Shutdown Scheduled To Start Today
July 4, 1999
A loosely organized trucker's strike is scheduled to begin today at noon central time, but there does not appear to be a majority of truckers behind the effort.
Two Idaho brothers, Roy and Randy Powell, have been working since late last year to drum up support for the shutdown. They are demanding the removal of split speed limits in all states, the removal of lane restrictions in all states, and equal fines for traffic violations for all vehicles.
The brothers have primarily used the Internet to publicize their group, Truckers Against Discrimination, along with flyers in truckstops, and have sent letters to state governors informing them of their demands. "Stop discrimination against truckers, or truckers will stop America," reads their rallying cry on their web site at http://www.18wheels.com.
Michael Gamber of Charlotte, NC, is an owner-operator with a truck leased to Prime. He and his wife are spending the strike at home. When he and his wife told their dispatcher they were heading home for the holiday, she was insistent that they keep rolling. "It turns out that more operators at Prime have decided to do this, and as the date gets closer, more fleet managers are finding out their drivers are planning on parking or taking off, so they're getting a shortage of drivers," Gamber says.
However, there are many drivers who don't plan to strike. The Powells asked supporters to tie royal blue ribbons to their mirrors, but few such ribbons have been spotted on the nation's highways. One informal survey at a Maryland truckstop found that more than half of drivers hadn't heard of any strike, and even of those who had, many didn't know what the strike was for or who was organizing it.
Many drivers believe that the issues the Powells have raised are not worth striking for, and suggest better reasons to strike would be rates, hours of service regulations, forced lumping and other issues.
Others say because there is not a strong, established group leading the strike, the effort is doomed to failure. In fact, it is unclear to the average driver who hears about the strike on the CB or sees something on an Internet chat room exactly who is organizing the shutdown. Competing web sites have sprung up claiming credit for the shutdown, often listing totally different demands than the Powells.
Although the Powells emphasize the need for a peaceful strike, apparently there has been some talk on the CB of violence against those not striking. Some drivers are even staying home this week, not in support of the strike, but in fear it may turn ugly. The threats of violence have made others more determined than ever not to support the effort.
"I do not in any way support the strike," says Mike Lunczynski of Indianapolis. "Threats are not the answer to any of the problems our industry needs to have solved. What we need to do is keep in contact with our state representatives and get them to change the laws."
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. has announced that it does not support the strike. While it believes these causes are important, the group feels that lobbying efforts, such as its recent successful effort in Texas, are a more effective way to get changes made.
After the strike, the organizers say they plan to draft a charter for the Truckers Against Discrimination organization and make it "a voice for truck drivers nationwide."