Diesel prices spur trucker to turn down loads, call lawmakers

| 4/7/2008

Frustrated with soaring diesel fuel prices and low freight rates, OOIDA member Matt Shelley of Rogers City, MI, shut down his truck and started making phone calls to his lawmakers this past week.

While he didn’t actually get through to any of them, Shelley said he’s not giving up on getting his voice heard.

“I can help a little by making another voice heard,” he told Land Line on April 3. “I did this for a reason, to stand up for everybody that ain’t big enough to do it.”

Shelley said he’s at his break-even point, but he knows some are a lot worse off than he is.

“I have very good friends that are losing their houses, losing their trucks, and they have nothing else to go to because trucking is all they know how to do,” he said. “Everybody around here is a truck driver, works in the woods or farms, and they’re all feeling the squeeze because of high fuel prices. They just don’t know what to do anymore.”

In the 10 minutes it took him to drive home and then head back to town for an item he forgot to pick up, Shelley said the price for a gallon of diesel went up 10 cents to $4.29.

“Who knows what it’s going to be tomorrow,” he said.

Shelley, a flatbedder, has been a truck driver since 1996. He just recently gave up his dedicated run hauling military freight after his fuel surcharge was capped at 32 cents a mile, while the cost for a gallon of fuel skyrocketed more than 72 cents during the same time period.

“I started having to call home and have money put on a debit card so I could put fuel in the truck. This is military equipment that’s going to Iraq and they are going to play games like that,” he said. “But who do you complain to – the military? They are going to have to find somebody else that wants to go broke.”

Shelley said he’s cut as many costs as he possibly can. He doesn’t have an APU on his truck and, while he could finance one, he said he’s worried about taking on another payment right now because of the economic climate.

“I try to only fire the truck up when I’m so cold and can’t sleep,” he said. “I don’t even feel rested sometimes because I’m so cold, tired and mad, but I can’t afford the fuel to idle right now.”

Shelley said bad brokers are to blame for many of the problems in the trucking industry, which he has personally witnessed. In the past week, Shelley turned down a 48,000-pound load that was paying 80 cents a mile.

While sitting in Indianapolis last spring, Shelley said he was looking on a load board and saw a load that paid “astronomical.” By the time he caught up with that load less than 10 minutes later – and after it moved through four brokers – the load was priced $500 less than what it started out paying.

“I could have taken the load – it was mine if I wanted it – but I told the broker they could choke on it,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with anyone making a living, but I asked one broker how he could sit there and keep taking money from men and women that are busting their butts out there to haul it and they keep pocketing it.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer