America runs on trucks. It’s a fact and inarguable truth. Greenies may not like it, but neither wind, solar nor algae power can get a big rig over the Smokey Mountains. The reason you and I have bacon in the cooler section, steel wool pads on the shelves and the latest issue of Time Magazine in the racks at our local grocery is because of diesel-powered, 18-wheeled tractor-trailers.No matter if caused by weather (make that, “climate”), road repair, escalating fuel prices or “other,” all Americans –rich, poor, brown, white, tall or short, smart or stupid– pay a financial price for disruptions in our trucking routes and deliveries.
These past few days we’re living with a disruption from the “other” category.LiveTrucking.com and other sites that service the long-haul trucking industry are reporting how semi-trucks across the nation are being stopped and in some cases essentiallly held hostage by Black Lives Matter protestors who’ve taken to the streets in American cities and are shutting down roads, highways and bridges.
They target the most trafficked, most popular thoroughfares where they’ll garner the most media attention. Those routes of course, are heavily used by trucks. The result? Truckers across the nation, many of whom are small business owners, just sole-proprietors who drive for hire, are being unwillingly taken hostage and their rigs being used as props.While protestors shutting down roads and bridges and the traffic headaches it creates is little more than an annoyance for most, our truck drivers must deal with more serious problems. Those of us in cars can turn around, swing onto side streets or find alternative routes around blocked roads. Doing so in an 18-wheeler isn’t always possible. Lengthy delays can cost long-haulers big bucks. Truckers facing an unexpected five hour delay may not have enough fuel to last it out. Ever run out of gas in a big rig? Not good. Plus demonstrators stampede their rigs, climb on them and use them as makeshift stages.
Thursday night in Oakland thousands took their protest onto Interstate-880, a major thoroughfare into and around the Bay Area. They shut down the highway for hours. Oakland police stated people both marched down the freeway and clogged city streets simultaneously making the area impassable.
Police in Atlanta say protesters broke through barricades and blocked a major downtown connector. Large vehicles like trucks were left with nowhere to turn and with the impossibility of making a u-turn had no option but to sit it out and deliver their payloads late and in some cases possibly spoiled.Sunday in Memphis a group marched across the city and onto the Interstate-40 bridge. The protest was peaceful but like all the others forced hundreds to be trapped in their vehicles, including big rigs, as traffic came to a halt and the bridge was closed for hours.
So far no truckers have been physically harmed but one can’t help but think of the bloody beating truck driver Reginald Denny took in 1992 in L.A.’s Rodney King riots. One can’t also help but wonder how many of today’s truckers have in some ways armed themselves thinking, “I won’t be the next Reggie Denny.”
[Note: This article was written by Derrick Wilburn]