The news these days hasn't been very good. Most of us are still trying to come to terms with the death of nearly 6,000 people in a single day's terrorist attacks. There are almost daily warnings about new attacks involving biological agents. We're at war with an enemy who isn't a nation, military force or much more than shadows and video clips.
The economic news is almost as bleak. There are daily announcements of layoffs, report after report show dropping revenues and earnings, and savings invested in stocks continue shrinking at alarming rates. For-hire fleets are skating along on almost nonexistent margins, and the industry's suppliers are grappling with a marketplace that seems to have no bottom.
And yet, I don't hear many complaints. Despite all the bad news, or maybe because it is so truly bad, everyone seems to understand that serious times demand serious behavior. Complaining, justified or otherwise, is a luxury we just can't afford right now.
The same goes for the concerns of individual groups or industries. In normal times, a political and economic system like ours that encourages everyone to advance their own ideas and concerns works quite well. Passionate advocacy may be noisy and a bit chaotic, but it also gives everyone a fair hearing and generally leads to a consensus we can all accept.
Clearly, though, these aren't normal times. There seems to be an unspoken agreement that we all need to put aside narrower concerns for the sake of the greater good. You can see it in the courtesy and concern everyone seems willing to extend to one another in the course of everyday life. And it's clearly evident in the willingness of the business community to accept disruption and delay as we wrestle with a changed concept of security.
Trucking isn't alone in feeling the effects of the September 11 attacks, but it can count on experiencing a large share of the aftershocks. The ubiquity of trucks and the size and variety of their payloads made them an immediate concern for those looking to protect us from new terrorist attacks.
Heightened security efforts, which are completely understandable given conditions, are slowing down border crossings, port access and even bridge and tunnel traffic for all commercial vehicles. New scrutiny of driver licensing procedures already has federal auditors and law enforcement officials asking for fleet records and reviews. Despite this new pressure on productivity and costs in a time of downturn, no one in the industry is complaining. Nor have there been calls for special treatment or economic relief. From drivers to CEOs, the attitude is, “Tell us what you need.”
No one could ever claim to find a silver lining in such horrific events as the September attacks, but this unity in such dire times is truly the one piece of good news that shouldn't go unnoticed, either by us or by the rest of the world.