Mainstream wakes up to truckers’ plight

| 4/2/2008

Some independent truckers joined in scattered shutdowns nationwide April 1, as others joined in convoys and slowed their rigs to a crawl to protest record-high fuel prices. Still other owner-operators made the decision to keep their wheels moving at their normal pace.

Although it’s virtually impossible to count the number of owner-operators who participated in the April 1 protest, mainstream media coverage of it brought to the forefront the difficult issues truckers are facing with skyrocketing fuel costs and shrinking bottom lines.

Norita Taylor, OOIDA media spokesperson, said she received more than 140 media inquiries on April 1 and 2 from major news stations, newspapers and radio stations around the country wanting to know the Association’s position on the shutdown.

However, she said the media calls have been steadily coming in during recent weeks as wildly fluctuating fuel prices failed to stabilize. Taylor said The New York Times, USA Today and CNN News were among the major mainstream media that contacted her since Monday.

“OOIDA has really been at the mainstream media forefront on the issue of rising fuel costs and how this issue is affecting our members and all independent truckers,” she told Land Line on Wednesday. “Our position has been to support our members in whatever decision they felt was best for their businesses.”

Logging trucker Jessie Henley of Dublin, GA, told Land Line Now on Wednesday that approximately 250 trucks participated in a slow-moving convoy up Interstate 75 to Atlanta, then looped the city on Interstate 285. He said the convoy started out with about 55 trucks, but kept growing.

At one point, Henley said troopers pulled over the two lead trucks to cite them for impeding traffic. But, when the entire convoy pulled over behind them, the troopers gave up on the idea.

“Land Line Now” news reporter Reed Black also talked to OOIDA member Nicholas Rich of New York City, who said 203 owner-operators who haul television and film production equipment voted to shut down for the entire week. Rich said he and other owner-operators will meet on Friday, April 4, to decide whether to start hauling again.

The Associated Press reported on April 1 that truckers on the New Jersey Turnpike staged a short lunchtime protest by slowing to about 20 mph near Newark, “jamming traffic on one of the nation’s most heavily traveled highways.”

Near Florida’s Port of Tampa, The AP reported, more than 50 tractor-trailers rigs “sat idle as their drivers demanded that contractors pay them more to cover their fuel and other costs.”

Three truck drivers were ticketed for impeding traffic on Interstate 55, driving side-by-side at slow speeds near Chicago, according to The AP.

In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that a “sprinkling of independent truckers across the state on Tuesday joined in a loosely organized national strike to protest how much they are paying for fuel.”

Several truckers in East Texas also parked their rigs in protest, beginning at midnight Monday, according to Texas news station KLTV.

In Oregon, KATU-2 news station reported that a reaction to the shutdown “was mixed Tuesday on a loosely organized protest of steep fuel prices.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reportedlittle evidence of a trucker strike on San Diego’s highways, and said the California Highway Patrol reported “business is more or less as usual so far on Tuesday.”

Truckers in Indiana are planning to convoy to the state capitol on April 18, according to organizer Darrell Breeden of JT Express Trucking in Washington, IN. He told “Land Line Now” they are hoping to get the attention of presidential candidates who may be campaigning in the state – and keep the issue of high diesel prices before the public.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer

Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.