By James Murray
July 25, 2020
But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)
COVID19 has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.
Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..
The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”
But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased. As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.
Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,
Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.
The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms. Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.
COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”
1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification, The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification
It’s pitiful to see the left have an ‘outrage moment,’ over federal agents snatching people off the streets in Portland..it means several things – the so-called left is still playing a ‘game,’ and have yet to accept and adapt to the new conditions of wartime… although loudly deriding ‘white privilege,’ the left still expects it, and they react with juvenile shock when such historic privilege is denied them. Federal agents in quasi-military outfits arresting people is fairly common in black, brown and lower-class white neighborhoods. Hundreds of thousands of people go to bed every night and wake up every morning with outstanding felony warrants hanging over their head fully aware they could be “snatched” at any moment. And if they resist they will be shot.
Alice Goffman’s 2014 On The Run, Fugitive Life in an American City,” explored the neighborhoods in Philadelphia where the prevalence of outstanding warrants had created a ‘Fugitive Culture,’ among the residents. In this culture no one called the police, disputes were settled via interpersonal violence and an inability to maintain identification cards and bank accounts made the illicit economy the only option. Far from being strictly an urban phenomenon ‘Fugitive Culture,’ stretches far and wide across the continent. In my former county of residence, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, a newspaper article once informed me that there were almost as many outstanding warrants in the county as there were residents! This was explained by the thesis that very few people ever paid a fine, and there were individuals with very many warrants, sometimes stretching back for decades. They drove without valid driver’s licenses, in untagged vehicles. Existing in a low-grade “Fugitive state,” for year after year. This simple reality – shared across decrepit urban slums and isolated rural ghettos, was just accepted, ‘I might go to jail any day.’
This is the American reality the so-called left knows little about. The white ‘RadLib,’ protestors in Portland never expected to go to jail. How could a ‘left’ being so well-behaved and moralistic ever expect such treatment? They’re not like “those people,” who sell drugs and carry unlicensed firearms and commit petty fraud and prostitute their bodies and settle “beefs,” without hiring a lawyer. One of the video clips that provoked such hysterical outrage showed a kid wearing a bizarre “riot outfit,” including helmet and gas mask and soft body armor. Some “federal agents,” swoop upon the scene and take him “into custody,” without incident. He appeared as harmless (and probably confused) as any other Portlandia anarchist but I laughed to myself watching the video, the outfit, perhaps more useful at a fetish party than in street combat could not help but attract ‘law-enforcement,’ attention.
I could not imagine any young prole, either a black or white guy, with a few years of “hanging out on the street,” behind him, thinking he could stroll down the avenue in such attire and not “interact” with the police! Certainly more “lumpen,” elements like Piru Crips or Aryan Brotherhood members would think such “dress up,” is laughable and “amateur hour.” They know all about fighting and sneaking around and avoiding the police and they don’t wear fetish gear to do it.
Could it be, after these riotous months of ‘”white privilege critique,” that those white radlibs shouting the loudest and “performing,” the most incendiary acts of “social justice,” actually have more white privilege than anyone? And suspend that privilege for a few days and Facebook and Twitter explode with rage, disbelief, and the now de rigueur accusations of ‘fascism.’ That all this quasi-left mess (IdPol, anti-racism, PC culture, speech codes, etc.) are not an attempt to project power upward, and challenge the state and capital, but an attempt to project power downward, and police the proles into a (petit)bourgeois cultural project they have no interest in and often actively disagree with?
This is a quasi-left whose consciousness remains reformist and liberal, still expecting rules and justice. And of course, they expect their privileged positions to be maintained. Their irrational belief in “progress,” is undiminished. Revolutionaries understand there are no rules, and justice is a myth. To me, this Outrage Moment has “Late Weimar” written all over it – a (petit)bourgeois left, completely misunderstanding itself, its enemies, the situation, the masses. Lost in a cascading series of Outrage Moments, bizarre fantasies, and hysteria. The same people who have convinced themselves Trumpismo is “fascist,” and is actively engaged in genocide are simultaneously shocked, stunned that federal agents would dare arrest white liberals. They couldn’t do logic syllogisms if you held a gun to their head. Because this is a secular religious movement, a faith-based doctrine. It has no choice but to abandon logic, free-thought, and speech. It would mightily like to coerce the masses, but that is and will remain beyond its capacity, so it can only threaten coercion. Like a small-town Baptist preacher threatens his flock with Hell for their sins.