Why should you love trucks

SUBHEAD: We have 24/7 just-in-time supply chains between us and what we need to survive. If trucks stop, America stops.

By Alice Friedmann on 27 September 2014 for Energy Skeptic -

Image above: Two large semi-tractor trailer trucks hsul a larger truck used in energy extraction. From original article.

Before the age of fossil fuels, getting food, water, and shelter was simple since 9 out of 10 people were self-sufficient farmers.

But now there are long, 24/7 just-in-time supply chains between us and what we need to survive.
Trucks play an essential role in making this happen. By weight, trucks carry 70% of all freight, and over 80% of communities in the United States depend completely on trucks for all their goods (ATA).

Trucks can substitute for most other kinds of transportation, but the reverse isn’t true. For example, there are only 140,000 miles of freight rail tracks, but over 4 million miles of roads.

Five million medium and heavy-duty trucks travel 329 billion miles to deliver all these goods.
Nearly all freight is carried by a truck at some point, since very few factories, warehouses, and businesses have direct rail or ship connections.

A container arriving by ship and then traveling by rail will still get on a truck at least three times:
  1. When it’s grabbed by a reach-stacker truck in the ship yard and loaded onto a train
  2. Unloaded by a reach-stacker truck at the train’s destination and
  3. Put onto a truck for delivery to a regional distribution center or store
  4. If the container is 40 feet or more and bound for a dense urban area, the contents are often transloaded to two smaller trucks for final delivery
Most businesses are very dependent on trucks:
  • Trucks are a key part of the 24/7 just-in-time delivery system. Large grocery stores receive 10-15 truck shipments a day, assembly lines depend on regular deliveries of a wide range of parts from many suppliers within narrow time slots.  Manufacturers have little packaging material on hand because it’s bulky and low value.
  • Tax incentives and efficiency have driven businesses to keep as little inventory as possible and instead rely on frequent deliveries by trucks

Trucks fulfill our basic needs

Food.  Trucks carry 83% of all food.  Most of our food calories are grown in the interior (meat, grain, dairy), yet two-thirds of Americans live within a hundred miles of the coasts.  In the past such an enormous distance between food and population would have led to famine, but trucks and trains have (so far) prevented that.

Water. Trucks deliver water purification chemicals to water treatment plants every week or two.

Energy.  Trucks deliver fuel to service stations every 2.4 days on average. Trucks also deliver fuel for trains, ships, and airplanes.

Health: Trucks keep pharmacies and hospitals stocked.

Shelter: Trucks haul 92% of wood products and deliver materials to construction sites.  Cement must arrive within 1-2 hours.

Electricity. 39% of electricity is generated by coal, which is delivered by train (71%) and truck (14%).

If Trucks Stopped Running

 I found three articles about what would happen if trucks stopped running.  All of them reached similar results, and I’ve combined a few of them below (Holcomb, McKinnon, SARHC).

Day 1 without trucks
  • Manufacturers and assembly lines that use just-in-time delivery will shut down when parts run out or storage for finished products fills up.
  • Hospitals will run out of supplies like syringes and catheters within hours.
  • Milk and fresh bread will run out.
Day 2 without trucks
  • Food shortages will escalate, especially in the face of hoarding and consumer panic. Supplies of essentials and perishable foods will disappear
  • Restaurants and fast food outlets close
  • ATMs will run out of cash
  • Construction stops
  • Pharmacies close
  • Americans generate 685,000 tons of trash per day. Garbage will start piling up in urban and suburban areas creating a health hazard.
Day 3 without trucks
  • Most service stations will run out of fuel
  • Widespread lay-offs in the manufacturing sector
  • Waste water sludge becomes a problem as tanks at treatment plants are now full
  • Work on infrastructure stops as repairs can’t be undertaken
  • Public transport, fire, police, ambulances, telecommunications, utilities, mail, and other essential services stop
Day 4 without trucks
  • The repercussions start to reverberate globally, as 48,000 imported containers per day can’t be unloaded off of ships. Exports stop too.
  • All fuel supplies are depleted from service stations. Many people can’t get to work
  • With no fuel, airplanes and railroads shut down.
  • Garbage is piling up and has become a sanitary problem
  • Britain is out of beer
Day 5 without truck transport
  • Drinking water is depleted. The delay of weekly deliveries of chemicals has meant that water treatment plants can no longer guarantee that water is fit to drink.
  • Industrial production stops, a large proportion of the labor force is laid-off or unable to get to work, travel and recreation stop
  • Healthcare is confined to emergency services
  • Utilities have localized disruption of gas and electricity, and due to lack of fuel can’t pump water and gas, repair broken water and gas networks, etc
  • Livestock begin to suffer from lack of feed deliveries, wastes accumulate, ranchers can’t transport animals to slaughterhouses,  meat production stops
  • The Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly is out of alcohol
Within four weeks:
  • The nation will exhaust its clean water supply and water will be safe for drinking only after boiling.
  • If this happened at harvest time, many crops will rot in the fields
  • The Department of Defense supply chain will break down, crippling the military “in ways no adversary has been able to achieve”.
  • Global financial collapse (my addition).  A halt of international trade would bring the financial system down, probably sooner than this.

American Truckers react to “When Trucks Stopped” (CDLLife)

Many truck drivers thought they ought to stop driving to make people respect and care about them more:
  • The country would stop! At times I think that is what needs to happen! 32 years of being out here, looking out a windshield and watching life go by! Companies and the public not treating us, the back bone of this country, with any respect! Companies just think we are machines and we have no life outside this truck! The rules and regulations are getting stupid and taking money away from the driver and his or hers family! It also puts us in the truck longer! But, if the gas and diesel haulers just shut down for 72 hours, watch what happens!
  • We tried that for YEARS. The Big Companies won’t allow there drivers to shut down. They are to money hungry. The OWNER OPERATORS try but they can’t do it by themselves. So it doesn’t get done. Great idea but hasn’t worked in the past.
  • Like James Cameron said the owned ops would have to block fuel islands there are so many foreign fu@ks that will not stop nor care about are problems and these big company’s have so many of us by the balls
  • you know just as well as I do that wont happen unless every driver out there will participate. were just like the rest of the human race. only a hand full care to know the truth. the rest dont care. just like our presedent.
  • Let’s stop talking about it and just do it…. We run this country, not some bullshit government
  • Teach the government that trucks are needed for life on earth
  • Every other means of transportation is subsidized my the government except us!!!!! That tells me, that the government does not think of us very upstanding. It shows me that they don’t care for us. Trucking is the only industry that is governed on how many hours you can work, you are told when to sleep, when to get up, and basically told when you can see your family. We’re like Ronnie Milsaps’ song states, Prisoners of the Highway!!!!!
Truckers comment on what would happen:
  • Stores would be empty inside of a week for one. Rioting and lawlessness would set in soon after.
  • The life as we know it will end, there’s only one thing that’s not shipped by truck and that’s the air we breathe….
  • Everybody dies
  • World War 3
  • the world would probably end
  • America will fall apart!!!
  • There would be alot of cold hungry naked people out there
  • Everybody dies
 There are many reasons trucks could stop running, but my concern is the inevitable time when oil production has fallen so low it impacts the ability of trucks to do the essential work of society.

The United States government (DOE, EIA, EERE, National Laboratories, and state governments) and private businesses are well aware of this problem and have teamed up to try to make trucks that get better mileage, or can run on alternative fuels like biodiesel, batteries, compressed natural gas, or other fuels.

The next few posts will focus on how we can keep trucks running, because without trucks, America stops.

ATA. American Trucking Association. About Trucks Bring It. http://www.trucking.org/Trucks_Bring_It.aspx

CDLLIFE.com. November 30, 2013. If Trucks stopped… https://www.facebook.com/cdllife/posts/659785004044448

Holcomb, Richard D. July 14, 2006. When Trucks Stop, America Stops. American Trucking Association.

McKinnon. November 2004. Life without Lorries: The impact of a temporary disruption of road freight transport in the UK. Commercial motor magazine.

SARHC. A Week without Truck Transport. Four Regions in Sweden 2009. Swedish Association of Road Haulage Companies.


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