Our economy is an ecosystem, and like any ecosystem, changes to one part affect another. Just as climate changes can impact flora and fauna — changes to any part of our economic ecosystem affect all. This summer, we’ve experienced a record heat wave and drought in most of the United States. The trucking industry is one of the largest and most interconnected parts of our economic eco system; when it’s affected we’re all affected as outlined below —
1. Agricultural carriers will have fewer products to haul. According to Cargo News, “Global grain trade could reportedly drop 4.9 percent for the 2012-2013 amid a historic U.S. drought…” This sentiment is echoed by various sources. The American trucking industry is a 255.5 billion dollar per year industry. Trucking moves nearly 70% of all tonnage transported in this country. A 4.9 % drop in agriculture transported by truck represents a possible $876 million loss of revenue, which ultimately could affect consumer prices.
2. Ethanol production may be affected. Reuters reports, “Corn, which is used for food and feed, as well as ethanol, has been hit hard because the heat and dryness occurred just as the crop was pollinating. The EPA has not granted a waiver to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), since it was enacted in 2007.” This could affect the transport of ethanol and the trucks fueled by it.
3. Increased maintenance costs due to heat. From Transport Topics, “This summer’s relentless heat wave throughout much of the United States is taking a toll on motor carriers, including a spike in tire blowouts. Carl Brune, vice president at fuel hauler McKinley Trucking Inc., Carson City, Mich., said tire failures have doubled this year.” The heat has affected cooling and other systems as well. With 15.5 million trucks on the road in the U.S.A., this is no small problem.
4. HOS (Hours of Service) regulations have been waived. In another Transport Topics post, “The Department of Transportation has waived hours-of-service regulations for areas affected by drought, to help put more needed trucks and drivers on the road to help (sic) affected farmers and ranchers.” This could impact drivers, as well as carriers.
How might we all be affected? Fuel, food, and other commodity prices could rise – not only due to shortages, but also because of added trucking industry costs. Only time will tell, but private and public assistance aimed at keeping the trucking industry strong are paramount to our way of life in hard times.