The Day The Lights Go Out And The Trucks Stop Running

by Michael Snyder – Economic Collapse Blog

What would happen if some sort of major national emergency caused a massive transportation disruption that stopped trucks from running?  The next time you talk to a trucker, please thank them for their service, because without their hard work none of our lives would be possible.  In America today, very few of us live a truly independent lifestyle, and that means that we rely on the system to provide what we need.  Most of us take for granted that there will always be plenty of goods at Wal-Mart and at the grocery store whenever we need more “stuff”, and most of us never give a second thought to how all of that “stuff” gets there.  Well, the truth is that most of it is brought in by trucks, and if the trucks stopped running for some reason the entire country would devolve into chaos very rapidly.

Earlier today, I came across a quote from Alice Friedemann that detailed what we would be facing during a major national transportation disruption very nicely…

Within a week, in roughly this order, grocery stores would be out of dairy and other items that are delivered many times a day. And by the week, the shelves would be empty.

Hospitals, pharmacies, factories, and many other businesses also get several deliveries a day, and they’d be running out of stuffthe first day.

And the second day, there’s be panic and hoarding. And restaurants, pharmacies would close. ATM’s would be out of money. Construction would stop. There’d be increasing layoffs. Increasing enormous amounts of trash not getting picked up,685,000 tons a day. Service stations would be closed. Very few people would be working. And the livestock would start to be hungry from lack of feed deliveries.

Then within two weeks, clean water supplies would run out. Within four weeks to eight weeks, there wouldn’t be coal delivered to power plants and electricity would start shutting down. And when that happened, about a quarter of our pipelines use electricity, and so natural gas plants wouldn’t be fed natural gas and they’d start shutting down.

There is so much infrastructure that we take for granted that would suddenly become very vulnerable in this type of scenario.  There are countless numbers of workers out there that never get any glory that do the hard work of maintaining our nuclear power plants, our natural gas pipelines, our electrical grid, etc.  If they suddenly were not able to do their jobs, the consequences would be absolutely catastrophic.  The following comes from Tess Pennington

They rarely mention the dozens of nuclear power plants that litter the United States. If no one is there to operate them, how long before they melt down and bury millions of survivors under a radioactive cloud?

Then there are the 12,000 facilities around the country that store large quantities of toxic or flammable chemicals, and reside close to residential areas. 2,500 of these sites contain chemicals in quantities that, if a catastrophic accident were to occur, could affect 10,000 to 1 million people each. And let’s not forget the 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines that can be found in every state. They suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year, and are much more likely to explode when they aren’t maintained. That detail seems to be conveniently forgotten by post-apocalyptic films.

And finally, most post-apocalyptic movies will forget to mention what happens when there aren’t any functional fire departments. Aside from the obvious consequences, like whole neighborhoods routinely burning to the ground, who’s going to put out landfill firesthat are occasionally radioactive?

For most Americans, a major national emergency of this magnitude may seem unimaginable right now.  But the truth is that it isn’t difficult to see how this kind of scenario could happen.  The Yellowstone supervolcano is becoming increasingly active, a single large asteroid could change all of our lives in a single moment, a crippling pandemic could bring normal life in America to a complete standstill, a terror attack involving weapons of mass destruction would spread panic and fear like wildfire, and a historic earthquake along the New Madrid fault, the Cascadia Subduction zone or any of the major faults in California could literally change the geography of our entire continent.

In addition, a massive EMP burst from a nuclear weapon or from the suncould fry our power grid and send us back into the stone age in a single moment.  This is something that I have written about extensively, and those that want to minimize this threat simply don’t know what they are talking about.

And an electromagnetic pulse is not even required to cause very serious problems with our electrical grid.  For instance, just consider what happened in Ukraine toward the end of last year

On December 23rd, 2015, the Prykarpattyaoblenergo power distribution station in Ukraine was hit by a carefully coordinated cyber-attack that was months in the making. The technicians lost control of their cursors as they watched hackers open breakers and take circuit after circuit offline, plunging 230,000 residents into darkness.

The hackers took backup power of the stations offline, plunging the electrical workers into darkness too, and worse yet, they even rewrote the low-level firmware that controls the electrical transformers. The attack had come after months of careful infiltration and planning by a dedicated team of elite cyber-warfare specialists and the result was devastating.

Even months later, technicians struggled to regain full capacity in the electrical grid due to the overwriting of firmware. With Ukrainian moves to nationalize power companies, it is possible that the powerful and Putin-connected Russian oligarchs who own large parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure were sending a message: we can shut down the system anytime we want.

The truth is that we are far more vulnerable than most of us would like to admit.

So what would you do if “normal life” suddenly came to an end and you no longer had access to food, water or power?

How would you and your family respond?

Hopefully you would continue to act in a civilized manner, but history has shown that many people would not.

Desperate people do desperate things, and it would only take a matter of days for some people to become violent

Before long, getting mugged or being a victim of some type of crime is as unpredictable and as common as a car accident. You’ll realize everyone in the neighborhood has now beefed up security on their homes. All your family, friends, and coworkers have experienced a mugging, carjacking, or worse.

You’ll have no choice but to accept this new way of life and count on basic safety measures (a form of passive denial) or further learn to defend yourself and remain in a constant state of alert (a very stressful state over time). It’s difficult emotionally, mentally, and physically to remain on high alert 24/7 for any length of time. Most people will revert to a form of passive denial until the next incident happens to them or a family member.

And even though things may seem relatively stable for the moment, concern about what is coming is one of the factors that has led an increasing number of Americans to arm themselves.  According to a brand new study from the Pew Research Center,44 percent of all American homes now have a gun.  Just two years ago, a different study found that number was sitting at just 31 percent.

The way that we are living our lives right now will not last indefinitely.

At some point a major national emergency will strike, and when that day arrives we could suddenly be facing major power grid and transportation disruptions.

Are you prepared for that?

If not, you might want to do so while you still have time.


  1. patientmomma says:

    One of my sons is a truck driver for a national company. In cities where riots or other disruptions are occurring the company policy is to wait outside the city until the dispatchers gives the safety go-ahead. They do not want an expensive rig and more expensive load damaged or destroyed by angry mobs. If the mobs get close to the stopping place, the drivers are to return to the depot.

  2. Think back to the effects of Hurricanes Andrew & Charley in Florida, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Super Storm Sandy in NJ, the 60s earthquake in Alaska, the later one in CA. Review what systems went down, how long before they were fixed. It doesn’t take much for our current way of life to be massively disrupted.

    I’m in FL and Hurricane Hermine just hit NW FL – the first hurricane in over a decade. Since, I think I have the number right, 1 in 7 Floridians are new each year, how many do you think were prepared. We’re prepared 12 months of the year, not just the 6, yes six, month hurricane season. After all, we had a tornado rip thru our neighborhood in Feb. No electricity for about 5 hours – neighbors panicked on what to do for dinner – we lit the grill plus we had plenty of veggies & fruit growing to have a cold dinner. Doesn’t really take much, just a little forethought and planning.

    • Hi Bellen, you are right: it doesn’t really take much. At least 90% of the population has no excuse for being unprepared to take care of themselves for at least several days.

      But they aren’t. They just have no excuse.

      When hurricane Iniki hit Kauai some years ago, the entire power grid went down, and with it, the water grid. It took 4 weeks to restore power to the FIRST 20% of customers. There was a lot of bottled water being drunk.

      Interestingly, a FEMA guy got a helicopter ride over the island a couple days after the hurricane, and asked where all the blue tarps on people’s roofs came from. His guide replied that Kauai people understand and respect hurricanes: they were prepared.

      No excuses.

      • Almost There says:


        I heard a storm was headed your way. Haven’t checked in a while, and was wondering if it still was going to hit your area?

        • Hi AT, actually, there are/were two hurricanes. The first passed by the Big Island With some damage but not catastrophic, and passed far enough south of us to produce little but drizzle and some wind to maybe thirty mph. The second should pass us by this weekend with rain and wind. It’s still a Category 2 at the moment, but should be far enough away not to cause us big problems. I hope. We did the usual, topping off gas tanks and drawing down the freezers, topped off with six or eight cans of stuff we had used up, but no major preps. We are about as ready as we can be.

          It looks like Florida and the Carolinas are getting it a lot worse this time than we are. I hope the Floridians who have never experienced a hurricane are learning some lessons about being prepared. I read that some are Morally Outraged at being subject to a power outage. !!!

          • Penrod,
            What is “drawing down the freezer”? What is “topped off with cans of stuff we used up”?

          • Penrod:

            I tried to look the storms up on The Weather Channel, but got no where. I found one pictuere that looked like the 2nd was going to go north but not sure.

            Stay safe.

    • Looking at current weather patterns and using experience, I can’t help but feel we in the northern tier of states are going to be in for a very rough winter, extreme cold and deep snow.

      Also from experience, I know many who are not prepared for this kind of weather despite being long-time residents. (Thinking of the blizzard of ’91 especially and how many called for help.)

      I watch reports now of the huricanes and tornados and flooding and my heart goes out to those people. We’ve just had a rather wonderful summer, although some regions did get flood out and a few trees were toppled and power went out for a week, I know our “turn” for horrid weather is coming.

  3. Gordon Rottman says:

    Wal-Mart and most grocery stores maintain a three-day stock on NORMAL business days. When Hurricane Ike was bearing down on Houston the local Wal-Mart was empty in less than 12 hours with nothing coming in. It took them three days to restock after the storm.

    • riverrider says:

      you beat me to it. from snow forecast to empty dairy, bread, egg and water shelves is about 4 hours around here. one ice storm in the nineties kept shelves empty for over a week, not even a can of beets left. i think some people are in for a rude awakening, and some won’t be happy.

      • RR:

        “i think some people are in for a rude awakening, and some won’t be happy.”

        I would say most are going to be in for a massive epifany. They are going to spend a lot of otherwise productive time relizine they have been “lied to”. Not really actively lied to but not told the real truth in a manner that they would believe.

        That’s why when things start happening, I’m not going any where near a store.

  4. mom of three says:

    Another great article, this morning. We would stay civil until people tried to break into our home than you must take action. I would get out of our city, quickly and depending on the threat go to my parents, or go to our other property. It’s a very good idea to have plan A, B, C, and D, if you have children, or grandchildren, you must be honest with them before a problem comes up. My daughter, will be attending a college, she can leave and is only 25 minute to walk home, and my son, is 5 minute’s away I would get him first. We are living in scary time’s, and I try to make each day count for my family.

  5. This is a really good article. Thank you. The more prepared you are the less stressful any of these events will be. However, martial law will be declared and anyone known to be a Prepper will likely find themselves branded a hoarder under the National Defense Authorization Act and have their supplies confiscated “for the common good.” In our country it seems like the grasshoppers outnumber the ants so the grasshoppers have passed laws allowing them to sponge off the ants.

    • riverrider says:

      ray, i think you give the govt too much credit. i used to work for them, they’re not that well informed about preppers or anything else for that matter.

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        I don’t know that we preppers will have to worry about the Feds taking our food as any kind of large event will have most of us lost in the chatter. But local governments are a lot closer to us and (I think are) likely to be more of a danger to us as far as deciding they have the right to steal our food and supplies.

  6. I would say that his estimates for how long goods would stay on the shelves and how long unattended services would last is overly optinistic. One the word gets out, I would estimate that it will be a panic for 4 hours, with the remaining items, reguardless of use or value, will be gone in 12.

    Most infrastucture in old and needs almost daily maintenance. Our sewage plant has people there 24/7 to repair breakdowns. I thing 2 weeks is asking a lot of our systems.

  7. I maintain that where we are now, totally dependent on the grid of services and jit is not normal. I cannot be completely off, but believe in getting basic survival needs back in my own hands. I buy things like Rooibos tea from South Africa, chocolate, vanilla, pepper. Meat. I could replace salt locally. I admit to a five year supply of cocoa, then cold turkey time.
    Adaptability is my number one prep.
    Number two is skills.
    Three is knowledge.
    Four is water/food/shelter.
    All areas need improvement.

  8. Almost There says:

    Agree with the article… I think we will run out quicker than 1 week. If you think the stores will always have what you need, you may want to seriously rethink that. Last week, the shelves at the local grocery store were empty where the bottled water was. Same thing for a particular brand of mayonnaise. We have alerts for snow and the shelves again are depleted for milk, TP, and bread in a matter of hours. They are also constantly running out of apple cider vinegar. I see the stores stocking less quantity of the items, routinely running out. So if there is less on the shelf to begin with, there isn’t that much available for purchase.

  9. Lately, I’ve become concerned about what we’d do if we have a house fire. We have one fire extinguisher, & I plan to get a few more. We are careful w/ candles when we use them & depend on electric heat & have a gas heater & wood stove for backup. We live in a small town & have neighbors’ houses about 25-30 feet on each side of us. Is there anything else we can do to prevent or prepare for a house fire?

    • Anonamo Also says:

      If your house is painted put fire retardant paint on sides next to your neighbors minimum… consider pressurized tank for water delivery sprayer, to wet roof. consider rain barrels for quick water source if legal and possible./ consider using tile or tin for roofing, when time to replace current roof. clear all debri, under brush/ except possibly, thorny for protecting windows… from sides

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        Southern Prepper One (look on U-Tube) has done talks and videos on off-grid fire prevention.

    • RedC, we have three fire extinguishers on each level of the house in different areas. Two in garage, four in the barn. And make sure EVERYONE knows how to use one. But one extra and let everyone practice with it (outside, of course)!!!

      • Almost There says:

        It’s also good to know what type of fire the extinguisher is good for. I bet the local FD has a fire safety class that could give you more information. I need a refresher myself.

        • Almost There says:

          We use the acronym PASS at work… This sums it up pretty well.

          “To use a fire extinguisher correctly, experts say that one should remember the acronym P.A.S.S. —

          P: Pull the pin.

          A: Aim at the base of the fire.

          S: Squeeze the trigger.

          S: Sweep side to side.

          But they say the most important lesson of all is when not to try using an extinguisher. The devices are only meant for small fires in their very beginning stages. Anything bigger and you should get out while you can and call 911. ”

    • Hi RedC, we keep a medium size extinguisher in the kitchen, a big one next to it, and one by each bedroom door. Also a smoke detector in the hallway, and a powerful flashlight on each bedside table.

      One important thing: If at all possible, make sure everyone can get out of the house through their bedroom windows. If that means a rope ladder (and sturdy attachments!), then rope ladders.

      We have an old house with window sills fairly high off the ground, but leaving them unlocked is still a security issue. I drilled holes all the way through the top part of the lower frames and part way into the upper frames, so I can insert big nails to lock the windows open several inches for ventilation. The nail heads stand out a couple inches, so in an emergency one can pull out both of the nails and open the window all the way.

      Also: Have a pre-determined rally point outside after evacuation so you can KNOW everyone got out.

    • To prevent a neighboring house fire from spreading to another house: nail sheets and blankets to the roof edge and keep water flowing on to the sheets. Never tried this but I have boiled water in a paper cup. Same principle.

  10. Anonamo Also says:

    grocery stores will be out within one day, probably hours.. i agree with less than 12 hour time frame..Have worked in distribution whse, and in grocery stores…
    Also, the shelves are Completely empty..before they is not productive to have items sitting on shelf…unsold.
    Very few items from center of store will be re-stocked in a way to have more than 1 case on shelf. There will usually be more than one brand of a similar item, but should you require low sodium varieties…they are not normally restocked as quickly…. dry generics,that are not complete mixes, are generally slower sellers….so shelves will likely have few units at beginning of event.UNLESS on re-stock day!If you need several of an item in a store you frequent go in, and clear the shelf ..on restock day. as long as your jit freight works, new product will be in next stock. it helps to call store, ask for management and ask for specific product. tell them there was not ant on shelf and ask when it will be in. if you want a case good time to tell them and most will order extra case for you.
    It is more profitable to ship produce which has been in improper it does not keep as long… can re sell another unit in 7-9 days, tops,…should unit not be stored transported in IDEAL conditions. If it ruins in store, it is the loss of the grocier, and is tax deductible business loss.
    So end consumer pays twice…higher cost per unit to cover immediate loss and in tax credits at end of quarter.

  11. Encourager says:

    Excellent article. Thank you! I was reading on another survival site today on how to approach your neighbors on forming a community response in an emergency. They suggested a series of steps, starting with an informational meeting. They said you would have more creds if you joined or formed a CERT-like group first…through FEMA and filled out FEMA’s worksheets as to how prepared are you. Seriously?! Give FEMA a list of my preps?! So they can show up at my door to collect?!

    Many of the suggestions were good, but who in their right mind would contact FEMA in the first place? In LA it was the “Cajun Navy” who rescued more people than FEMA did… Did you here where some idiot guy in the state legislature wants to make the Cajun Navy pay a fee to help people…so they ‘look’ more legit??

    • Hi Encourager, “guy in the state legislature wants to make the Cajun Navy pay a fee to help people”

      I did see that, and am still unsure what exactly is going on. He was apparently a Republican state Rep, and claims his proposal was to officially authorize rescuers to enter areas in which they do not live. My understanding is that civilians can be barred access to areas during an emergency in order to prevent looting, and the registration would allow civilians into prohibited areas to help people.

      I have no idea what the truth of the matter is. That’s just what I read.

  12. Thomas The Tinker says:

    It doesn’t take a major calamity to clean out the shelves in America. We nominate the right/wrong candidate to office and with in 10 mins of opening you can not find common ammunition. Elect the right/wrong soul to office and the shelves have remained bare for months.

    In Toledo, Ohio. the City Fathers announced a city water shutdown due to an Micro-citin blum in lake Erie late on a Friday evening. Before the sun came up you had to drive as far as Columbus, Cleveland to find a one case limit of bottled water.

    Eh… anecdotal… folks need so very little to act badly with no thought of anything but the moment. We have heard all this over and over……….

    End Of Choir Loft Homely……………….

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      I live in Oregon, just to the East of Toledo and we had good water all through the event.

      And you know what, I know several people (including my adult son) that to this day don’t have any reserve of water put up even after going through this water problem. People don’t learn from events like this and never will.

      We all should plan for the Zombies (the unprepared) out there.

      This is why I laugh at all the articles that say how to get family and friends to prep. If they don’t see the need by now, they never will.

      And talking about prepping only tells them where to come to find food, protection and supplies. They will NEVER understand the need to prep and provide for themselves.

      Most of us have had someone say to us “If anything ever happens, I know where I’m coming to.”

      • Thomas The Tinker says:

        Yepper Chuck… two days into it we spoke with the lady at Cludias on Secor and she told us about the Oregon system. We took our spare Aquatainers to the Kroger on Navarre just to see how it would work. They don’t fit very well. We store just under two months of ‘one gallon a day’… never had a hiccup that week.

      • Redi-n-waiting says:


        Is Stu Millers BBQ still there???? Somewhere around 2nd and Butler Ridge. He owes me a desert….LMAO!!

    • Hi TTT, “you can not find common ammunition”. That brings up an interesting issue: it has become obvious over the last several years that in bad times the common ammo is hard or impossible to get precisely because everyone wants it.

      That suggests that we should have a pretty deep “pantry”, so to speak, but it also suggests that those concerned about long term events should consider having at least some guns or adapters capable of firing less common calibers which could be in better supply. Just look at what remains on the gun store shelves for guidance.

      • Thomas The Tinker says:

        BINGO PENROD!!! Our ammo dump is full. Our adaptor collection could be wider/deeper… but then… the ammo dump is full. I keep all of mine in the 20ga. to fit range and I pick up single 20s now and again at the shows cause.. I can.

  13. Chuck Findlay says:

    Are any of us prepared for the loss of the grid? Probably not, lots of suffering and loss of life will be abound.

    I would like to think I can live without the grid, and I can for a while. But at some point stored food runs out and that will cause massive suffering even among those of us that are stocking up on preps and food.

    Plus when people loose their normal way of life, they are REALLY going to loose it mentally and go crazy, get aggressive and be willing to do anything for food. Who knows if any of us will survive this?

    • Thomas The Tinker says:

      Chuck… that last line is the qualifier behind any of our preps and plans. We have what we hope will suffice.. for as long as we hope ‘it’ will.. in the hope we can make something outta life when the world quiets down.. or the world as we ‘want’ it returns.

      Everything we do is a CrapShoot!

    • Rebecca said it best: Adaptability, Skills, Knowledge, then Water, Food and Shelter. You are so right that many do not have the ability to transition away from a very soft life. I also know that people are stronger than they think they are (usually).
      I will pamphlet people to make an alliance with. Gas station owners (gas bails needed) , livestock owners, grain elevators owners, small grocery store owners, etc. I want to look much better first. When the livestock owners herd is culled I want to have thousands of canning jars, not hundreds. A pump to pressurize a water system. More small livestock, etc. Will keep you posted. I may be trying to ” herd cats”.

  14. Truck driving is a hard job. My 60 yo sister drives for a company along the East coast. She says that if she has a fender bender, the cost comes out of her pay check. I have never heard of that. Is that legal, do you think?
    After Katrina, there was shipping issues and we were not even in the area directly affected.

    • Almost There says:

      And lets not forget about the gas shortage we had for a very long time in the fall of 2008 when there was hardly any gas to be found, and at upwards of $5.00 a gallon in the Southeast (and maybe other places that it’s not normally that high). When gas goes up and is in short supply that also means no trucks are running and if they are, the price of things also goes up. Trucks keep America going. Without them, things will come to a screeching halt.

  15. I’m going to ask the library to buy Alice Friedmann’s book. It would make a nice companion to the book I’m reading now, Ted Koppel’s “Lights Out.” He’s not the most scintillating writer, but there’s good, solid information in the book.

    • I agree, Bonnie. I wish a lot of people would read Koppel’s book, and take heed. I guess I won’t hold my breath, though.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!