63-(1).jpgThe interstate highway system, railroads, transcontinental pipelines along with maritime routes, make up the main arteries in which our nation's commerce flows. There are times when these arteries become clogged, much like the arteries of the human body. Construction projects and weather, backups as traffic leaves the main highways, along with many other factors that can join to form clots, bringing the flow of our nation's goods to a halt. The cures for this are not much different than when a human has clogged arteries. It is interesting to note the names for the cures are the same for clogged arteries of a human body, as used when referring to the different modes of mediums used to move the world's commerce. 

For example, when traffic congestion in a city brings the flow of commerce to a stop, they first try to cure the problem with encouraging carpooling, or working with large employers to stagger shift changes with other businesses, or by limiting traffic entering the highway via traffic control systems. This approach seems to be very much like changing the diet of a person who is having health problems from arterial related blood flow, being rectified through a changed dietary menu.

Many strategies which are employed to improve traffic flow, sound like the terms derived directly from a medical journal. Take note of the similar terms used for fixing a human's arteries when placed next to highway projects. Highway widening, artery widening, bypasses, all have the same purpose as surgeries used to correct blood flow problems in the human body. The exception to this seems to be the loop that combines the objectives of a bypass along with the qualities associated with a dam. The discussion of loops and how they are roads that go nowhere, is a subject for another blog. 

Our nation's arteries are flowing much differently due to dietary changes, brought on from the current worldwide crisis. One of the first changes to affect the flow of traffic on our nation's highways was from the closure of many major manufacturing facilities, followed by social distancing practices. Stores, restaurants, sports venues, and movie theaters all began to be shuddered for the goal of reducing the spread of this crisis. 

Traffic began to flow more freely as the demand on our nation's highways reduced. Spikes caused at peak travel times, known as rush hour, disappeared. At this point, life as a truck driver was good due to an abundance of freight, along with reduced traffic on the highway. While looking at the tea leaves, it was easy to predict that this moment of truck driving utopia was about to come to a halt for many in the world of trucking. 

Change was coming fast in the supply chain arena.  People were now eating more at home as restaurants closed, or only offered takeout service. This simple change sent shock waves through the logistics systems along with panic, as there were some items short of supply at the grocery stores. 

For some freight transporting opportunities dried  up, while it increased for others, but we all knew it was going to be stormy seas ahead to navigate our business profitably. During this same time period America's truck drivers began to be revered as hero's. This title of “hero” was uncomfortable for many of us in the trucking industry, due to the fact we could not remember a time when our job was easier to perform with the lack of traffic due to the ongoing crisis. 

I started to hear stories of my fellow drivers having a hard time finding meals to eat during this same time, although I must say, this was not a problem encountered personally. Due to these reports, I stocked more food in the storage areas of my Cascadia's driver lounge in preparation for the hardship, which was expected ahead, from the reports on social media. Fortunately, finding food for me, other than a few times of not being able to purchase coffee, and twice having to eat a lunch type of meal when I wanted breakfast. The lack of coffee was easy to rectify by brewing my own in the truck with my simple flow over coffee brewer. 

I can pretty well be self-contained in my truck, other than a shower, however, the decision was made to support the travel centers, which serve as the lifeblood to the trucking industry. Normally I tend to eat and take my breaks at rest areas, as it does not seem right to pull into a business that has a restaurant and prepare my own meal. I made it a point if the travel center was offering even just carryout service to support them with my patronage during this time of troubled waters. 

Much to my surprise this week, there was a sit-down restaurant open at one of the travel centers along my route. There was only every other table open to provide social distancing practices required in these troubled times. Well, I have to say, it was nice to sit down at a table again after over a month of not being able to, other than when at home, or in the isolation of the table in my sleeper. It was great to have human interaction again, and the service was great. It was like the good old days with drivers having conversation with other drivers. 

I set off back down the highway. It was a good time to reflect on how much the simple act of eating at a table in a restaurant was a welcome page back towards a normal life. The waitress seemed extra attentive, and the food was good . You don't realize how much these little things mean until they are no longer available. 

Of course this welcome fixture of normalcy was accompanied by a traffic jam caused by three crashes on the highway in a ten-mile stretch! It sure would be nice if we could pick and choose what comes back as life returns to ordinary. Hope to join you at the table soon.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/T™, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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