Roll on highway, roll on along
Roll on daddy till you get back home
Roll on family, roll on crew
Roll on momma like I asked you to do
And roll on eighteen-wheeler, roll on (roll on)
David Loggins, 1984
When we think about transportation in Procurement, we typically think about Carriers and 3PL Firms, two of our provider damnations, but Carriers and 3PLs typically transport your goods using eighteen wheeler trucks, and eighteen wheeler trucks have to use roads. And they have to roll on — which they usually do, until they don’t.
They roll on until they don’t. Roads deliver their own special type of universal damnation, which impacts Procurement more than most.
Road Hazards: Pot Holes, Sharp Debris, Liquid Tar
Your eighteen wheelers can’t roll on without those eighteen wheels. A pot hole, sharp debris (nails, industrial strength broken glass, etc.), and the asphalt itself (which can reach temperatures 50C or 100F higher than the ambient air temperature in the blazing hot sun) can cause tire blowouts on a regular basis due to the hard impacts, big holes, and the rubber melting temperatures they create. And your truck is grounded until the tires are replaced.
Road Conditions: Often Abysmal at the Best of Times
While the roads in most big cities and the roads that are designated as major highways are typically in pretty good condition in the USA, in some countries, your average highway is full of craters, and sometimes isn’t even paved. So while your goods may roll on at 110 km or 70 miles an hour in the USA, in some places in India, if you can get 30 km or 20 miles per hour, consider yourself lucky. The reality is that in some places, your goods aren’t moving any faster than if they were being transported by an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage.
And sometimes more prosperous countries will attempt to improve the roads, and the you have construction. Instead of covering 30 km / hr, your driver will spend over half of his driving day sitting in a traffic jam and will watch the horses trot by.
And if the roads are good, and near a big city, everybody tries to use them and you get bumper to bumper traffic jams where traffic moves at about the same pace as a person who is speed walking.
In other words, truck transport is often slow, slow, slow.
A lot of theft occurs on the open road. Sometimes your driver, on his own, is unlucky enough to be held up at gun point when he stops to investigate a hazard, heed the call of nature, gas up, or grab some hot food at a truck stop. Sometimes, he’s lucky enough to have his rig broken into, hot wired, and driven off when he’s heeding the call of nature in a restroom or eating in a roadside truck stop. Either way, his mode of transportation and your cargo is gone, gone, gone.
Sometimes the highwaymen won’t steal the truck, but will instead try to use it to transport illegal goods or aliens. The driver will pull over at a stop, the truck will be a few hundred kilos heavier than the paperwork says the truck should be, the truck will get searched by authorities, contraband will be found, and the whole truck and all of its contents will get seized. And if he’s unlucky, your driver will get arrested, and then, upon his release, immediately tell you where to stick the next driving assignment you try to push his way.
We may not want to think much about them, but roads are an eternal damnation of the Procurement professional as they are literally what the trucking industry rolls on. Sometimes it really is best to return to the rails.