At the West Valley, Utah headquarters of refrigerated carrier C.R. England, recruiters are constantly looking for new ways to encourage people to apply for truck driving jobs. Indeed, the current shortage of talent in the trucking industry is threatening its future. But not having enough drivers is the least of the industry’s problems. An even bigger problem is the current state of infrastructure.
Trucking, infrastructure, and the U.S. economy are intrinsically linked in a way that makes them unavoidable partners. If one suffers, all three suffer. And right now, America’s crumbling infrastructure is already having a significant impact on trucking. That impact is being felt within the general economy as well.
According to a recent article published by The Hill, approximately 70% of all the freight moved in the U.S. is carried by truck. Some three million trucks take to the roads every day, carrying freight from shipping yards to distribution centers to retail outlets. Everything from groceries to consumer electronics eventually gets into the hands of buyers after spending some time on the back of a truck.
The importance of the trucking industry to America’s economy should be obvious. In light of that, the need to keep our road infrastructure in good condition should be equally obvious. But that is apparently not the case. Our roads and bridges are crumbling before our very eyes to the extent that the American Society of Civil Engineers cannot give our road system anything higher than a ‘D’ grade. They say that slightly more than 10% of our bridges are structurally deficient.
So how does such poor infrastructure affect the trucking industry? A lot of ways. Most obvious is the fact that some roads and bridges are in such poor condition they can no longer support truck traffic. This requires truck drivers to find new routes that may take more time and involve greater distances.
There is also the problem of having to slow down and drive more cautiously so as not to damage trucks on poor roads. And, of course, crumbling infrastructure is the result of federal and state agencies waiting too long for maintenance and repairs. This creates larger and more complex construction projects that increase congestion and cost truck drivers even more time.
Our crumbling infrastructure is having a measurable impact on the trucking industry. And whether consumers know or not, that impact is being felt in almost every sector of the economy. There are several things to consider here.
As C.R. England officials explain, the higher costs associated with having to adjust trucking routes due to poor road conditions is inevitably passed on to consumers. The same can be said for the higher costs incurred as a result of congestion, damage to trucks, and so on. It is the consumer that ultimately pays the price for everything at the cash register.
Second, infrastructure problems are limiting capacity. Though this isn’t a serious problem yet, it could be in the future. Limited capacity will mean less freight being shipped and fewer options on store shelves. Consumers will have limited product access, less convenience, and higher prices to boot.
It is unfortunate that infrastructure is often used as a political volleyball at both the federal and state levels. While politicians compete for preeminence within their circles, the trucking industry is having to deal with roads and bridges that are simply not up to the task. In the end, it is the consumer who suffers the most. The intrinsic link between trucking, infrastructure, and the economy guarantees it.