If you’re like most Americans, you don’t stop to think how your everyday products arrived at your shopping mall or grocery store. You go there with the expectation that items will be on the shelves and don’t twice about it as you’re checking out. On an even larger scale, most people don’t think about where the components for their everyday products came from or how they got to the factory before the store to begin with. The same goes for gas at gas station, drugs at the pharmacy, and cash in ATMs. In all situations the unsung heroes are one group of people: truckers.
Truck drivers touch every part of every good you consume, whether that’s groceries, clothes, automobiles, gasoline, electronics, construction materials, or medical supplies. Without truck drivers, or in the case of a nationwide truck driver strike, some predict that there would be immediate impacts which are felt in just hours and develop into a crisis over a couple days.
According to expert predictions, here is a timeline of what such an event would look like:
Within 24 hours medical supplies to hospitals and nursing homes will begin to run short. Gas stations will begin to run low on gas as they require sometimes 2 trucks a day to refill. Manufacturers will begin to run short on components needed to run their assembly lines. Mail delivery will cease. Within 48 hours food supply in stores will begin to dwindle. Gas stations will become increasingly low on fuel which will skyrocket prices left on their supply. After 72 hours, grocery stores will start running out of essentials, bread, milk, water, and canned meat due to consumer panic and hoarding. ATMs and banks will run out of cash and will not be able to complete transactions. Gas stations will completely run out of fuel. Garbage will begin to pile up in the streets with no trucks to pick it up. Container ships will sit idle in ocean ports.
Within 1 week all automobile and plane travel will cease. As will public transportation. People will not be able to go to work, grocery stores, or to seek medical care. Hospitals will begin to deplete their oxygen supplies. Within 2 weeks clean water will begin to run dry. Within 4 weeks, clean water supply will be gone leaving contaminated water to use only if boiled. This will increase intestinal illness in an already weakened healthcare system. Within one month, the country will be totally disabled and in a complete chaotic state.
While these consequences would be catastrophic to the economy and society, it’s important to note that such a situation is extremely unlikely for a couple reasons. The first reason is a strike of this magnitude would be impossible to organize. With over 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States, all working for different companies or independently, there is no way for all drivers to come to terms on a strike. Not to mention that there is no collective reason for all these drivers to strike or stop driving in the first place. The second reason is given the unemployment in the United States, striking truckers would promptly be replaced by other drivers. Most people can drive cars; driving a truck doesn’t take much additional training.
Lastly, due to supply and demand, in a shortage of truckers there would be such large paychecks being offered that there will always be some drivers that step up and take the money. In other words, even if you had majority of truck drivers go on strike, you’d still have a sizable group that would keep working. Due to the scarcity of drivers, they’d get higher wages and trucking costs would rise. Products would still get moved but at lower quantities and higher prices.
It’s a scary thought to imagine what even just a couple days without truckers would look like. Within just hours the impact would be felt to gas stations, hospitals, and production lines. Extend that to days and weeks and we would be back to living in a primitive society. Although this is an unlikely scenario, it’s important to take a step back and appreciate the hard work that truckers put in 24/7 to maintain our way of life and deliver the daily comforts that we rely on. The next time you’re stuck behind a semi on the highway, try to remember that the driver is hard at work hauling goods that you may very well be picking up at the grocery store later that day.