Washington log truckers make progress in fuel-surcharge strike

| 8/16/2005

A group of independent log truckers protesting in the state of Washington are beginning to see big progress in their fight for a larger fuel surcharge.

More than 120 log truckers parked their trucks on Wednesday, Aug. 10. They plan to stay parked until the four major timber companies in the area – Weyerhaeuser, Rayonier, Simpson Timber and Sierra Pacific – agree to give the truckers a larger fuel surcharge.

Rick Smith, president of the Twin Harbors Division of the Northwest Log Truckers’ Cooperative, said so far, three of the four companies – all except for Rayonier – are cooperating in negotiating a larger percentage.

“We got some increases, and we got more awareness out there with these timber companies that they can’t take advantage of us anymore,” Smith said. “And that’s what we were after.”

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 a larger fuel surcharge. The truckers want 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 began on the same day as a 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