Highway to Hell

The Green Visigoths are at the Gates: Why America Cannot Survive without Trucks

Enduring images of endless rows of utility trucks heading to Florida after a hurricane, of logging trucks trying to create firebreaks in California, or of dump trucks coming into Oklahoma from the four corners of America after a tornado capture the American spirit.

Trucks run America. Heavy trucks move the stuff we buy and sell along the largest highway network in the world. They clean our streets, control our disasters, fight our fires, and rush to our rescue during emergencies.

In the medium-heavy (Class V-VIII) truck world, trucks fall into two categories: “On Highway,” the trucks you see pulling trailers across the country, and “Vocational”, the dump trucks, cement mixers, ambulances, fuel trucks and a dozen other variations that keep every town in this country operating. Most these are powered by diesel. Diesel engines are ideal for commercial purposes, being more reliable, more durable, and with better fuel economy than gasoline. Over 99% of all trucks working in America today have diesel engines. Without these, nothing moves. Not food, not goods, not our industry, and certainly not our economy.

California, as usual, is leading the “Green” charge. This month, the California Air Resources Board voted 14-0 to pass a law that will ban the sale of diesel trucks in California by 2036. The board warned citizens that “the time for putting public health second to the economy is over.” The new law also stipulates that all trucks operating in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (home of 50% of US foreign trade) must be zero emission by 2030.

America is a behemoth. The United States faces logistical challenges greater than that of any nation in history. The distance from Los Angeles to Washington DC is roughly the same distance as Madrid to Moscow. Despite some local attempts to regionalize food production, feeding Americans is still a national effort. The ability to transport food, medicine, and spare parts across the vast American continent can only be achieved by trucks. Highway trucks move 75% of the nation’s freight from city to city, and from region to region. Everything you buy, everything you eat, and every medicine you take has at least one truck involved in the transportation chain.

American manufacturing also powers the global economy. Locked in a battle with China, these policies, if implemented nationally, would shatter the US manufacturing industry, as well as the Western world at large. Other countries would accelerate moving manufacturing in China and India, who, unlike America, make no pretense about “green energy”. They’re playing to win, and now our leaders are opening the gates to them.

Solutions exist that could avert catastrophe and still allow progressives to achieve their “green” goals. Setting aside the dubious improvement to the environment from the production of Lithium Ion batteries, and the power generation required to charge them, trucks are no longer the giant-nosed, black smoke-belching monsters from the ’70s. Modern engines are cleaner and more fuel-efficient. Incorporation of features like engine idle shutdowns, where the engine automatically switches to battery power at idle, carbon scrubbers, the introduction of lower sulfur diesel fuel, and a myriad of other technological advancements have made modern diesel trucks orders of magnitude cleaner than previous versions even from the 2010s.

But that only applies to newer models. Hundreds of thousands of older models still exist across the country. Diesel engines last a long time, and over 30% of the trucks on the road are over ten years old. Small rock moving companies, independent On-Highway operators, and the guy who delivers mulch to your house, often have older and dirtier models. But these could easily be replaced with a fraction of the investment the country is pouring into “green energy.” This approach, combined with using electric vehicles where the case merits it, such as in urban trash removal, school buses, local delivery routes, airport operations, etc, would vastly reduce the amount of carbon that is pumped into the air. So why aren’t Progressives focused on this?

Truck manufacturers don’t have the technology to replace diesel engines with equally capable zero-emission engines, nor the production capacity to replace the soon to be illegal diesel engines. The United States also does not have the electrical infrastructure to support that many Lithium Ion Battery vehicles. For decades we have depended on these engines to sustain us, and they have not failed. Instead of making what works better, we are about to attempt to replace all of them with vehicles that are four times the cost, but only capable of doing a quarter of the work… at best. Large fleets are already slowing, and in some sectors companies are cancelling existing “green” orders in favor of procuring diesel engines while they still can. CEO’s are doing the math, and recognizing that virtue signaling is not worth bankruptcy. But the damage may already be done.

When we think of military vehicles, we imagine tanks and jets, but logistics is what wins wars. For every tank, there are a half dozen support vehicles. Fuel tankers, runway sweepers, water trucks, and wreckers are all bought commercially off the shelf from civilian truck manufacturers. Every vehicle the military buys needs to be capable of running JP8 fuel: a high sulfur fuel, which simplifies military supply requirements and enables military vehicles to run on even the dirtiest local fuel sources. Government mandated changes to emissions have created a technology gap between the civilian and military markets. Sensors in modern trucks can no longer survive with high amounts of sulfur in JP8, and so manufacturers have begun to stop making trucks capable of running on a JP8 engine.

Progressives don’t want solutions that avoid a collapse. The ongoing logistical nightmares caused by the government’s response to COVID-19 is just a prelude to the horrors of this potential future. Factories that can’t get enough components, hospitals that can’t get repair parts on time for life-saving equipment, crops dying in the field while the people starve… That’s where we’re heading.

Here, as with every other issue on which the Left wages war, the aim is not improvement, but destruction. Hidden in visions that many Americans want, the people who think food magically appears at the grocery store are now proposing to sacrifice your family, your country, and everything else that Americans have struggled to build for a century. They want to benefit from the comforts and the standard of living that the system has produced, without the systems and work that make those things possible. We need to put a stop to this insanity whilst we still can.

Engelbert Rancine is an American writer and a veteran.


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