The government weakened the strike somewhat by agreeing to some demands late Wednesday. Members of two unions returned to work, although one insisted the strike was simply suspended, and the other said it continued to dispute points. The Brazilian Truckers Union did not attend the negotiations and vowed to continue the strike.
In Rio de Janeiro and surrounding cities, gasoline socks were 30% below normal and some stations ran out of fuel. Early Thursday, a court in Rio ordered that tanker trucks be allowed to take on fuel at a refinery in the city, and loaded trucks were escorted by police.
The city’s wholesale produce distribution center also reported supply down by about 30%.
Hundreds of trucks are parked on the shoulder of Rio’s main north-south highway and at gas stations across the country. Striking truckers reportedly have broken windshields and flattened tires on the trucks of drivers not participating in the strike.
In addition to lower highway tolls, the striking truckers want a retirement plan, tax breaks on new trucks, a freight shipping rate scale and a revision of the point system for traffic fines.
The government offered to eliminate tolls for a week and create a “toll voucher” that theoretically will be paid by shippers. This was enough to get truckers in northeastern Brazil back to work, but the strike continues in the southern part of the country.
Government officials called an emergency meeting Thursday and said it would fine truckers who are blocking roads, because they had been threatening to cut fuel supplies to Sao Paulo and Rio.
The number of truckers on strike has been in debate. The government said only 10% to 15% of the country’s 1.5 million truckers were on strike, but union leaders said it was closer to 50%.