The Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 Reminds Us of the Power of the Industry

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Author of The ULTIMATE Survival Gear Handbook and  Street Survivalism

My first article for The Organic Prepper (in 2020) was about the truckers strike in Brazil in May 2018. At the time, truckers in the U.S. were threatening a similar movement and Daisy wanted to provide the community with an insight on how it unfolds and why it can cause severe issues in just a few days. And in August, the Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 resulted again in rapid, widespread chaos.

In that piece, I warned that this kind of threat, which can quickly and seriously affect the entire production and supply chains, once set, is always present. I advised that this kind of thing should be on our radar because times are volatile. We should expect that manifestations, protests, rallies, and strikes will become more and more frequent everywhere.

Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021

In early August, a group of truckers started a protest and blocked roads in fifteen states here and the Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 began.

It was more limited and localized. However, just like in 2018, it quickly led to panic, shortages, and other problems. People lined up at gas stations and emptied shelves in a matter of hours. Truckers parked and gridlocked some essential roads in a couple of states.

The 2018 strike had a clear economic agenda: truckers were demanding better working conditions, a revision of freight tariffs, and protesting against rising fuel prices and other issues. Even though the economy is a lot worse today and conditions haven’t improved much (if at all), things had a different slant this time.  

The political scenario in Brazil is currently tumultuous

Our right-wing president is facing massive opposition from M.S.M. and some sectors of society. The Supreme Court has been very politically active for the past few years, and it’s now embroiled in a feud with the Executive, while the Congress (House and Senate) is divided and demoralized.

On the 7th of September – our Independence Day – hundreds of thousands of self-appointed “patriots” rallied in the streets of major cities countrywide to show support for the president and parts of his agenda. The next day, truckers took to the roads and started their movement, also supporting the president’s position with the Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021.

If we’re honest, things are very crazy everywhere

Americans might think the U.S. is on a wild ride right now, and I’d agree. The entire world seems to have gone insane. But there’s still some relativity in this, and we can’t compare how crazy things get in places where things are already pretty crazy, even in normal times. 

I’m not trying to one-up anyone. My assessment is not a competition for the bottom. It is an attempt to assess the situation around us, wherever we live, and compare how things are in other places. Hopefully, this will help others have a broader perspective on things. I’ve already said I follow the situation in the U.S. (among other places) because it’s the leading economy and influence globally. What happens there affects everyone, everywhere, in one way or another.

Brazil’s presidential election is in 2022

And it’s shaping up to be at least as tumultuous as the 2020 U.S. elections. Probably more: I’m not sure if our institutions are as solid, but our society is equally divided and radicalized

Everyone predicted the U.S. would go straight into civil war, whoever got elected. Even though the situation is far from stable or calm, thankfully, nothing more serious happened with America and its society. 

It may go the same way here in 2022, but then it may not. Everything considered, it’s not unreasonable to expect some turmoil and maybe a few clashes, possibly even more significant disruptions. 

Back to the Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021: the threat is constant and always present

The flash strike didn’t have the support of many truckers’ organizations and directories. Nevertheless, part of the category seems to have started to mobilize again and take sides (politically). 

The president himself asked the protesters to come back to work, so the already in bad shape economy is not affected. The movement lost momentum and cooled relatively quickly, but not without some upheaval and friction. The Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 was just a hint of what could easily devolve.

The trucking sector is one of many in a long list of current instabilities

I don’t want to make it sound more worrying than any other issues threatening the system today. More ample trucker strikes aren’t easy to organize, and what happened in Brazil in 2018 is actually quite rare. But when it does, it’s sudden, potentially grave, and quickly leads to collapse and unrest – and therein lies the danger. The Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 is just a reminder of the power of this industry to throw everything into chaos.

Also, these other more serious threats brewing everywhere can impact the transportation sector and the supply chain in many forms, as I’ll show. 

  • Therefore, even minor disruptions can hit a more significant part of the population because they affect practically everything from fuel to food to medicines. If we think of the potential consequences down the line, it’s easy to see how things can go bad:
  • First and foremost is the supplying of goods to grocery stores, supermarkets, and others. The just-in-time system is brittle. 
  • Gas stations also run empty rather quickly, spreading mobility issues to other important public and private service sectors such as safety (police), sanitation (trash pickup), firefighting, and first-response. 
  • Fuel shortages can also impact the functioning of generators and backup systems, leading to the paralyzation of data centers, hospitals, prisons, and other critical utilities and infrastructure.
  • Depending on the seriousness and duration, other transportation sectors can also be impaired (air and water traffic), compounding the situation.
  • Hospitals may also collapse or face extreme difficulties due to shortages of workers and supplies. 
  • Restaurants and hotels will also be immediately hit.

Primary threats to the trucking industry

Like the rest of the economy, the pandemic and various other issues hit the trucking industry heavily. Some issues are generalized, and others specific to the sector. These difficulties highlight or accentuate the many deficiencies that existed previously and increase the risks and instabilities:

Drivers

The average age of truckers in the United States is 55 years old, and many will take the opportunity to retire or find another line of work if conditions worsen, or simply if there’s no incentive to keep going (the same is happening in many other sectors, by the way).

Decaying infrastructure

Except in a handful of modern and wealthy, advanced nations, conditions aren’t exactly prime in most countries’ infrastructure. Bridges, tunnels, roads, resting areas, signaling – everything is in dire need of maintenance and rebuild. 

Safety

There’s that too, with crime on the rise everywhere. Here in Brazil and many other developing countries, this is a serious issue reflected in the price of goods transported and delivered through roads (which is pretty much everything).

Mechanics

The whole maintenance industry is suffering from worker and parts shortage, which may cause more trucks to be out of order. The microchip shortage issue may slow down the rollout of new trucks too. 

Mandates

Vaccine mandates and other restrictions imposed by governments could represent an issue, in the form of even larger worker shortages, or a backlash

D.O.T

Every couple of years, truckers must undergo habilitating exams. With health and psychological issues on the rise, this is another pressure point on the category.

Pay and benefits

Even if this hasn’t yet become a pressing issue, at some point, it will as the whole economy worsens. Truckers are ordinary people and part of the same population they provide with their service. They have families and worry about their livelihood too. 

Politics

I guess there’s no way to underestimate the threats of divisiveness and radicalization nowadays. Obviously, truckers aren’t exempt. The Stop The Tires movement lost steam since the 2020 election. However, one can’t overlook such rapid and significant mobilization. Over 75,000 joined in a matter of days. Likewise, TWU truckers in Australia also mobilized and issued warnings and threats about pay, fees, and other topics. These things haven’t happened in decades. Now they’re popping up again. 

Inflation

It’s growing everywhere, and the energy sector will be central (it’s already threatening and causing havoc in many other sectors). Think how fuel issues can impact transportation: this was one of the leading causes of the strike here in 2018 and the biggest strikes in U.S. history, back in 1973-1983.

Natural disasters

Hurricanes, floods, and now wildfires (among other occurrences) can impair or even temporarily disrupt the circulation of goods in some places. 

Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 was a reminder

Truckers are a vital link in the production and supply chains of any country. Collectively, they have massive power. After the 2018 trucker strike here, I started following the movement. I noticed how the local government closely monitors the category and keeps dialog open. Also, I discovered that truckers unions in other countries started to follow what happened in Brazil and even made contact with local leaders. 

I’m not implying a global trucker network has formed or anything like that. Markets are very local or regional when it comes to transportation. But truckers anywhere are well aware of their clout which was reiterated in the Brazilian truckers strike of 2021. And in the ultra-connected and globalized world, some movements quickly draw attention and inspire others.  

Either way, the main point is that issues with truckers and transportation and the supply chain have a higher probability of happening than civil war or an E.M.P. It can significantly affect the population, the economy, etc., and everyday life in the current context. That should be reason enough to keep it on your radar.

Had you heard about the Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021? What are your thoughts about trucking strikes? Are you concerned it is a possibility in the US? Back in 2017, it was said that it would only take 5 days after the trucks stop moving for chaos to erupt across the nation. Do you think that’s an accurate prediction still? Or would our already-weakened supply chain devolve even faster now? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. 

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

The Brazilian Truckers Strike of 2021 Reminds Us of the Power of the Industry
Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

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  • Here in Brazil, what we see most when there’s a truck driver’s strike is: it won’t last long; tomorrow it will end.

    The phrase I’ve been hearing since the beginning of the pandemic is: “next week this will end”. And it’s been over 18 months and there’s no sign that it’s going to end any time soon.

    There is no people with a greater sense of normality than the Brazilian. The philosopher Olavo de Carvalho sums it up: the person has a rhinoceros penis in his butt but has the need to think that everything is fine, everything is normal.

  • Great article, Fabian, and I think you’re absolutely right about these sort of supply chain snarls being far more likely as a source of trouble than a lot of other theories out there. One other reason truckers may be willing to stage these protests is that some of them may know there is a ticking clock as far as their jobs are concerned. I know a highway engineer who has been in the field for decades; he sympathizes with the truckers but says that their days are numbered because the push to automate trucking is just unreal. There is so much R&D being dumped into driverless trucks right now; the technology isn’t quite there, it’ll probably take another 10-15 years, but it WILL happen. And it’s going to destroy a huge swath of the economy when it does. There’s this whole subculture of diners and truck stops that’ll disappear when the truckers do. If I was in their situation I’d be willing to do crazy stuff too.

  • Back in the 80’s when I was doing my BS in Industrial Engineering a concept was floated by people that should have known better: “just in time” (JIT) supply. What this means is that there is NEVER more than 3 days worth of supply in the supply chain, no large warehouses full of stock. This first was embraced by the Japanese and it makes sense if you only have to ship material a very short distance. BUT when the distances and volumes of supply line resupply for normal operations are large then JIT is suicidal.

    Gen Patton pointed this out in WW2. Do not out run your supply lines. If the supply line gets broken anywhere from beginning to end, you will have a MAJOR problem. Now, what we are seeing are multiple breaks in every supply line that supports our civilization in every country. Think about who controls the decisions for those supply lines.

  • Great article.
    Any upset in the supply chain and it can affect everything we are used to having easy access to.
    This is the root problem of Globalism and the little or no stock programs in retail marketing and warehousing sectors.

    Currently there is a problem with the West Coast ports. Shipping is backed up, waiting, (I am told) as much as a month or more to be unloaded.
    Part of it, is that the docking space is limited, a poorly designed and out of date port considering the current workload. much of which has been caused by the sudden demand after Covid lockdowns were removed, for more merchandise and a lack of qualified dock workers.
    Now there is also a growing shortage of shipping containers at the shipping ports, creating shipping back ups on that end also.

    Why is this important?
    Because unlike a truckers strike, where such events are often widely publicized beforehand, these are mostly hidden issues, that most people do not know about. Yet the result could be the same or worse, as there is no easy solution or end in sight for a solution to the West Coast dock’s problems.

    The East coast docks are not in much better overall shape, except that so far they do not have the extreme waiting periods of the West Coast docks. But as shippers and buyers look for options to get overseas goods to market quicker, they will probably suffer the same fate in the near future.

    If you add in any other transportation problems, such as a truckers or railway strike, expect it to get bad really quickly. Empty shelves will become the “new” normal in a matter of days, if not in a matter of hours.

    • Seems to me we NEED to grow MORE, distribute MORE, prepare BETTER/MORE and build MORE in the USA in order to feed and take care of our own citizens, and of course the migrants and the Afghan people who are now coming here by the thousands. There is NOTHING we can do to stop what has already taken place but we can look to the future with BUILDING, WORKING and BUYING in the USA!!! This will prevent us from having to ORDER everything from overseas and produce what comes from China, Taiwan and Indonesia and all of these other countries…Put OUR workers back to work and stop bringing in everything from everywhere seems a good idea to me…Am I wrong?

  • It’s true that there is a plan to get rid of truckers by automating their jobs, and that means that there is little interest in giving them better job conditions from many of their employers, who tend to be big companies. But the reality is that automating driving is a lot less easy than the tech companies promised. So those jobs won’t go away anytime soon, and those executives dreaming that there is no problem are just dreaming.

    But as long as those big bosses don’t wake up, issues with strikes or simply, as it’s happening in the UK, with lots of truckers leaving a bad job and not enough coming to replace them, are likely to keep happening. And that means empty supermarket shelves, shortages of fuel at the pump, etc. Any good prepper should have a supply of any sort of consumables that they use to last them for a reasonable period of time. Like Daisy likes to say, preppers aren’t hoarders because they buy and stockpile before the time everyone else starts hoarding, and when everyone else is hoarding, they just use up what they have stored.

  • Why is it cRaZy all over? Seeing things we would NEVER imagine even a decade ago. Is it time for the prophecies to come true.

    The numbers all seem to add up in the craziest of ways. To sum up, it is my belief after looking at it all by so-called prophets, religious organizations, and historians there seems to be less than a decade left of this age.

    Yep, only about 10 years give or take a few. That’s my take.

  • “Back in 2017, it was said that it would only take 5 days after the trucks stop moving for chaos to erupt across the nation. Do you think that’s an accurate prediction still?”

    No. Three days at most now. I think some areas would see it within 48 hours.

  • You are correct, a shutdown in the U.S. would and could cause major problems for everyone. But it will never happen. For one you can’t get drivers to agree on anything, and two there’s no leadership to make it happen and represent the drivers. There are more reasons but that’s my top two. Speaking with 30+ years of driving these stupid things.

    • Thanks for the insider’s view, Dan. Indeed, as I said, it’s hard to mobilize, and has happened very few times in history. That’s somewhat comforting, though it’s always good to be tuned in and above all, prepared.

      My point is, things change, and this change people. Maybe truckers won’t stop in an organized way, I agree it’s not really probable (though always possible) they’ll strike (in US< because here it’s very real). But they can stop from other issues.

      Jet pilots won’t strike either, but so many are grounded since 2020, CV19, lockdowns and other issues affecting air travel. I’d assume a similar situation affecting truckers and transportation in general would have much worse consequences for the population and the economy in general.

  • Great article, I think the importance of understanding the significance of these truck strikes and the flow on impacts are key especially for those who live in remote communities and depend on deliveries for basics to live medications, first aid items , food items. Lockdowns have exasperated the reliance on deliveries due to travel limits. And the upcoming strikes by dock workers on a weekly basis will further impact. Postal shut downs where the postal service have suspended pick ups for six days to catch up on influx on the system. Made me think about the balance of prepping and sticking to my budget or put extra items on the credit card to make sure we don’t run out . Really is a balancing act.

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