Virginia port drivers to form coalition

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 4/28/2008

Dozens of Virginia port drivers attended a meeting on Saturday, April 26, in Norfolk to discuss forming a coalition to ensure the enforcement of federal truth-in-leasing regulations.

Attendees agreed to incorporate and form the nonprofit Owner-Operator Coalition of Virginia in order to work through legislative and regulatory processes for more transparency in trucking contracts.

Also attending the meeting were Jim Stewart of the Teamsters Union’s port division, and Yvonne Miller, Virginia State senator and chair of the state’s transportation committee. Both were supportive of the truckers’ cause.

A local attorney has agreed to work pro bono with the new coalition as well.

In fall 2007, OOIDA helped 5,000 owner-operators leased to Bridge Terminal Transport obtain a $6.25 million settlement after the Association filed a civil lawsuit claiming BTT signed drivers to leases with no compensation terms. BTT’s Web site states that the company is the largest marine container hauler in the U.S.

An estimated 6,000 port drivers move containers daily at the ports of Norfolk, Newport News and Portsmouth, VA. The drivers often spend hours of their workdays waiting in line to pick up or deliver containers, costing them money and driving up greenhouse gas emissions.

The drivers often aren’t shown the true price of the freight, of which they’re paid a percentage, according to Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, who attended the meeting.

Drivers shared their thoughts, and Rajkovacz said he encouraged them to stand up for their rights.

“It was a fantastic meeting,” Rajkovacz said. “It was really a wonderful experience to see drivers coming together and thoughtfully becoming part of a solution to problems instead of just bitching and moaning on the CB. I think this group is likely going to be very successful in achieving some of their goals.”

Rajkovacz said a driver in his mid-60s who attended the weekend meeting with his wife approached him to talk about the BTT settlement.

“He was so appreciative,” Rajkovacz told Land Line. “He just could not believe someone was out there fighting to protect his rights.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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