Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A bump on the road of life

I'm driving the Interstate outside Hartford along a stretch where the highway exits the rolling hills of Northeast Connecticut and enters the flood plain of the Connecticut River.

I'm driving the Interstate outside Hartford along a stretch where the highway exits the rolling hills of Northeast Connecticut and enters the flood plain of the Connecticut River. The original concept and design of Interstate highways was to make it easier to logistically move defense forces in the Cold War years. Now it’s to move private and commercial road traffic efficiently. As a result site lines have to be long, grades slight and curves gradual.

In this section of the three-lane highway an intersection approach ramp from a suburban community is straight, flat, and gradual, such that vehicles entering can build up to posted speed limits quickly.

A relatively straight roadway ahead of the intersection allows highway drivers a good view of entering traffic, a plus during morning rush hour. I'm cruising the middle lane at my usual 5-7 miles over the speed limit. Ahead of me I see a pickup truck, with a fifth wheel in the bed, pulling a car hauler trailer, one of those wedge shaped trailers that can hold three cars. The driver has the rig up to and over the speed limit as he enters the highway, and he shifts to the center lane, accelerating past my cruising speed.

The highway a few miles on spreads to five or more lanes with left and right exits as it enters the city environs, so traffic is getting heavier as vehicles jockey to find their exits. The traffic is still holding at slightly above the speed limit as it's the end of the rush hour. Suddenly the truck shifts lanes and its trailer starts to wiggle, just a little and then a lot as the wheels seem to have lost contact with the road surface. The wiggle becomes a wobble and then an oscillation with the tail end crossing the lane lines coming dangerously close to the vehicles being passed.

I'm 50 feet behind and already touching the brakes to warn those behind me that a sudden stop may be coming. At this point the honking of horns alerts the truck driver that all is not OK and he slows to try to stabilize the trailer's weaving, just a millisecond too late as the end of the trailer makes contact with an SUV on the left and a another on the right, causing their drivers to veer slightly into trailing traffic.

I'm like in suspended animation, observing all of what appears in slow motion, slow enough that each event in what appears to be a minor fender bender accident unfolds slowly in front of me. I'm far enough back to safely slow and shift lanes, a necessary action because I am at my exit anyway.

I exit the Interstate and ramp back over it with a clear view of the highway for at least a half mile. I can't believe it: not a brake light can be seen, no vehicles seem to be pulling over, and the truck is long gone. There has to be a least two SUVs with body damage, but I can't see them.

So what happens when their drivers finally see the dents and scratches? Did they not feel the trailer contact? I'm certain the contact was solid enough to wrinkle sheet metal as I saw their vehicles change direction slightly. It's one of those events that leave you wishing for a conclusion that never happens.

Big long narrative to make a point about actions that occur beyond your control with results that are never explained to your satisfaction. At this point in time I am beginning to prepare my annual review of the industrial laser market. It's mostly an information gathering and resource tapping process now with significant time to ponder observations.

The news in the manufacturing world is mixed, good and bad, but what concerns is the suddenness of the shifts. In one day I can be up one moment and down in another. And the shifts are not minor. For example, Ford adds another shift at one plant affecting a few hundred workers and in Russian more than 20,000 auto workers will be let go.

You may have noticed that I have dropped the ubiquitous DABoMeter Recession Gauge which graced these blogs weeks ago. The most compelling and pleasant reason being the almost constant good news outweighing the bad over the past few months. The lesser reason being when the recession was announced as officially over it didn't seem to engender much interest among readers who apparently didn't need reminding of the pain they were still feeling.

Right now the economic news is good, for the most part, even in manufacturing; most of the "train wrecks" seem to be over and we are only seeing "fender benders." One thought is that there still seems to be too many of these minor disruptions in the manufacturing community. Like my highway experience I rarely hear the outcome of each but I am left with the general impression that they will continue in the coming months and that 2010 will be a year in which some charge ahead and some will feel a bump but continue to move ahead, slightly damaged but still moving.

1 comment:

  1. DAB - one of the best, if not the best, writer I've had the pleasure of knowing in my 30+ years in the B2B market. Thanks for not only educating us, but on occasion entertaining us as you have here, Dave. JBellem