It may have sounded romantic (and rebellious, per the 1960s) once, but it's a new millennium and, true to the predictions of many boosters of freight intermodalism, the game has changed, really changed.
Checking the website of my alma mater, CNNMoney, late last month, I came across reporter Aaron Smith's "Tons of trucking jobs ... that nobody wants." That's certainly noteworthy and newsworthy as the U.S. struggles to establish any substantial economic upward momentum, right? Smith noted, 'There are as many as 200,000 job openings nationwide for long haul truckers, according to David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association. Truck driver demand is also set to increase, Smith added, before quoting Heller again, the association rep saying, "Nobody wants to drive a truck."
Well, make that long-distance truck, six-day truck trips, and Heller's quote might ring true. Make that job an intermodal one, however, and we're talking about one local roundtrip (maybe two on a good day) with infinitely better chances of getting home that night, most nights. Leave the long distance itself ... to the railroads.
As the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) have steadily reported throughout this year, that seems to be happening more and more, with domestic intermodal moves (rail-to-truck) showing strength once more likely seen in international (ship-to-rail, ship-to-truck) moves. Committed longstanding intermodal players, such as J.B. Hunt, Schneider International, and UPS, are being joined by the likes of Federal Express and (possibly) the U.S. Postal Service.
No surprise, then, but still a significant indicator, that on my recent auto jaunt on one of the nation's Interstate highways I happened to spy a J.B. Hunt billboard advertising—make that virtually trumpeting—"good jobs" available now. That's good for those struggling to find work, of course good for J.B. Hunt itself, and good news for J.B. Hunt's railroad partners and the railroad industry.
It's also good news for me, not just because I'm a railroad blogger but also because I prefer my fellow road travelers employing safe driving practices, the kind that "little white pills" can't reliably provide. Rail-to-truck intermodalism offers an economical, environmental, and "family-values" domestic alternative that makes "Six Days on the Road" a potential anachronism, save for two of the final lines: "My hometown's coming in sight; if you think I'm happy, you're right." Cue the fiddle.