Do you often think about how our economic infrastructure works? If you do, odds are that you imagine things like the stock market or factories or companies in general. However, one critical lynchpin that makes it all work is the trucking industry. In fact, this one component of our infrastructure is so vital that if it were ever to stop, we would be facing devastation on a massive scale. Today we’ll talk about where trucking is right now and where it could go if we aren’t careful.
Trucking: Lifeblood of the System
When most people think about goods being shipped across the country, they imagine consumer products like groceries, electronics, and other items that we can buy. However, this industry affects so much more than retailers and e-commerce stores. The fact is that everyone depends on trucks, including hospitals, banks, and energy producers. Overall, trucking affects practically every single industry.
What Happens if it Fails?
First of all, trucks will not disappear overnight. However, while we won’t see a complete shutdown of the system, we can see shortages that will impact far more than just the flatbed trucking companies themselves.
To understand the severity of the system, let’s look at what could conceivably happen if, somehow, every truck vanished.
First of all, local food supplies would run out. Grocery stores get shipments multiple times a week, and many of them do not keep extra stock on hand. This means that as people start buying more than what is being replaced, the shelves will begin to look more and more empty. Depending on the area, all grocery stores could be completely out of stock within a week or so.
This will also affect other businesses such as restaurants, which also rely on food deliveries to stay on top of their needs. Without new items coming in, eateries would have to shut down in masse.
Second, banks will also start to run dry. Since it’s never a good idea to keep all of their money in a single branch, many banks rely on trucks to move the money around as needed. Without such infrastructure in place, things like ATMs will close. This would cause immediate panic as people would be afraid that they couldn’t buy anything anymore.
Third, essential services like hospitals and trash service would come to a grinding halt. Since many clinics rely on shipments throughout the week to maintain stock levels, they would have to shut down as they ran out of supplies. Trash would pile up in the streets and lead to disease and pests.
Finally, energy producers would have to close. Without raw materials coming to the plant to be processed, any infrastructure that relies on electricity would have to shut down, which would cause a domino effect.
What’s remarkable about all of this is that it would happen within a matter of days and weeks, not months or years. Our entire infrastructure is so dependent on trucking that a short delay can have dire consequences. Unfortunately, several factors are contributing to such shortages, and they could spiral out of control if a long-term solution isn’t found.
Problem: Not Enough Drivers
Although the pay is decent and you get to travel a lot, for some reason young people do not want to be truck drivers. Across the board, there are hundreds and thousands of flatbed trucking jobs that are going unfilled, which means that more pressure is put upon those who are driving to deliver better results in a shorter amount of time. While logistics and planning can help minimize this issue, there is only so much that can be done.
Solution: Automation or More Drivers
Unless there is a huge spike in people becoming truckers, the best thing we can do is automate the driving process. If a robot can handle the road as well as a person, then trucks can run for longer with minimal stops and fewer chances of an accident. This solution is still at least a decade away, though, if not longer. For now, there are plenty of jobs available for those looking to get into trucking.
Problem: Fuel Prices
Even as the world slowly moves towards a greener and more sustainable future, the fact is that trucks still rely on fossil fuels to get from point A to point B. The other issue is that while stationary objects like buildings can easily be retrofitted with solar panels or other green energy, trucks cannot. The biggest hurdle is storing enough power to make the process worthwhile, and things like electric motors or solar-powered engines are still a long way off.
Solution: Green Fuels
Obviously, if we could somehow find a way to power trucks with solar energy, then we wouldn’t have a problem with higher prices and a fuel source that is running out. Again, though, this technology is still not viable, nor will it be for quite some time. Trucking companies are doing everything they can to make their vehicles as fuel efficient as possible, but eventually, there will be a breaking point.
Even with a shortage of drivers, there are still plenty of trucks that are being underutilized. The reason for this is that brokerage firms are not in the business of looking at the industry as a whole, so smaller fleets or independent contractors have to work for themselves to get business. So, since jobs are not getting spread out enough as it is, and it will only get worse unless more drivers sign up.
Solution: Better Logistics
Simply put, if brokers were better about matching clients with trucking companies, then they would be able to work with more truckers and ensure a more diversified workload for everyone. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the industry, this would take a massive effort on the part of individual companies to work together for a common goal, rather than competing against each other for jobs.
In the end, the trucking industry will continue to be a vital part of this country’s infrastructure, and innovations will continue to be made every day. Let’s hope that we never see a situation where trucks stop running, even for just a few days. If you’re interested in getting a job as a trucker, contact Alco Transportation today.