Bottom Line
It’s Your Business
Shutdown not all that simple

Donna Ryun
OOIDA Information Services

By far, the most frequent question in my mailbox the past few months has been about whether truckers should go on strike. With rates not keeping pace with high fuel prices and inflation, more and more truckers are hurting and looking for ways to keep their heads above water.

Here are a few excerpts from the letters I’ve received:

  • “When are you going to call for a strike?”
  • “Why don’t you tell everybody to shut down?”
  • “Are the rumors true? Are we going to strike?”
  • “Wouldn’t a shutdown lower fuel prices?”
  • “Why can’t we strike for higher rates?”

And more concerns ...

  • “I can’t afford to shut down if you call for a strike.”
  • “I’m doing fine ... why would I want to shut down?”
  • “I don’t think a strike is the answer.”
  • “I’d lose my truck if I shut it down.”
  • “Nobody will stick together long enough to do any good.”

While I’d like to be able to tell everyone the things they want to hear, I believe it’s more important to be honest and tell it like it is. A strike is not the answer. Here’s why:

While there is no question that strikes have been effective in specific situations throughout history, it has been our experience that most truckers will not support a strike and will not shut down for the period of time it would take to be successful.

Many company drivers will not shut down because of the fear of losing their jobs, or they simply cannot shut down because of the economic devastation that would result. 

Many small-business truckers will not shut down because they are actually doing quite well in the niche they have found for themselves, or they cannot shut down because they haven’t found that niche and a strike would put them out of business.

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 truckers who choose to participate in the shutdown with no real gains to justify their sacrifice.

Why won’t truckers stick together long enough to get something done? I alluded to one possible reason earlier; however, the answer to that question lies somewhere within the independent nature of a truck driver and the outside influences that affect his or her business.

Many truckers have compensated for high fuel prices by requiring a fuel surcharge to help them make it through fuel price spikes, while many other truckers haven’t even asked for one. Many truckers have saved up enough money to help them ride through the tough times, while many others have no savings and have accumulated substantial debts. 

Many truckers live and run in areas of the country that are more affected by higher fuel prices, while others are in regions that are less affected. Many truckers have found a niche and are achieving success with their businesses, while many are barely able to break even.

In addition to the difficult task of convincing a majority of truck drivers to agree to a shutdown, there’s another important aspect that prevents OOIDA from calling for such an action. We can’t legally do it.

While legally chartered unions – made up of employee members for the purpose of collective bargaining – are allowed to call for such work actions, the makeup of our association is such that we are legally prohibited from collectively setting rates or organizing strikes and boycotts. 

Doing so would be a violation of antitrust laws, and the result would be placing the association’s existence in jeopardy, which is something we aren’t willing to do.

There is some good news, however. While we can’t, in good conscious, ask our members to make sacrifices without a reasonable expectation of achieving the desired results, there are other options.

As I’m writing this, there is no mandatory fuel surcharge legislation in place that would give small-business truckers relief from high fuel prices. Although OOIDA has worked for a fuel surcharge law, we’ve been unsuccessful in our efforts to convince lawmakers that passage of this legislation is necessary to help small trucking businesses to survive. 

Many lawmakers are fearful that voting for a mandatory fuel surcharge law is akin to re-regulation. Because many brokers and other large companies like things the way they are and are willing to contribute large sums of money to campaign funds in order to keep them that way, it is an uphill battle to convince legislators otherwise. We won’t give up, but it will take your grass-roots efforts to get this job done.

Organization is the key. Lawmakers are much more likely to respond positively to an organized effort than to threats of a strike. We’ve all heard that truck drivers just won’t stick together; however, many will – and more are doing just that every day. Although truckers don’t always agree with each other on every issue, more than 116,000 men and women have chosen to join OOIDA to demonstrate that they can stick together to fight to improve their working conditions. 

As our membership continues to grow, so too will our strength and resources along with our ability to more effectively represent small-business truckers.

Meanwhile, our other initiatives become even more important. We’ve long said that the problem is not as much with the price of diesel as it is with the rate of compensation that assures truckers can keep up with rising costs of fuel. Refuse to haul cheap freight and encourage others to refuse as well. Ask for a fuel surcharge, and insist that the terms be included in your contract. If you are hauling for a carrier that keeps all or a portion of any fuel surcharges that are collected, insist that they be passed through to you as the cost bearer, and find another carrier if they refuse to comply. Run compliant and encourage others to do the same.

Truckers should stay informed by reading Land Line Magazine and visiting our Web sites at ooida.com and landlinemag.com. Doing so can help provide you with the information you need to ensure that your business is run as efficiently as possible to enable you to keep ahead in the game.

What makes more economic sense? Losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars sitting at home – or investing in your future through representation?

If you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent driver, please e-mail them to donna_ryun@ooida.com or send them to me at PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can’t publish all of your questions in Land Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition