Commerce is often thought of in terms of manufacturing, buying, and selling goods and services. This is accurate to some degree yet not complete. Most products and commodities do not change hands by simply changing hands. They require movement from one location to another, often with multiple stops in between. Just as blood must circulate through the body to sustain life, so must stock, crops and merchandise move nationally and globally to maintain economic activity. While they travel by sea, air, and rail, most reach their final destinations by truck. Those that haul commercial freight are the unsung heroes of national prosperity.
From Farm to Table (or Forest to Becoming a Table)
You might see some farmers at roadside markets selling fruits and vegetables, but this is not the primary way they make their money — most who grow grains or raise livestock to sell their crops to intermediaries. Grain (e.g., corn, wheat, rice and soybeans) producers, for example, will often sell to grain elevators. These businesses weigh and evaluate the quality and moisture content before offering a price to the farmer. Once sold, the grain is stored in silos, awaiting sale to processors or refiners. Trucks deliver the grain from farm to silo.
Trucks also haul cut timber to lumber retailers and furniture makers. Mining trucks convey coal, iron, and other ores for refinement. Livestock is frequently moved across state lines utilizing trucks and trains, though subject to specific laws and regulations. The bottom line is that trucking is a necessary means of transporting raw materials–either directly to consumers or to neutral parties for further treatment.
Other businesses that rely on trucks to convey materials are:
- Home building
- Civil engineering
- Military contracting
- From Production to Distribution to Retail
Trucking is present all along the supply chain — that organization that connects a manufacturer to its distributors and retail outlets. In effect, it fulfills the agreements made among business partners. Contracts are honored when a truck pulls up to a loading dock with another order. If an unforeseen event delays or prevents the truck from arriving, the absence reverberates across the chain. Retailers must appease customers in hopes of keeping their business. Producers risk their hard-earned revenue if vendor orders go unfilled. Until the shipment is located and delivered, everyone is on edge. That is how important truck drivers are to commercial activity.
Of course, smart shippers will ensure the freight they forward down the supply chain. But every disturbance affects business relationships. This is why the various parties negotiate very detailed contracts relative to trademarks, licensing, indemnification, and limits to liability, among other things. Carriers likewise form contracts with suppliers, outlining each party’s rights and responsibilities to one another. Because the predictable and reliable movement of goods is so central to economic advancement, the U.S. government sees fit to regulate this activity for the benefit of carriers, truck drivers, supply chain partners and all others who share the road.
Trucking Compared to Other Transportation
Pound for pound, rail transportation might be cheaper than trucks. Rail terminals are not always located near the final destinations and trucks are needed to move freight from railroad car to the target location. Moreover, trucks are more cost-effective for shorter distances and are easier to track by shippers. It is also quicker and easier for trucks to cross national borders.
Compared to air freight, shipping by truck is less affected by inclement weather. Besides, trucks are often better able to haul larger items–cars, for instance–and do so at a better price. Not to be forgotten is the high cost of octane fuel and airport processing, a cost usually passed on to the customers. Overnight premiums can be higher for air shipments, as well. With these advantages, the trucking industry maintains a promising future.
As noted above, the United States government–and every state government–has seen fit to make rules applying to virtually every aspect of the trucking industry. Enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, these statutes and requirements are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and govern matters from drug testing to license recognition to training manuals to weigh stations. Other safety regulations are under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Because trucking is so often a matter of interstate commerce, the federal government is appropriately involved. State governments, though, have their reasons to have a say in the hauling of freight by road. After all, it is states that issue commercial driver licenses. They construct and maintain highways and roads of their own. Finally, their legislatures direct their courts concerning traffic violation adjudication and sentencing. These laws represent a high public interest in a vital economic enterprise.
Truckers Garner More Respect
Businesses and carriers are discovering–if they did not know already–just how valuable truck drivers are. Financial compensation is on the rise, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The money and benefits are so attractive, Forbes magazine reports, that some professionals are leaving retirement to drive tractor-trailers and heavy rigs. The investment, furthermore, is offset by the fact that many distribution companies reimburse training tuition to drivers who remain with them for an agreed-upon fixed period.
Beyond the wages and benefits enjoyed by trucking, professionals are the change in culture. The inauguration of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, from September 8th through the 14th in 2019, is one indication of growing nationwide respect for those who haul freight all across the United States.
Moving freight and cargo by truck is efficient, convenient, and necessary. It just makes good sense. Equally logical is trucking as a career choice. Central to economic progress; rewarding (and challenging) as a lifestyle; and receiving generous remuneration as a means of livelihood, trucking holds a promising future for those open road warriors.