Washington log truckers stage fuel-surcharge protest

| 8/12/2005

Just as hundreds of truckers began converging on Southern Florida on Wednesday Aug. 10, a second protest broke out in the state of Washington as independent drivers parked their rigs in opposition to astronomical fuel prices and a miniscule fuel surcharge.

More than 120 log truckers parked their trucks and continued through today, Friday, Aug. 12, to protest the three major timber companies in the area. The companies – Weyerhaeuser, Rayonier and Sierra Pacific – pay too small a percentage for a fuel surcharge, said Rick Smith, president of the Twin Harbors Division of the Northwest Log Truckers’ Cooperative.

Smith said the protesting truckers – about 60 to 70 who parked their rigs in Aberdeen and 50 to 60 who parked in Lewis County – are asking for their fuel surcharge to be increased to an amount equal to 20 percent to 23 percent of their freight rates. The companies are currently paying them a fuel surcharge equal to 9 percent to 13 percent of the freight rate.

“It’s not a rate increase,” Smith told Land Line. “That’s just a fuel surcharge increase to help us pay for our fuel.”

Smith said the protesters, who were organized and educated by his organization, would not return to work until their demand for an adequate surcharge was met. He estimated that about 80 percent of the drivers involved in the protest are owner-operators.

“When they get up to where we can get back to work, we’re going back to work,” Smith said. “None of us want to be here – trust me. We’ve got families to take care of and bills to pay. It’s just time to say enough’s enough, and until we get what we want, we’re just going to have to sit out.”

Coincidentally, the Washington protest occurred on the same day as a larger protest in South Florida, where more than 600 trucks convoyed to the Miami City Hall to ask the state legislature to pass a mandatory fuel surcharge.

However, Smith said his organization wasn’t even aware of the other protest happening.

“That’s kind of ironic, but no, I hadn’t even heard of that,” Smith said. “We’ve been so busy doing what we’re doing, most of us haven’t seen a TV for two days.”

The lack of a decent fuel surcharge percentage has put many truckers in the area out of business, Smith said.

“We’ve tried to make it by borrowing this and borrowing that to keep going,” Smith said. “We’re at the point where the co-op has educated us enough to be businessmen, and we don’t want to drag community people we do business with down with us.”

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer