Fuel protests planned across the country as frustrations rise

| 3/31/2008

As diesel continues to cost in the neighborhood of $4 per gallon, truckers are making their frustration known in state capitals and across the country.

On Monday, March 31, truckers in Pennsylvania drove bobtail tractors to the Capitol in Harrisburg to raise awareness about the fuel crisis.

On Tuesday, April 1, cattle hauler Dan Little of Carrollton, MO, will find out how many drivers are answering his call for a nationwide shutdown.

Also on Tuesday, about 250 drivers in Georgia plan to form a convoy from Macon to Atlanta, according to media reports. The Georgia truckers include log hauler Sheila Walker, who was quoted in a New York Times article as having said that the shutdown in her state would last at least three days.

“I’ve got plenty of backbone, and I’m not scared. I’m not backing down,” Walker told the New York Times. “I can’t make my living when fuel prices have doubled since 2006 but the pay at the mills has not gone up.”

Walker has been running Walker Trucking since her husband died of a heart attack in 2004. She said that three of her paychecks in recent months were less than her fuel bills during those periods.

The same New York Times report that quoted Walker also included information from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“Every 5-cent increase in fuel prices increases a trucker’s annual expenses by about $1,000, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which (has) asked Congress to help drivers collect more fuel surcharges,” stated the New York Times news story.

Getting that kind of information out to mainstream media, the general public and lawmakers is something that staff at OOIDA have been working on for weeks.

In addition to raising public awareness about the difficulties truckers currently face, OOIDA leaders and staff are also fielding dozens of media inquiries every day about whether drivers will strike. The media also want to know what impact a strike would have on the price of diesel and the prices of the products that are delivered by trucks, which are fueled with that diesel.

“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.

OOIDA leaders say that while the Association cannot legally support a strike, it can and does support individual truckers. The Association also encourages individual truckers to contact their lawmakers now about the fuel situation.

“We do not tell our members what to do; instead, they inform us of what they ARE doing and we support their decisions,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

Spencer said that 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.

“Lawmakers need to know what’s going on in trucking, how devastating this record hike in fuel prices is for 90 percent of the nation’s fleet,” added Spencer.

“There is a disproportionate burden being placed on small-business owners who are truck drivers because they depend upon diesel to run their businesses. If diesel is the lifeblood of ground transportation, then truckers are the heart. And many are in need of life support.”

OOIDA would like Congress to enact legislation mandating 100 percent pass-through of fuel surcharges and full transparency in those transactions.

– By Coral Beach, staff editor