Angry Belgian truckers parked their rigs on key arteries in the heart of Brussels today, threatening to block fuel depots as part of a campaign demanding lower fuel prices.
Truckers and farmers have demanded a "professional fuel price" from transport officials, who will be attending a meeting with Belgian government officials later today.
According to the Agence France Press, scores of long-haul trucks have been standing still on key highways around and through the capital all night long. Some even slept in their trucks after talks with transport officials concluded.
Marcel Delsemme, general secretary of the Professional Union of Highway Transporters, said Ecology and Transport Minister Isabelle Durant assured truckers' representatives she would meet with them on the diesel price question.
"We have been negotiating with the entire sector since June to find structural solutions to the problems,” said Durant. “The price of fuel is only one aspect of the problem. The blockade is the result of action by a federation that represents only 10 percent of the sector.”
Belgium's five highway transport federations are planning to participate in today’s meeting, but the UPTR, which speaks for the small trucking companies of southern Belgium, was the most adamant in maintaining the pressure.
The owners of Belgian haulage companies are calling on the government to enact emergency measures to compensate them for rising diesel prices.
The UPTR is demanding an excise tax reduction of 1.87 Belgian francs, or 4 US cents, out of 11.7 Belgian francs per liter taxes on diesel fuel.
Meanwhile, British protestors threaten to upset celebrations due to be attended by the Prime Minister to mark John Prescott's 30th anniversary as an MP, according to the Press Association.
British Haulers United spokesperson Nigel Kime said his group plans to disrupt major road junctions throughout the country with a protest for tonight's rush hour on the M62 and M1 to and from Leeds. Trucks will drive slowly along the roadways, disrupting traffic.
"We plan to affect major roads and are making sure all the areas where the fuel is are targeted," said Kime.
In Australia, the Transport Worker's Union is threatening to shut down Western Australia if demands for relief for its members are not met. The TWU is preparing for negotiations with industry representatives to increase rates for owner-operators.
According to Associated Press reports, Glenn Sterle, Assistant Secretary to the TWU, said rising costs were forcing truckers into dangerous practices to stay in business, If the efforts of the union members fail, he said they would shut down fuel depots, airports and wharves.
In response, Western Australia Transport Minister Murray Criddle said the government was fully aware of the problems facing the industry and that a protest was not the answer.