** Still scattered reports of striking truckers, but mostly this has fizzled out. Updates have been moved to the bottom of the post **
Lots of rumors, little facts. It’s been talked about all over the news, the internet, and the blogosphere, that a trucker strike is imminent, either April 1st or April 3rd. From the news article linked above:
During the last two weeks, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade association based in Missouri that represents roughly 161,000 truckers nationwide, has fielded increased calls from drivers with questions about the strike, said Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman. Threats of strikes among independent truckers are relatively common but usually twist in the wind and fail to materialize, Taylor said.
This strike appears to have progressed beyond the usual scuttlebutt.
“I have answered a record number of calls this week,” Taylor said. “But with so much rumor, it’s difficult to pinpoint who is going to participate. I’ve talked to a lot of members who don’t plan to participate.”
What striking trucker’s hope to gain varies, but the common complaint is the spiraling costs of diesel fuel, which has spiked to $4 a gallon in some parts of the country. Truckers who drive as part of company fleets have all their fuel costs covered by their employer, but independent drivers get reimbursed for their gas costs through a fuel surcharge. The terms of those surcharge programs vary across the companies and do a poor job of covering sudden spikes in fuel rates, Pennland said.
Via Don Surber, also linked above:
But Ickes also reported: “Jim Johnston, president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, warned that a strike ‘is not the answer,’ saying, ‘Calling for a strike without the support of the majority would show weakness rather than strength, and the result would be increased economic hardship to the small percentage of truckers who do participate in the shutdown with no gains to justify their sacrifice’.”
But the truckers have their complaints. Besides the fuel costs, the credit crunch is putting pressure on insurance companies to increase their premiums. Bad credit makes a trucker a higher risk for insurers.
While I am sympathetic, I like America’s system of paying for the roads with fuel taxes. A truck strike was tried a few times in the 1970s to poor results. It will be interesting to see if in this time of cable news networks and their 24-hour hole if striking truckers works this time around.
I was also swamped with notifications from concerned logistics providers warning of this possible strike, mentioning April 1st and the possibility that it could last up to 3 days. However, as all the reports have indicated, only independent truckers are considering the strike, the Teamsters are not involved. I’m not really sure what to expect, I think coordinating a massive strike amongst all the independent truckers and drivers is a steep hill to climb. They will need to get a large majority of participation for this to be effective. While I’m sympathetic to their cause and will admit to not having a deep knowledge of the owner-operator trucking world, it’s really up to them to enforce their own fuel surcharges to cover increasing fuel costs. In the hyper-competitive trucking industry that may be difficult to do but I know several owner operators who run things pretty tight and strict and won’t work with outfits who try to stiff or short them when it comes to fuel surcharge increases. However, I doubt the majority is so skillful (or lucky?) in ensuring they get their proper share of fuel surcharges from the trucking companies / brokers that they work with.
Update: Per reader comments it’s a 3-day strike from April 1-3.
March 31st Update: Some news accounts are quoting doubts over how effective the strike will be:
“You’re not going to get everybody to cooperate and do it,” says Lloyd Peterson, a trucker. “You can’t get two truckers to agree on anything.”
Peterson has been a trucker for 40 years and says he’s not surprised most of the truckers 6 News spoke with Monday say they aren’t planning to park their trucks.
“We cannot afford to shutdown,” says Jerry Luneke, safety director for Dark Star Transportation.
The truckers rumored to be shutting down are independent ones. The group U.S. Cattle Haulers is also calling for truckers to shutdown.
However, the Tennessee Truckers Association says it strongly disagrees with the shutdown predicting it is not going to do any good.
And the Arkansas Trucking Association doesn’t support it, either.
April 1st Update: 08:13am PST: Today’s supposedly the big day. I am waiting for a couple of my contacts here on the West Coast to let me know if they’ve seen any effect of the strike or heard anything.
In the meantime there are reports that trucks are lined up at the port of Tampa in support of the strike. In Denver they reported from a truck stop that there is support for the strike but no news of any idle trucks.
April 1: 09:38am PST: One of the local trucking companies I know claims all their drivers (all of them owner-operators) showed up for work. I was bluntly told “our drivers can’t afford NOT to work.” They must treat their drivers well because most of them have been working for them for a long time. I also heard back from a couple of other contacts in the industry who said they have not seen anything substantial yet.
April 1: 12:34pm PST: According to this article there are reports that truckers are driving 20mph southbound on the NJ Turnpike while others protested at a nearby service area. The words I am seeing in most news reports are “scattered strikes” across the country.
April 1: 2:36pm PST: Three drivers in the Chicago area ticketed for blocking lanes on the interstate and slowing down traffic. The Dayton Daily News proclaims the strike a “hit or miss proposition”. So far I’m not seeing any nationwide effect, only isolated pockets of participation in the strike.
April 2: 08:01am PST: I didn’t update this post further last night because, frankly, there wasn’t much to report. I’m sorry guys, but this “strike” just doesn’t seem to have much legs to it. There have been a few scattered reports of truckers slowing things down and a handful here and there parking their trucks, but overall I’d have to call it a failure unless today and tomorrow a large number of drivers suddenly decide to participate. The effort seems fractured and scattered without any kind of hard organization. One other thing: From a couple of news reports I saw, as a driver you aren’t supporting “the strike” simply by saying so and then getting back up in your truck and leaving. I had to shake my head at one reporter who was talking to drivers at a truck stop, many who were all too willing to go on and on about the woes of being a truck driver and how they “support their fellow drivers” – as they sit there filling up their tanks, eventually hopping into the cab and driving off. Huh?
But the drivers in Tampa are back today protesting across from the Port and claim their numbers are greater than yesterday. The El Paso Times seems to have a good handle on things and quotes one driver as saying he’ll strike on Thursday but other than that most truckers are going about their daily business.
Anyways, we’ll keep checking the news for updates, perhaps as the day progresses things will change and more drivers will park their trucks, but so far it’s not looking like much of a nationwide effort.
Update: April 3rd: Some truckers went on strike in Savannah. This news article reports that port traffic was down 50%. There is also a report that truckers are striking in Southeastern Iowa as well. Haven’t heard about anything else, for the most part this thing has fizzled, although some truckers claim the strike is gaining legs and will last longer.