Here we are headed into summer. Schools are out and the roads are filling up with vehicles. Where are they going? And the bigger question is how they are going, with the price of fuel so high! I just spent $30 to fill my tank, and all I got was enough to top off the lawn mower. I know it will take me to town and back a few times if I don’t mind going slow, I just have to remember to wear my hat. We are all joking about the high cost of everything these days, but it’s really not funny. As a nation, we are in bad shape. If only I had gone into politics instead of trucking – who knew you could make millions doing virtually nothing!
Can I get a “do over” here? I think they call that a mulligan in golf, but that was never my game. I don’t need to start over again, I only need to go back a few steps – to say the year 2019 – and then go forward from there. At least then I would be able to make the payments on my equipment, insurance, and house, and maybe even have some coins left over to go on a date night. My honey said she wouldn’t mind spending the day with me, but don’t tell her I scored tickets to the truck show and drag races in September! Won’t she be surprised if we go to California for the Truckin’ For Kids show presented by 10-4? Well, not until I get my fuel card paid down.
It’s not just the cost of parts these days, but also the time spent waiting for them. It can put us out of business. Some days I think my mother was right; I should have stayed in the ministry. At least then I could have claimed I’m running a nonprofit charity instead of a broke freight relocation company. You know what they say, “If you think times are tough now, just wait, they could get worse.” The one thing you never want to hear is, “I’m from the government and I am here to help!”
There are a number of one-liners I could use here, but don’t be fooled, I am truly an optimist at heart, and I do try to find a silver lining in every cloud, even when we are in the fog as to where this industry is headed. There are a few good signs for improvement lately, but unfortunately there are going to be hard times for many of us before we get to the sunny side of things. What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger. In trucking, stronger can be interpreted as many things – smarter, more efficient, better rates – but only the strong will survive. I don’t have a crystal ball so I don’t know how this will all turn out, but then this isn’t the first time I have seen this rodeo. Cycles come and go, then come around again, and each time new opportunities present themselves.
When new opportunities appear, we drivers and owners need to adjust to meet the challenge. Smart operators will fill in where there’s room and keep moving with the flow, quite successfully, too. The others will get rolled, and I mean that quite literally. Far too many will be financially broken, and by the time they give up, there will be nothing left of their previous life. Trucking is a lifestyle that gives all and takes all. My father-in-law would tell me back in the day, “Anybody can truck in the good times, but it takes a real operator to make it during the hard times.” I believed him then, and today I still pinch my pennies when trends start to turn.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is an ill wind blowing. Depending on who you ask, most of the folks I talk to say the wind is coming from Washington (the city, not the state). It wasn’t that long ago we were experiencing some of the best times financially in trucking that we had ever seen. The rates were up, there was more than enough freight to go around, companies were buying new equipment, and there were tons of used trucks and trailers available to purchase by those who saw an opportunity to jump into the mix. At the time, interest rates were low, and all looked rosy to the unsuspecting operators.
If you doubt that or question my reasoning, just ask yourself – why did so many new people jump into the owner operator pool and why were there so many new start-up companies filing for their own operating authorities? Some of these companies will make it, but most will not, it’s just how this works. Easy money is soon lost, especially when the reality of the job sets in. You either have what it takes, or you don’t! Most folks don’t and, unfortunately, they will be sorted out. Those that are left will reshuffle their duties and see what opportunities appear.
I was talking with a friend not long ago, and during our conversation he commented on how much has changed since he was a child. He said, “This sure isn’t the America I grew up in!” Well, that got me to thinking. He is right – this isn’t the same place most of us remember. Normally, I would refer to Aunt Barb to see if my memory is failing, but no need for that this time, as I’m sure things are different. Not only is fuel through the roof, but groceries are now stretching most household budgets to the breaking point, and many of the everyday items we use to survive are no longer available on the store shelves. That’s one way it’s changed, but I’m more thinking about the people. Those individuals who step up in times of strife and put the needs of others ahead of themselves.
It’s July and undoubtedly the most patriotic month of the year. That time when we wave our flags and shout to our heroes in uniform – both present and former members. We gather around dinner tables and ask God to grace the food to the betterment of our nation. It’s a time when young boys march along the parade route with old men who fought their battles in times past. Yes, it’s when we celebrate being American!
This is a country filled with people from everywhere. To be an American doesn’t mean you were born here or look a certain way – “American” is a way of life. It’s the freedom to think the way you choose and do the work of your choice. It’s not being governed by overlords on high. Most of us who choose to live in this country have roots somewhere else, unless you happen to be a Native American, but the chances of not having mixed relations at some point with outsiders is slim. My ancestors came from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. They arrived on these shores as far back as the Mayflower’s landing. Does that make me more American than anyone else? I think not! This land is the land of opportunities, not oppression. For those of us willing to take chances and reach for the moon, we can succeed, even when our government chooses to reward those who are willing to do nothing.
I worked with some men from the Middle East (Yemen) years ago, and during the 911 crisis (September 11, 2001), there were three brothers who were all here on work visas. Many times, we discussed why America was enraged over the actions of a few. They couldn’t understand why we Americans would send our sons and daughters to a land far away to fight. Not for a religious belief, but for a national action. The call to arms has always been one of the things that separated us from most other lands or cultures. To be American doesn’t mean we are of one faith or religion, but it does mean we are of one belief. The belief of freedom – freedom of movement and of personal space. The freedom of one is not contingent upon the actions of another. That also includes the actions of our government.
Earlier this year, convoys of trucks traveled the length of our great land to Washington D.C. to deliver a message to the leaders of our nation who refused to even hear their complaints. It wasn’t just about the restrictions placed on us during the pandemic, but more about the restrictions on our freedom of movement and the over-regulations and taxation placed on those of us who feed and clothe the multitudes. We, the industry as a whole, received the blame for high prices at the stores when we didn’t have anything to do with it. All most of us did was pass along the expenses we incurred while doing our jobs.
I don’t know how many of our readers followed their course while they were traveling and then occupying areas of the east coast, but most of those folks were not your run of the mill company drivers. Most of the leaders and those who spearheaded this movement were immigrants who have come to this land for the benefits of freedom. They know firsthand what it’s like to be held back by the hand of power. I was personally moved by their action, and it gives me great pause for concern when I think that so many of our native-born people would not support them. Could that be the change my friend was talking about when he said this is not the America he grew up in? Hmmmm…
As the summer unfolds there will be campaigns for higher offices and promises made by those who seek to govern. Step out of your comfort zone and listen to them. Make sure that you understand who they are and where they want to take our nation. It’s the few who hold political office that have control over us. Don’t give that right up easily to those who promise financial benefits. All money given by a government must first be taken from its citizens. There are only two ways a government can get money – through taxation and theft. I use that term because devaluing the American dollar is a form of theft. Any time the National Reserve prints money without assets equal to the same value of that printed money, it devalues what’s in your pocket or bank account.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the political office holders are here to help, they are not. They are here to benefit themselves and their party. That goes for all of them. Every political party is subject to seeking their own benefit. If we ever plan to get back on the right path for success and to see America move in the right direction again, we will need to be vigilant during this campaign season. Get involved, become informed, and promote the right kind of people into office. Might I suggest people who think America is a great place to live and it is the land of opportunities, not some third world country ruled by dictators on high. We can no longer stand idly by and wait for someone else to do it for us.
With rampant inflation and an open border, we are sending money around the world when our people here at home are suffering. It’s time to curb the spending and gross mismanagement of a bloated system. There is no such thing as free money. One of the most basic rights here in America is the right to free and fair elections. Now is the time to practice that right. Get out and prepare to vote now by vetting our future candidates. And when November comes, vote like your life depends on it, because it does. Especially if you ever want to see the America we all grew up in again!