Control Freaks

According to a West Coast port trucker, “Who controls the drivers controls the pier, and who controls the pier controls the container. And who controls the container controls the economy in this country.”

And according to a forecast commissioned by the American Trucking Association, trucking will remain the largest mode of freight transport in the U.S. into the next decade. Global Insight, the author of the study, projected trucking’s total tonnage share to rise to 70 percent over the next decade.

The forecast puts rail intermodal and air freight as the two fastest growing segments , but neither will have more than 2 percent of the total tonnage by the year 2018.

“We’re an important part of the quality of life in this country. The United States achieved economic greatness with the help of a state-of-the-art transportation system,” said the ATA’s president and CEO. “And trucks will continue to lead the freight landscape,” he added.

But truck drivers, especially port truckers, have been the favorite whipping boy of port authorities. The so-called “Clean Truck Plan”, about to be forced upon port truckers, is the latest attempt to control drivers, and those in authority should know better. The consequences, the inevitable loss of thousands of those drivers, would make the 2001 10-day dock strike look like a lunch break.

Here’s the twist. The port commissioners actually warned the industry that “if the industry did not cooperate with the ports regarding the plan, the drayage fleet faces a shortage of drivers, delays in the delivery of cargo, and a situation where the ports would not be able to grow to accommodate more cargo in the future”.

Yes, you read that right. The truth of the matter, obviously, is exactly the opposite; that when, not if, the industry is forced to “cooperate with the ports regarding the plan”, the shortage of drivers and the delays in cargo delivery are guaranteed certainties. The blessing in disguise, however, is that the ports would not be able to grow to accommodate more cargo in the future.

But port and city officials insist that the plan is going to be moved forward, even though they are well aware of the predicted driver shortages that will be brought about by the introduction of the Federal Transportation Worker Identification Card security system.

Those in authority have their heads in the sand. Truck drivers are undeniably the most valuable asset we have in the logistics supply chain, and yet port officials are determined to take steps that will thin their ranks. As we noted in an earlier commentary, because ports have taken the place of local manufacturing facilities as the sources of almost all our needs, drivers [not port officials] have necessarily become our lifeline. This link in the supply chain is the nation’s jugular. We may as well recognize that fact and do our utmost to keep that vital link intact.