Trucking moves 71% of the freight in the United States. And if it were to suddenly cease, the effects would be more drastic than you might expect.
In May 2018, truck drivers in Brazil went on strike for a week, and it “paralyzed” the country in unexpected ways. As gas stations ran out of fuel, for instance, public transit halted.
“Without trucking, we would be naked, starving, and homeless,” Mike Robbins, a longtime trucker and leader of trucker strike group Black Smoke Matters, told Business Insider.
A study by the American Trucking Associations outlined what would happen if truckers were to stop working. The effects would hit hospitals, gas stations, ATMs, grocery stores, and even your garbage can.
And, of course, your Amazon Prime packages would be delayed.
Within the first day
Basic medical supplies, like syringes and catheters, would be at risk of running out. Medication for cancer patients that use radiopharmacuticals, which only have a life span of a few hours, would expire.
During the 2018 truck strike in Brazil, a lack of medical supplies was a key choke point for the country. Government security forces escorted trucks with supplies to hospitals and doubled fines against striking truckers who were carrying medical cargo.
Mail and package delivery could stop. (On the other hand, most UPS and FedEx delivery drivers are unionized, so it’s less likely that we would see last-mile service from those major providers suddenly stop should other truckers strike.)
Gas stations and grocery stores would start to run out of supplies. The ATA wrote that reports of a trucker work stoppage would stir up consumer panic, not unlike when hurricanes or other natural disasters lead to folks emptying grocery stores.
“News of a truck stoppage — whether on the local level, state or regional level, or nationwide — will spur hoarding and drastic increases in consumer purchases of essential goods,” according to the report. “Shortages will materialize quickly and could lead to civil unrest.”
Further up the supply chain, manufacturing delays would become rampant. Computer and auto manufacturers, for instance, build their goods as components are received throughout the day. Within just a few hours, a lack of truck deliveries of those components would “incur significant disruption costs and thousands of employees will be put out of work.”