Just in time, maybe a few more people can appreciate truckers.
The nation’s capitol found itself in quite desperate straits in February — and it wasn’t the usual bitter politics, nor war in Afghanistan, nor worries about unfriendly nations trying to develop nukes. No, as Haiti lay in ruins, Washington was in a panic because of the weather.
The problem wasn’t so much that the record snowfall shut down the federal government for the better part of a week or two — seriously, who noticed that many of the agencies designed to keep the country humming were operating with skeleton crews of “essential personnel” only? (And which prompted more than a few fans of smaller government to wonder why taxpayers are funding non-essential federal services and employees — but that’s a discussion for another day.)
No, the real problem — the concern that had veteran TV news journalists breathless with giddy anticipation of a D.C. disaster — was that people were tense and terrified by rapidly depleting grocery store shelves.
No bread, no milk, no meat: Oh my!
But guess what? The folks on the East Coast didn’t starve. Even though most people couldn’t get to work, or didn’t bother, the grocery stores stayed open — meaning somebody had to deliver the goods in crunch time. (Which reminds me: if you remember basketball great Karl Malone, you’ll recall his nickname was “the Mail Man” because he “always delivered.” And his life long passion? Big rigs, and he used some of his hoop wealth to buy his dream truck and earn his CDL…)
New Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro escaped the Beltway just ahead of the first blizzard, and anticipated being held over in Peoria, Ill., after opening the Mid-West Truck Show and Convention.
Ferro admitted she was “preaching to the choir” in telling truckers how important they are in keeping the economy moving, but she said the winter weather was driving the point home.
“It’s clear the economy is picking up, I certainly see it on the roads. But a very blunt indicator of the impact that trucks have on our economy is the snowstorm back East,” Ferro said. “I know some of you in this room are working out dispatch issues for trucks that are moving East, and how you’re going to satisfy the ever intensifying demand, minute-by-minute, for things folks are swarming to the stores for right now. How you get your equipment through to deliver is just remarkable, and a real testament to the impact of trucking on the economy.”
Of course, as an Associated Press story about the snow storms noted, while the airlines and shopping malls were hurt by the weather, other businesses actually benefited. Ski resorts, liquor shops and hardware stores counted themselves lucky as out-of-school kids hit the slopes, and the grown-ups bought shovels — and booze — as the snow piled up.
I doubt there were a lot of truckers out skiing on an unexpected holiday, but I’m certain quite of few were out in the snow, like it or not.
In Philadelphia, James Crouthamel, a manager at Ace Hardware, told AP that sales of rock salt and snow shovels were booming. But — hitting the nail on the head, so to speak — he didn’t think he would run out, “as long as the truck gets here.”
Just in reading the story, I didn’t get a sense of how concerned the store manager was about getting his deliveries, but I suspect he assumed he would be restocked — just like always. But maybe, for just a fleeting moment, it occurred to him that he shouldn’t take his trucks for granted — that the load at the dock didn’t get there automatically.
And I’m certainly hoping he made the effort to thank the truckers who did come through for him — and that he’ll remember, even in good times, to respect those professional drivers when they ring the loading door buzzer.
Maybe the American Trucking Associations should rework their “Good Stuff” campaign to “Essential stuff in an emergency when nobody else can do the job: Trucks bring it.”
Well done, driver.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.