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March 30, 2020   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

ESSENTIAL: Behind the Scenes and On the Front Lines - Thoughts on Delivering Essential Goods and Services During National Emergency

It’s that vast network, a support ecosystem that keeps the freight, the goods, the supplies moving, shelves stocked, hospitals replenished.


Insights from Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum

As the growing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic tests the world and our nation, we all have a greater appreciation of what is essential: health care workers, truckers, grocery store and other workers that are the life support for our families and economy.

On any normal day, most Americans probably never give a second thought to fully stocked grocery shelves with fresh produce and other food products from around the world. Never a thought is given to what it takes to make that possible such as the truck that transports it. Never a thought to what it takes to build that truck, power that truck, load that truck, maintain that truck and drive that truck on a 24/7 basis. We just assume it happens every day. 

But these are not normal days. 

These are days when lives are at stake. When panic buying has left shelves bare. When we are in dire need of emergency medical supplies. Simple convenience has given way to the essential, and essential is a really good way to define the trucking industry and everyone in it.

It starts with truck and engine makers who today are making trucks that in addition to being safer, easier to drive and lasting a million miles, are more fuel efficient and near zero in emissions. The majority of these are powered by diesel, the “lifeblood” of getting the goods there on time. For long-haul truckers driving ranges can be over 1,000 miles before refueling. And when it is time to refuel, diesel is widely available at the more than 10,000 truck stops in America as well as half to two-thirds of all retail fueling stations. 

Behind it all is an intricate network of dealers, service centers and parts counters that span the country, ensuring that everything truckers need to keep them moving is around almost every corner. Getting the goods to everyone requires massive logistics in warehousing and distribution centers where a highly choreographed ballet of forklift operators load as much as 30,000 pounds of pallets into a single tractor-trailer. All that is left is for truckers to hook up and head out to Everywhere, USA.

It’s an amazing system. Transparent to most. Until an extraordinary event brings it all into focus to understand what essential really means. It’s that vast network, a support ecosystem that keeps the freight, the goods, the supplies moving, shelves stocked, hospitals replenished.

Amazing really. From behind the wheel to on the loading dock, or at the fuel island, in the maintenance bay, behind the parts counter, are the drivers, the service technicians, the truck stop clerks and a deep cast of others that are supporting the national response in their own ways. 

Thank you seems hardly good enough.



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Key Contact

Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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