Why do we need trucks?

We’ve all been in that situation, haven’t we? You’re driving along the road, often in a hurry to get somewhere, and up ahead, you see a truck. So now you have to slow down, and at times, finding a suitable place to overtake that truck can prove a challenge and a test of your patience.

But rather than curse these trucks you should be considerate and treat them and their drivers with the utmost respect. Have you ever stopped and looked around you, at the things in your home – the food on your pantry shelves or the milk and fruit and vegetables in your fridge; the furniture in your home; the newspaper or magazines lying on your table? What about the petrol that is in your car in the garage? Have you ever wondered how and where these everyday items that we too often take for granted have come from to reach your home?

As livestock producers, we rely heavily upon trucks. Without trucks delivering goods to our property and carting livestock away from it, our business would virtually grind to a halt.

And these same trucks need the livestock industry to remain viable for them to continue in business as well. If one element in the process is removed, then the whole industry is in danger of collapsing.

Trucks are on the road 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The drivers work long hours and spend a lot of their time away from their family. When asked, every truck driver who has come to Eversleigh has told us that they drive trucks because they love it! It’s not a job we would do, but thankfully someone is willing to “go the distance.”

Most people do not realize that 70% of all freight moved in the United States is done by trucks. This is everything from food to medicine and waste removal to manufacturing. If the trucking industry stops, the nation stops. What a lot of people don’t realize either, is that if the trucks stop, many critical industries will start to be effected within 24 hours.

 Within 24 hours of the trucking industry shutting down due to natural disaster or terrorist attack, delivery of medical supplies will cease, and hospitals will begin to run out of supplies. Gas stations will begin to run out of fuel leading to long lines at the pump. Mail and package delivery will cease, and this is all just within 24 hours of no trucking.

Nearly every sector of the economy relies on trucks to transport their goods. It starts with shipping raw material such as lumber and stone from forests and quarries and delivers them to manufacturing centres. Once these manufacturers turn out a finished product, they are then transported via truck to their final destination or a distribution centre.

In the United States alone, nearly $700 Billion in shipped good travel by truck every year. This makes the trucking industry vital to the health of the economy.

In the United States, there are over 800,000 truck drivers earning around $30 Billion a year. From small trucking companies, owner-operators, and large trucking companies, all truckers contribute to the health and strength of the economy.

The trucking industry has a right to ask – why do we need the current regulatory push towards more efficient trucks?

Transportation contributes around 27% of the greenhouse gases deemed responsible for global warming and increased climate volatility. Freight and commercial trucks account for 23% of that piece of the pie, working out to above 6% overall.

That may not sound like much, but that translates into more than half-a-billion tons of carbon pollution each year in the U.S. More troubling is the fact that emissions from freight transportation are projected to increase by nearly 150 million metric tons over the coming years. For context, this increase is greater than what is expected in the entire commercial, industrial or residential sectors. 

If we continue on our current path of burning more and more fossil fuels, by 2050 between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of existing coastal property will likely be below sea level nationwide, with $238 billion to $507 billion worth of property by 2100.

We simply can’t afford to see trucking make such a significant contribution to growth in emissions.

Technology is already in place to make a huge improvement across all categories. Tractor-trailers can realistically reduce fuel consumption by 46% (against 2010 levels), bringing mpg as high as 10.7 mpg. Heavy-duty pick-ups and vans can lower fuel usage by 32%, with mpg coming up to 15 mpg. On average, we’d like to see all freight vehicles reduce their fuel consumption by 40% in the next decade or so.

Fuel-efficient trucks are not enough on their own. Low-impact alternative fuels are critical in the long-term; as is increasing the productivity of each truck trip. Supply chain optimization and modal switches can save millions of more tons. These steps save companies money too – as Ocean Spray Cranberries has demonstrated. But, even though operational improvements offer an important contribution to driving down emissions, truck fuel efficiency is a crucial factor. Trucking is essential to our economy; it has a vital role to play in continuing to improve its environmental footprint.

The good news is that, at the root, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are about reducing fuel consumption and that also means saving money. Protective greenhouse gas standards and a healthy truck industry can go hand-and-hand.

Businesses of all sizes depend on the trucking industry to maintain fast delivery times and deliver products safely all over the nation. The trucking industry handles much more cargo than trains, ships or planes — and without trucks, goods could never travel from rail yards, ports and airports to their final destinations. If the trucking industry stopped rolling, the U.S. economy would grind to a halt.

Essential Responsibilities

Trucks make their first economic contribution by delivering raw materials to manufacturers. For example, trucks transport raw materials from local suppliers, such as mines, quarries, farms, and loggers, to factories that need materials to make products. Finished products then travel on trucks to wholesalers and retailers, or to other transportation conduits to travel by ship, aeroplane, or train to destinations around the region, the country, or the world.

Shipped Goods

Virtually every type of good travels on a truck at one point or another, adding up to about $140 billion in shipped goods per year, according to research published in April 2013 by the business and technology website, Business Insider. Shipped goods include agricultural and fish products, furniture, stone and minerals, motor vehicles, wood, textiles, leathers, coal, petroleum — in short, just about every product category that exists.

Employment

About 800,000 truck drivers work in the U.S, together with earning about 30 billion dollars a year, according to Business Insider. Small trucking businesses often operate on the owner-operator model, which means the truck driver is self-employed. Larger trucking businesses often employ union drivers. Just as trucking associations protect the trucking industry’s interests as a whole, unions work to protect the interests of the drivers. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, for example, is a major union that can have an enormous impact on the economy. A single large-scale strike could bring the economy to a halt, causing shipping delays and massive price increases as stores battle to meet consumer demand.

Political Influence

The trucking industry collects annual revenues of $650 billion, which means it earns about 84 per cent of the total revenue of the entire commercial transportation industry, according to Business Insider. Due to the size and importance of the trucking industry, federal, state and local governments have seen fit to impose many regulations. For example, to ensure public safety on the roads, laws exist that restrict trucks from using certain roads, require trucks to observe lower speed limits, and prevent truck operators from driving without adequate rest. To help shape policy and control the public image of trucking, members of the trucking industry work together to establish best practices and industry-wide standards. The trade organization American Trucking Associations, for example, has significant political clout, making it an essential player in all levels of politics.

Industry organization

General freight trucking uses motor vehicles, such as trucks and tractor-trailers, to provide over-the-road transportation of general commodities. This industry segment is further subdivided based on distance travelled. Local trucking establishments carry goods primarily within a single metropolitan area and its adjacent non-urban areas. Long-distance trucking establishments carry goods between distant areas.

Local trucking comprised 29,400 trucking establishments in 2008. The work of local trucking firms varies with the products transported. Produce truckers usually pick-up loaded trucks early in the morning and spend the rest of the day delivering produce to many different grocery stores. Lumber truck drivers, on the other hand, make several trips from the lumberyard to one or more construction sites. Some local truck transportation firms may also take on sales and customer relations responsibilities for a client, in addition to delivering the firm’s products.

Long-distance trucking comprises establishments engaged primarily in providing trucking between distant areas and sometimes between the United States and Canada or Mexico. Numbering 40,900 establishments, these firms handle every kind of commodity.

Specialized freight trucking provides over-the-road transportation of freight, which, because of size, weight, shape, or other inherent characteristics, requires specialized equipment, such as flatbeds, tankers, or refrigerated trailers. This industry sector also includes the moving industry—that is, the transportation of household, institutional, and commercial furniture for individuals or companies that are relocating. Like general freight trucking, specialized freight trucking is subdivided into local and long-distance components. The specialized freight trucking sector contained 47,600 establishments in 2008.

Many goods are carried using intermodal transportation to save time and money. Intermodal transportation encompasses any combination of transportation by truck, train, plane, or ship. Typically, trucks perform at least one leg of the trip, since they are the most flexible mode of transport. For example, a shipment of cars from an assembly plant begins its journey when they are loaded onto rail cars. Next, trains haul the cars across the country to a depot, where the shipments are broken into smaller lots and loaded onto tractor-trailers, which drive them to dealerships. Each of these steps is carefully orchestrated and timed so that the cars arrive just in time to be shipped on their next leg of their journey. Though some perishable and time-sensitive goods may be transported by air, they are usually picked up and delivered by trucks.

Warehousing and storage facilities comprised 15,200 establishments in 2008. These firms are engaged primarily in operating warehousing and storage facilities for general merchandise and refrigerated goods. They take responsibility for keeping general merchandise and refrigerated goods secure and in good condition. A growing number of warehousing and storage facilities also may provide some logistical services, such as labelling, inventory control management, repackaging, and transportation arrangement.

Work environment

Truck drivers must cope with a variety of working conditions, including variable weather and traffic conditions, boredom, and fatigue. Many truck drivers enjoy independence and working without direct supervision found in long-distance driving. Local truck drivers often have regular routes or assignments that allow them to return home in the evening.

Improvements in roads and trucks reduce stress and increase the efficiency of long-distance drivers. Many advanced trucks are equipped with refrigerators, televisions, and beds for their drivers’ convenience. Included in some of these state-of-the-art vehicles are satellite links with their company’s headquarters so that drivers can get directions, weather and traffic reports, and other important communications in a matter of seconds. In the event of bad weather or mechanical problems, truckers can communicate with dispatchers to discuss delivery schedules and courses of action. Satellite links allow dispatchers to track the location of the truck and monitor fuel consumption and engine performance.

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers usually work indoors, although they occasionally make repairs on the road. Minor cuts, burns, and bruises are common, but serious accidents typically can be avoided if the shop is kept clean and orderly and if safety practices are observed. Service technicians and mechanics handle greasy and dirty parts and may stand or lie in awkward positions to repair vehicles and equipment. They usually work in well-lighted, heated, and ventilated areas, but some shops are drafty and noisy.

Labourers and hand freight, stock, and material movers usually work indoors, although they may do occasional work on trucks and forklifts outside. These occupations often require a great deal of physical labour, including heavy lifting.

Safety is a major concern for truck transportation and warehousing industry. The operation of trucks, forklifts, and other technically advanced equipment can be dangerous without proper training and supervision. Truck drivers must adhere to federally mandated certifications and regulations requiring them to submit to drug and alcohol tests as a condition of employment. Employers are required to perform random on-the-job checks for drugs and alcohol.

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