Defunding the police – Hazmat Truckers Hold Their Breath?

HMN - Defunding the police - Hazmat Truckers Hold Their Breath?

Hazmat Trucking industry stakeholders are closely watching the “Defund the Police” movement. As authorities have been able to quell much of the violence in past weeks, the movement calling for the defunding of police departments appears to be rising.

Mike Kucharski, the co-owner of JKC Trucking, has decided not to deliver to cities that defund the police. 

“Our first priority is to support our drivers and their safety when they are on the road,” 

Pointing to the high value of the cargo that his drivers have in and on their trailers, he said:

“Defunding the police is a bad idea, because when you are on the road for weeks and days at a time…with valuable cargo, everybody wants to steal this. When you are a truck driver long enough on the road, there is no safe place. Violence is everywhere. So if there are no police to rely on, who is going to protect our drivers?”

HMN - Defunding the police - Hazmat Truckers Hold Their Breath?
Credit : Amber Kipp.

While Kucharshi’s company do not shift Hazmat loads, the effect of the current political climate would have a series impact on the safety of Hazmat road movements. A recent survey of truck drivers showed that 79% of respondents were concerned about driving in and through cities with no legitimate police presence. 

Many of the cities involved in budget cuts and defending already see spikes in violence. These are the biggest budget cuts law enforcement agencies are dealing with since the 2008 recession and the situation this time is only certain to get worse because of the pandemic’s resurgence and the convergence of the defund police movement. 

It’s too early to know the impacts such policies will have on safety as they have yet to fully take shape, but they could present new dangers for Hazmat truckers and challenges for carriers to manage. Nobody has ever contemplated a model where a modern day municipality defunds and dismantles its own form of law enforcement, and you put someone else in the driving seat.

A major factor for carriers to consider is the likely eventual increase in insurance costs, the presumption is, you’re going to have higher losses. These impacts to insurance rates likely would not be felt for at least 12 to 18 months after defunding policies take effect, but the eventual result could mean you have a period of time before insurance companies suspend coverage on Hazmat loads. It could lead to stiffer underwriting guidelines, tougher inspections, and higher deductibles. 

It’s clear that without adequate security Hazmat truckers and trucking companies will be quick to refuse service to these ’problem’ areas if trouble arises. Who’s going to deliver to a gas station in an area with no effective law and order. The risk is too great. “Truckers were already getting nervous about all these protests before they even started talking about defunding the police,” Explains Dan Doran, a 40-year trucking company owner, who served as chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) in 2018.

It’s a recipe for a combustible mix when Hazmat loads could enter areas without sufficient security and protection. As respondents on the trucking survey commented,  “We are already at the mercy of these towns and cities with laws and hate against us for parking, getting a meal or even using a restroom.” Another commented, “For my own safety and security of my customers’ loads, I have already informed my dispatcher that I will refuse all loads to cities that have defunded their police departments.”

Given the possible dangers and likely cost increases, Hazmat trucking companies will wrestle with whether or not to service the area any longer. Does a carrier want to take the chance of bringing their drivers into an area where they have declared ‘we don’t want to have police anymore.’  Trucking stakeholders are holding their collective breath watching it all unfold!