Concern growing over California’s diesel prices

| Thursday, April 29, 2004

A Teamsters official told the Long Beach Harbor Commission April 26 that rising diesel fuel costs could price port drivers out of their jobs -- this and other action came this week as the U.S. Department of Energy reported California’s diesel price at $2.247 – the highest in the nation.

Miguel Lopez, the port representative for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, asked the commission to pass a resolution that would help protect the 11,000 or so independent truckers who haul containers in and out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles each day.

He wants a panel to determine a fuel surcharge on containers. The proceeds would be passed on to truckers to offset diesel prices, which have risen by about 40 percent in the past three years. However, commission members reportedly said there’s little they can do to change the situation.

The problem has been that the surcharges – the money that businesses pay to drivers to cover their fuel expenses – are based on the national average, not on California's average, which tends to be roughly 50 cents higher. And that 50 cents per gallon has to come out of the driver's pocket.

In 1993, the California Air Resources Board mandated a California-only diesel fuel. According to an April 28 rucking industry press release, “Oil companies convinced the government that this fuel recipe would only cost 4-6 cents per gallon more than federal fuel. The prices have been significantly higher, ranging from 25-40 cents per gallon higher than the national average until April 2004.”

Strike rumors

Meanwhile, trucking companies are complaining that as oil companies report record profits, truckers are forced to buy California fuel, while companies from other states are not required to purchase California’s diesel mix.

According to the trucking company press release, many operations “are parked, and rumblings from San Diego to Oakland of a truck strike are on the street.”

In addition, independent drivers were holding signs to passing motorists on Interstate 5 that said things like "Stop Free Work" and "Fuel 2.15," according to news reports.

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