Scattered Protests Bring Attention to High Fuel Prices
April 01, 2008
Despite quite a bit of media coverage of an independent trucker shutdown to protest high diesel prices planned for April 1, there were only scattered reports of protests across the nation Tuesday.
Some examples from published reports:
• According to the Lancaster (Pa.) Intelligencer Journal, "hundreds of truckers circled the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday afternoon, blaring their horns in protest and calling on Gov. Ed Rendell to eliminate Pennsylvania's diesel-fuel tax of 38.1 cents per gallon - the highest in the nation."
• On the New Jersey Turnpike, about 200 people took part in a protest at a service area in the northern part of the state, while truckers reportedly were driving at slow speeds and disrupting traffic.
• By midday, the Bradenton Herald
reported that about 70 big rigs lined up in a protest outside the Port of Tampa.
• In Georgia, about 30 trucks convoyed to the state capital with a plan to call on policymakers to cut the state's fuel tax.
• Police were handing out tickets to truckers accused of impeding traffic near Chicago.
• Some truckers put signs on their rigs saying "$4 diesel = higher food costs. Can you afford to eat?" while driving slowly enough to attract attention.
One of the truckers calling for the shutdown has been Dan Little, owner-operator of Little & Little Trucking, a livestock hauling company based in Carrollton, Mo. He received local and national media attention after he posted an open letter to fellow independent truckers on UScattlehaulers.com, a web site he set up to give trucking companies like his exposure to prospective shippers.
In the letter, he said he would shut down his trucking company at 8 a.m. April 1 and no longer accept loads at any price until the federal government puts into action a plan that will give all owner-operators some help.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association did not support calls for a shutdown.
"A strike is not the answer," OOIDA President Jim Johnston wrote in a blog entry in mid-March. "Here's why: Most small business truckers will not support a strike and will not shut down for the period of time it would take to be successful ... 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."
In addition, OOIDA notes, because owner-operators are independent businesses, any labor organizing efforts or strikes could be construed as violating federal anti-trust laws.
Instead, OOIDA is lobbying for legislation mandating fuel surcharges.
"We are repeatedly asked by the media if a strike will have an impact and so we remind them that it's not just about one day, or one week; it's about the longer term if diesel prices do not change. Truckers are consumers, too," said Norita Taylor, OOIDA media spokesperson, in an article on OOIDA's Landlinemag.com web site.
Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, said truckers need to make it known to their elected officials that they are being exploited in the current fuel situation and that action needs to be taken to change the industry.
"There is a disproportionate burden being placed on small-business owners who are truck drivers because they depend upon diesel to run their businesses," Spencer said. "If diesel is the lifeblood of ground transportation, then truckers are the heart. And many are in need of life support."
In Charleston, Bill Campbell, head of the local Port Truckers Association, said he told members of his group not to participate in any shutdown today or later this week. He told the Charleston Post & Courier,
"When we participate in something, we want it to be 100 percent known that the whole nation is doing it and not just a certain area." Campbell said his group is planning a larger shutdown later this year to protest the inability of independent trucker to organize and negotiate diesel fuel surcharges.