Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pull the Pin and Roll

I've daydreamed for years about doing away with interstate trucking, on the grounds that it's stupid, wasteful, dangerous, exploitative, polluting, and a waste of time for all concerned.

Sure, "Convoy" was a great song, and the most cogent defense of libertarianism ever written. And the obscene messages scrawled by truckers in roadside toilet stalls provide the lonely traveler with plenty of food for thought. I also understand that once a sufficient number of maudlin songs have been written about a dull and dangerous job, it becomes a Proud Way of Life that must not be allowed to perish from the earth.

On the other hand, our heroic truckers could simply switch over to workin' on the railroad, all the live-long day. That was a proud way of life before anyone ever heard of 18-wheelers, as you can tell from the vast number of folk songs about being scalded to death by steam, or lying crushed beneath the boiler with your white-haired mother praying by your side.

If truckers became railroad workers, they'd still get to marvel at the beauty of God's own earth while eating three-day-old scrambled eggs, they'd still get to have anonymous sex with transients, and they'd still have the opportunity to go out in a blaze of glory, with nothing to regret but those two last drinks they wanted to try. And they could boast, with Jimmie Rodgers, that they'll eat their breakfast here and their dinner in New Orleans, and get them a mama they ain't never seen.

Best of all, they'd no longer have to suffer indignities like this.

Admittedly, I'm thinking with my heart rather than my head, as leftist sissy-boys so often do. Fortunately, a new study offers a more toughminded rationale for replacing trucks with trains:

Because one intermodal train can take nearly 300 trucks off our highways, shifting freight from trucks to trains reduces competition between commuters, drivers and freight traffic for space on the road," said Wendell Cox, author of the study and principal of Demographia, a market research and urban policy consultancy.

The study claims that if 25% of the volume moved by trucks was moved to rail transport by the year 2026, each American commuter could save, on average, $985 -- and 41 hours of time in their car -- a year. The survey also estimates that each year, a commuter could save 79 gallons of fuel and reduce air pollution by 920,000 tons."
You can find an interesting proposal for making a gradual switch from trucks to trains here; it also discusses the possibility of reducing air freight. Seems reasonable to me, for what little that's worth.

(Illustration at top by David Oram.)