April 27, 2006
The White Line is the Lifeline for the Nation
The road less traveled route 72 at 340 near the Missouri state line Pea Ridge AR
Big wheels rolling
Big wheels rolling
The White Line is the lifeline for the nation....
by Merle Haggard
From the song "Movin'On"
I heard this song as a kid, saw the TV show with Claude Akins, and had two friends that had fathers that were gypsy truckers. I fell in love with the trucker's life. Marie and I decided that this was the life for us too. A way of escape from the difficult adolescence we were both struggling But that was before deregulation, and the oil embargo. Diesel prices went up and Marie's father gave up, and went to work as a day hauler and died a horrid death due to emphysema. He was only in his early 50's. (Listen up smokers!) The other man leased his tractor to a major carrier, a common practice and worked till retirement. Marie met a man and had a daughter and because she wouldnt marry the father, got herself excommunicated from the Mormon church. She was never able to work in the transportation business that she loved , but was, the last time I saw her she was managing a Burger King in the town that we grew up in... I was literally laughed at by my high school counselor who encouraged me to start looking at "other options, but never again had me to her office again...I chose to marry the Engineer and escape my horrible adolescence that way. It wasn't till I was free of him that I found myself involved with the trucking business. I wasnt ever able to mount a tractor, nor wanted to by then, but being involved in the logisitcs revolution changed my dead end life, as a un educated low paid office worker and allowed me a life and another window on the world.
I went to work for an export packer, then for the firm which gave birth to the logistics arm of Walmart, Then for a firm that specialized in breaking down containerloads of goods for distribution in small lots to points of sale... Payless shoes wouldn't be pay-less without this method of bringing goods to market. Walmart wouldn't have grown to the giant that it is without its huge warehouse crossdock operations, fed by containerized cargo from the far east.
Walmart is accused of many evils, from supporting slave labor, to ruining local small business to pittance wages and health insurance that is a joke, but any of you that have shopped there know that you can get just about anything you want for not a lot of money. That savings was brought to you by logistics... As were the inexpensive shoes at Payless... the clothing at the chain stores, and an abundance of foods from all over the country and the world, are available due to a cost effective network of transportation, and distribution systems. The very lifeblood of out economy flows though the veins of the railroad and the interstate highways.
You walk into the Grocery store, and see the abundance of goods, fresh and inviting...How do you think it got there? Thank a truck driver....
Yes, much of what we look at as being a part of the good life is attached to a low fuel price. We may see that whither away as we are dealing with the likes of this below...
And by the way, thank a Logistics manager as well. I have never been more aware of the effect of transportation on the life of the nation as I have in these past few weeks as we set up this new account. My company is blazing a new trail in setting this account up faster than this has been done by any of our competitors ever. Our customer is one of the largest food processors in the nation, and we are getting just a part of their business, but it will yield about 175,000 truckloads to be managed per year. As you might expect much of this will be automated, I wont have to type each freight bill...
I am the human element... I talk to people, verifying what I see or don't see on the screen and create relationship between Carrier, Customer and all the others involved in the process of bringing goods from the factory to the store. It is more complex and vital than you know. Should we see five dollar a gallon diesel, or a terrorist attack on a port or rail yard or highway interchange, it will bring a section of the country or even the whole country to a stop. I believe that we have no clue how vital every truck driver is to the welfare of the nation... And by the way, those of you seeking a career change. The biggest shortfall of employees in this nations vital industries is not nurses (that is number two, teachers number three) but rather truck drivers, and the need is growing. The pay gets better by the month as the shortage grows. The shortage is thought to be some 20% below the need...
I say all of this to suggest that the huge increase in fuel prices is a detriment to the nation as a whole. Folks its not driving your SUV that is the problem. Don't let the eco people fool you. Its keeping Joe and Jane Trucker on the road and making a decent living. Once we cant bring goods to market, then our sales based economy will collapse. Gas lines are in the offing and will come...Its painful and its inevitable Im afraid...
I dont see an end to this as I believe in a free market economy, but something needs to be changed soon, or the "Big Wheels" will come to a grinding halt, and so will the nation as a whole.
The Crossroads I-40E near Palestine Arkansas