Chicago truckers considering options to oppose new fee; meeting set for mid-November

| Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A group of owner-operators in Chicago is looking into an organized effort against a new fee in the state, members of the group and other trucking sources told Land Line Oct. 28.

The group, which sprang from two meetings of mostly Hispanic truckers in the region earlier in October, met a third time Oct. 27 to discuss their options. The meetings were held after the state imposed a new Commercial Distribution Fee on trucks as high as $1,005.

The first meeting involved about 250 truckers who gathered with state officials Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Chicago suburb of Cicero to discuss Senate Bill 841. A different group, also consisting of roughly 250 truckers, met the week before that in nearby Aurora, IL. Most of the truckers at the meeting have been “crosstown truckers,” owner-operators who carry freight from one railhead to another within the Chicago metropolitan area.

Patrick Leonardi, a safety director at a local trucking firm, said many of the crosstown truckers haul containers from Bensenville, on the northern side of the area near O’Hare International Airport, to the town of Harvey, which sits on the south side of the area. The trip involves either travel on the Illinois tollway and a $3 toll one way, or potentially hours in heavy city traffic.

“The rates in crosstowns – the rate the customer gets billed – has not gone up more than $5 in 20 years,” Leonardi said. “They’re in the $40 range.” The trucker receives about 70 percent of that, he said, and has to take expenses out of that.

Martin Chavez, one of the owner-operators who started the meetings, confirmed that, saying the fees paid to the truckers vary from $35 to $50 for each load. And, both said, the rates have hardly increased in 20 years.

Between 80 and 150 truckers met Oct. 27, the third such gathering, which was held at a Chicago restaurant. Chavez and Greg Salgado, both of whom are involved in the meetings, said the truckers planned to meet again, but Salgado declined to comment further until the truckers’ next meeting, when they will have the opportunity to discuss what their next action will be.

Two sources told Land Line earlier this month that some of the truckers were considering a protest that would have used their rigs to shut down several major highways in the Chicago area for a short time to protest the Commercial Distribution Fee. The same sources said Oct. 28 that any such protest was either on hold or canceled entirely, pending the outcome of the Nov. 16 meeting.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.