It’s haul or nothin’!

At the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition held in Boston back in the Fall of 2005, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) unveiled the top 10 critical issues facing U.S. truckers. To no one’s surprise, the high cost of fuel and the driver shortage were the leading issues in the survey of more than 2,000 trucking industry executives.

Also making the list were tolls and highway funding, highway congestion, environmental issues, trucking security, and a number of other bugaboos that still haunt the industry. We remarked back then that truckers are getting the short end of the stick because of their position in the pecking order. They’re kept at the very bottom of the totem pole so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

A month prior to that ATA management conference in Boston, Russ Bruner, Maersk’s President and CEO, acknowledged that the shortage of drivers is the most critical issue in the supply chain, and he said further that it was the one weak point that could be fixed most easily and most quickly. “The bottom line,” he reasoned, “is that we have to pay truckers more.”

But port authorities reject that kind of talk. They had previously released a study stating that, because truckers were the cause of terminal congestion, they didn’t deserve to be paid more. That’s where they attempted to place the blame, believe it or not, and in their adamant refusal to accept responsibility for that congestion, along with all the other shortcomings that have developed because of their own mismanagement, these same authorities are hastening the demise of the very empires they’ve been building for themselves.

In the very near future the supply chain will come crashing down mainly because of the way the trucking industry is being dealt with by callous authorities. If proper consideration had been given to those trying to eke out a living while contending every day with critical issues affecting cargo handling and delivery … if their employment could have been regulated by means of the simple terminal revisions we’ve been advocating … if our cost-effective, cash-generating retrofitting program had been adopted by greedy container terminal officials … the critical issues at every level would have been disposed of and the consequences of those revisions would have been both favorable and profitable all along the troubled supply chain. But officials wouldn’t listen.

They’ll also ignore economist John Husing who issued the most recent warning about the endangered trucking industry. At the Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference early last month Mr. Husing predicted that the LA/Long Beach port complex would be faced with a shortage of more than 8,000 trucks and owner-operators by this coming October. He cited the difficult position of the trucking industry because at least 15% of its drivers, perceived to be illegal residents, would be unable to qualify for the mandated TWIC identification card, and because thousands of pre-1989 trucks will be banned from the port complex for failing to meet the ports’ new emission standards.

A simple revision of terminal operations and trucking operations, as we’ve been advising throughout these commentaries, is the only affordable solution. There’s still time. But not much.