Washington truckers, businesses plan fuel boycott

| 4/9/2008

As fuel prices continue to rise, truckers have been tuned into the fact that high diesel prices will not only hurt their businesses, but will also affect consumers’ ability to afford the goods they take to stores.

While mainstream media is picking up on this issue, a fuel boycott scheduled for Friday, April 11, in Chehalis, WA, organized by Sherrie and Bob Bond of Bond Trucking, plan to bring together everyone from a wide spectrum to protest record-high fuel prices.

“We are doing this because all of us are being impacted by high fuel prices and we want to bring it to public light that it’s not just one type of business – the trucking business – that’s being hurt. It’s everyone,” Sherrie Bond told Land Line on Tuesday, April 8. “We are doing this to bring national attention to the fact that independent truckers are being put out of business by the price of diesel.”

Sherrie and her husband, Bob, spent the entire day on Tuesday passing out fliers and talking to people about the boycott. She said as many as 300 people are planning to attend. As of Tuesday, she said the responses they have received have been positive.

The boycott is scheduled to begin in the predawn hours Friday at Exit 72, west of Interstate 5. Sherrie said participants plan to gather at an overflow parking lot that the local frozen food plant in Chehalis uses for their trucks during harvest. She said they purposefully didn’t have the boycott at a fuel stop because it’s not directed at their local distributors, but to gain national attention on the fuel issue.

“We’ve got people that will be there (including) a local lady who has a mobile expresso stand. She’s going to be there because she’s having to raise the price of her expresso drinks,” Sherrie said.

“There is a wide span of people that are being impacted; even the septic tank company is going to be there.”

Local municipalities, local schools that have school buses, and the local fire department have been invited to participate in the boycott because their budgets have all “gone out of whack with diesel prices,” she said.

“This is something that impacts everyone and we are trying to get the public to realize that families on fixed incomes or the elderly and all kinds of people are being impacted by this as far as the groceries go,” Sherrie said. “It’s a trickle-down thing, and most people don’t realize that if you got it a truck brought it.”

The Bonds have a log-hauling company with five trucks. They, too, are feeling the squeeze of high fuel prices and low-paying loads.

“We are in timber country out here, and so we’ve got a lot of loggers in this area. To run their equipment in the woods is just killing them as much as it’s killing the log haulers,” she said.

Earlier this week the Bonds were offered a haul from Longview, WA, to Riddle, OR, which is about 8 miles from the southern border of Oregon. It was going to pay $1,000 for the trip; however, fuel was going to cost them more than $800.

“We can’t pay the driver, can’t pay our taxes, can’t maintain on that amount. It’s incredible,” she said. “There’s no way to take all of the things out of the $200 that would be left over. It just doesn’t work.”

She said log haulers are affected doubly because they have not received a raise in hauling compensation since deregulation more than 20 years ago.

“So we are working on 20-year-old wages and 2008 fuel prices, which is a killer,” she said. “If we were charging using the formula that we use for fuel surcharge, right now we would have to be getting a 58 to 60 percent fuel surcharge. And you can’t ding people for that much. There’s a limit to what they can pay you for a surcharge.”

The Bonds have been working with the Washington State Legislature to get laws on the books to allow log haulers to negotiate directly with timber owners for their hauling fees.

“Right now, this is archaic, but what we receive for hauling fees is what the loggers have negotiated with the timber companies. So we have a middleman in there that shouldn’t be there, but because of anti-trust risk we can’t go directly to the timber companies and say this is what we need,” she said. “Right now, we can’t go to the loggers and say here’s my cost and here’s what I need to be able to do this for you in a cost-effective way and in a reliable professional manner without the threat of anti-trust suit.”

She said this was their third year to go to their legislature with proposals to try to get legislation passed that would allow log truckers to set their own fees without that threat. The session was only 60 days this year, and she said they were at the capital almost every day for those 60 days lobbying for this legislation.

“We got a bill in the hopper – HB3307 - The Log Trucker’s Act. It went to the finance committee for public hearing, we passed through the finance committee, got it back in the hands of the house and ran out of time because we were in a short session. We were kind of swimming upstream on this thing but we wanted to stay in front of the legislature, too, so they didn’t forget what our issue was.”

Sherrie said she and Bob have made some strong legislative contacts in Washington state, including both the House majority and minority leaders, who are onboard with helping them put together a bill this summer to introduce in January 2009.

“We are not asking for a handout; we’re asking for a hand,” she said. “I think that’s the way all independent truckers are. We don’t want to be on the public dole. We just want to be able to support our families and our communities and be able to do our jobs.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer