As diesel prices surpass $4 per gallon at many pumps nationwide, truckers are trying to publicize their pain through convoys, complaints and shutdowns.
Many of the nation’s media outlets reported of a possible trucker strike starting April 1, though there was no apparent organization to coordinate it and no specific goal that is widely agreed upon. A statement from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says the group is legally prevented from calling a shutdown, but that it will support its members in whatever position they take.
There has been chatter on the Internet and CB radios about truckers shutting down April 1, but other dates in April have been cited as well, perhaps to avoid association with April Fools’ Day.
Truckers drove around the state Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., March 31, honking their horns, in a protest organized by Myerstown owner-operator Mark Kirsch, leased to Rose Transportation of Pitcairn. Kirsch said he began organizing after the price of diesel increased 75 cents in two weeks.
“There’s no reason for an oil company to make $100 billion a quarter,” Kirsch said. Exxon reported a 2007 profit of $40 billion on revenues of $404 billion, which the Toronto Star calls “the biggest annual profit in the history of capitalism.” In the past five years, the total value of Exxon stock has doubled, to $500 billion.
Kirsch isn’t surprised that truckers are talking about a shutdown. “It’s inevitable because nothing else will work,” he said. He invites truckers to contact him via e-mail.
Dennis Breeden, owner of the family-run JT Express of Washington, Ind., is planning a similar convoy to downtown Indianapolis April 18 or April 25 “to get the media’s attention on our plight.”
Truckers News magazine selected the Breedens as its 2004 Great American Trucking Family. “We are like a lot of small carriers and owner-operators who are faced with the possibility of closing our doors because of high fuel prices and low rates,” Breeden said.
Breeden has met with U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., on the issue and urges other truckers to contact their representatives on Capitol Hill as well.
Updates on Breeden’s convoy, which will begin in Cloverdale, will be posted under the “News” link at his company website, http://jtexpresstrucking.com. “We will have the Indiana State Police helping us to keep this as orderly as possible,” the website says. “We do not want any negative or unprofessional actions. That would only further degrade our image to the public.” Like Kirsch, Breeden invites truckers to e-mail him.
OOIDA is asking truckers to contact senators and members of Congress to support a bill that would require a mandatory pass-through to truckers of fuel surcharges and full disclosure of surcharge information by everyone involved, including brokers.
“We have been telling members it’s important to know for sure what it costs them to drive per mile,” said OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor. “Say no to cheap freight.”
Those who advocate strikes and shutdowns should remember that the widespread trucker strikes of the 1970s had no effect on diesel prices, said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.
“They did result in the temporary implementation of a mandatory fuel surcharge; however, we wouldn’t see that same result today,” he said. “In the ’70s, the Interstate Commerce Commission was still in place, and rates were regulated. They are not regulated today, and there is no government agency that could simply institute a rate increase or surcharge.”
On March 17, about 30 truckers reportedly parked their vehicles in Thomaston, Ga., to protest fuel costs.