Logistically Speaking: Logistics as usual

Do you ever get the feeling that politicians are trying to manage the nation's supply chain, and in the process they're running it right into the ground? The number of pies they've got their thumbs in these days is ridiculous, and I think we have to agree to say, "Enough already!" Just because our elected officials find it necessary to jockey every conceivable activity into a political position doesn't mean we have to follow suit.

Now, I'm as interested in politics as anybody. Part of an editor's job description, after all, is to be an opinionated know-it-all. But with the fragmentation of many media brands into little more than left-or rightleaning screeds, it seems like there are fewer places than ever that provide civil discourse on current events.

I sometimes worry that this heightened level of national cynicism is infecting my own thinking. Case in point: I sat down to write a new QuickPoll question for our website about a topic that doesn't seem to ever get resolved — Hours of Service. Don't go rushing to the website to weigh in, though — I hit the "eject" button on the question because it scored too high on the sarcasm-meter:

Why has it been so difficult to get all concerned parties to sign off on new Hours of Service rules?

  • Safety advocates won't be happy until there isn't a single truck left on the road.
  • The FMCSA is a Washington bureaucracy — need we say more?
  • Shippers want lower costs more than they want safer roads.
  • Nobody actually has the slightest clue what a "circadian rhythm" is.
  • Drivers get paid by the mile — the more they drive, the more they get paid.
  • Nothing ever happens until Wal-Mart mandates it.

The sad thing is that I've heard people argue every one of those opinions with a straight face. Have we all gotten so jaded by the red state/blue state, labor/management, "I'm right/so you must be wrong" dichotomies that we've forgotten how to get things done? What's more important these days: fixing things when they're broken or winning the blame game? Seems like a lot more energy is being expended on the latter these days, which only exacerbates already bad situations.

So what to do? Adapting a line from local sports writer Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon Journal, I'd advise everybody in the logistics field: Don't let the politicians ruin your day. No matter how emphatically any given politician on any given day insists he/she is "fighting for you," at the end of the day they're off championing a new cause du jour while you're left cleaning up their messes.

As our cover story illustrates, while politicians were bickering and pointed fingers during Hurricane Katrina's rampage, it was the logistics community that quietly but doggedly held everything together by finding ways to deliver goods and relief throughout the Gulf Coast. The fact that some semblance of normalcy was achievable within days is directly the result of logistics people finding a way to make it happen.

Virtually every major logistics challenge these days is politically charged, whether it be fuel prices and surcharges, globalization, port congestion, highway tolls, or the will-it-ever-be-finished Hours of Service. But that doesn't mean we have to let the politicians dictate the terms of how well we manage our supply chains. The lasting legacy of the U.S.A. is that we tend to succeed in spite of, rather than because of, the politicians. And that's truer today than ever.

Dave Blanchard, editor-in-chief, [email protected]

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