Hundreds of truckers converge for fuel surcharge protest in Florida

| 8/11/2005

Hundreds of truckers convoyed in South Florida on Wednesday, Aug. 10, to protest rising gas prices and the lack of a mandatory fuel surcharge.

The 639-truck convoy, which included tractor-trailers, dump trucks and box trucks, traveled 20 miles – including a section of the Florida Turnpike – to deliver to the Miami City Hall a petition with thousands of signatures demanding that the Florida legislature pass a fuel surcharge and mandatory 100 percent pass-through for owner-operators, the Miami Herald reported.

Mike Scott, president of Teamsters Local Union 769, told Land Line that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Longshoremen’s Association organized the rally, but non-union owner-operators and port truckers made up a large part of the demonstration.

“A little over a year ago, these truckers shut down the Port of Miami in a protest over their conditions, and were forced to go back under a gun held to their head over antitrust litigation,” Scott said. “This rally yesterday centered around the high fuel charges that the drivers are forced to pay.”

The protest came on the same day President Bush signed the Highway Bill in Illinois. The U.S. House version of the bill contained a fuel surcharge provision – legislation that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been battling in favor of for many years – but it was not included in the Senate’s version. The final version of the bill, which was decided on by a joint conference committee, did not include the surcharge.

Scott said the protest was organized after the Teamsters learned that steam ship companies were charging their customers in Asia a $40-per-container surcharge for West Coast shipments and a $135-per-container surcharge for East Coast shipments.

“They have no plans to pass that fuel surcharge on to the individuals who are actually paying for the fuel, be it the drivers or the motor carrier,” Scott said. “The goal was to bring relief to either the drivers or whomever is paying the fuel cost.”

Sandro Lerro, a trucker and Teamster, was one of the lead trucks in the convoy.

“The companies are supposed to give (the fuel surcharge) to us, because we are the ones out purchasing the fuels,” Lerro told Land Line. “Either the steam ship line is not giving it to the company, or the company is receiving it from the steam ship lines and putting it in their pockets. But it certainly is not coming to my pocket, which I need to use to purchase the fuel.”

Lerro said the lack of a fuel surcharge was putting many independent truckers out of business. He believes the convoy was a step in the right direction.

“It was extremely exciting,” Lerro said. “I was the lead truck, I was the first truck in the caravan, and to look to my rear view mirrors and see (more than 630) trucks behind me, that was something that I can not explain.”

– Aaron Ladage, staff writer