truck on the road now is required to have a DPF. Replacing a diesel particulate filter can be pricey. A new filter from a car manufacturer can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. It’s no secret that as cars and trucks age, their value decreases. Even cleaning an existing filter costs between $850-$1,200.
Are they better for the environment? Possibly. But are they going to cost you money in your purchases? No doubt they will and already have. The trucking companies are not a charity.
Burdensome has a price
Lately, the government (both here and abroad) has tried to mandate health regulations. Many drivers and others see this as a burdensome overreach of a bloated bureaucracy. The protests that are happening in Canada are just the tip of the iceberg. The drivers are flexing a muscle that they have never been bold enough before to flex. And it is having a real impact. Even in this country.
Most automobile manufacturers are very lean now. That means they do not keep warehouses filled with parts. Those parts are delivered (mostly by truck) on an as needed basis. No trucks, no parts. Pretty simple. Factories shut down. Reduced wages hit the family and the community. The longer it lasts, the harder the hit.
Add to that the food and beverage industries. Most grocery stores are also on a lean diet. They rely on trucks to get there every single day from the distribution centers. If that fails, shelves are empty. The supply chain is broken, and backups are hard to overcome. Spoiled food waits at the farm while distribution centers go empty.
The alarm bells are ringing.
What happens if the US Truckers recognize the same power as their Canadian brothers and sisters?
What if they just stop working?
The federal government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Because if this isn’t fixed really soon, there will be no coffee to smell. And a lot of starving people when there is not enough to eat.
In the meantime, I would suggest you do an inventory about what you have in your house right now.
How long would you survive if those big noisy smelly trucks stopped running? What else in your house was brought to your local stores by truck besides food? Do you remember the great toilet paper shortage of 2020? That, my friends will look like child’s play if this does not get some real adult attention very soon.
Are you ready?
4 thoughts on “Keep on Trucking… or else”
The auto manufacturers are an excellent example, we’ve already stalled lines because of unobtainable computer chips. Why? Because they don’t use the sexy new ones, they use older models that almost never fail and are sufficient to the purpose, but the manufacturers of those chips want to make more and that means more modern. An aside, since at least WW II (and probably well before) the automakers were pretty lean. Example: The Wabash Railroad ran fast freight trains overnight from St Louis to Detroit with auto parts for the next day’s production. Not FTL or even carloading but full-on trainload shipping.
It’s often said that America is movement. nowhere is that more true than in freight and distribution. The trucks stop, and America goes back to about 1860, within weeks, even where things move in trainload lots, grain, coal (sometimes), oil, without trucks, disappears. Try to buy a truckload of coal, which was the most common residential heat source during the war, can not be done, the mines don’t even have the capability to lead a truck. And all the whingeing in the world won’t bring it back. Why? Because America became what we know as America because of fast reliable freight transportation.
Thabk you, sir. Your insights are, as always, both valuable and thought provoking.
In a way, the examination of the current trucking issue *can* be loosely compared to submarines in one simple word you know all so well:
History is *full* of examples of what happens when logistics are impeded – Britain in both World Wars, Japan in the World War, and pretty much any guerilla campaign since 1945 have all been dictated by the flow – or restriction – of goods and materials from one place to another.
Yet, for all the law degrees and political science parchment, none of those folks in the big cities of marble and malfeasance masked as magnanimity… they just don’t get it…
They will… but by then, the damage will be done.