A Final Straw

At the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition held in Boston earlier this week, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) unveiled its top 10 critical issues facing U.S. truckers. To the surprise of no one, the high cost of fuel and the driver shortage were the leading issues in the survey of more than 2,000 trucking industry executives.

Other issues making the list were insurance costs, Hours of Service rules, tolls and highway funding, tort reform, regulatory redundance/costs, congestion, environmental issues and trucking security. If those 2,000 executives had been asked to name more than just the 10 top critical issues, you can be sure they’d have named a few more. The truckers will get the short end of every stick just because of their position in the pecking order … or on the totem pole.

A reporter for a transportation journal in Canada published his findings about the critical issues for drivers in the Provinces and he nailed it down to this. Drivers are not unionized, therefore they are unable to take a unified stand on any of the critical issues of the day. They bear the same burdens up there as our truckers do down here, as you know, and the likelihood of obtaining any measure of relief in either country are twofold; slim and none. It’s the system. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer.

There is a solution, however, and it won’t come as a result of newly-acquired altruism or magnanimity on the part of those at the top. It will be a gradual transition at first but it will escalate smoothly and rapidly. Whether the transformation begins here or overseas matters little. The entire supply chain will be affected. to the detriment of no one, not even those who’ve seen fit to drag their feet. It would be just great, of course, if maritime authorities were to be the instigators of this world-wide beneficial revolution, but it won’t happen that way. And in spite of the lack of unity and the many critical issues facing port drivers, the revolution won’t have its beginning with them, either.

In the very near future the supply chain will snap. A final straw, the “tipping point”, will break it into many pieces. Band-aids and baling wire will no longer suffice, and the ever-present funds from the public trough will longer be available for free-and-easy use. Everyone will make the claim that he/she saw it coming. Everyone will claim that he/she had done their utmost to warn of the impending gridlock, or disaster, or whatever you choose to call it.

If you’re reading this commentary and you suffer a financial setback when things come crashing down, don’t look around for someone else to blame. A simple revision of terminal operations, as we’ve been describing throughout these articles, would have improved everyone’s lot. If any consideration had been given to those trying to eke out a living every day while contending with the critical issues mentioned above … if their employment had been arranged by means of the simple terminal revisions we’ve been pushing … if this cost-effective, cash-generating revision had been adopted in our major terminals … then all “critical issues” at every level would have been disposed of and the consequences all along the supply chain would be both favorable and profitable.