OOIDA members express frustration as diesel prices soar

| 3/12/2008

Debbie Taylor misses the road and her friends she used to run with, but said she doesn’t miss the skyrocketing prices for diesel fuel, which is averaging $4 per gallon in 11 states.

Taylor, an OOIDA member from Collinsville, AL, said after nine years of trucking, she gave up the fight and parked her truck before Christmas in 2007.

“We are headed down a dead-end road with no hope in sight,” Taylor told Land Line on Wednesday, March 12. “I didn’t and still don’t have the answer on how to deal with these high prices for fuel, so I just parked my truck and quit buying diesel fuel.”

ProMiles reported on Wednesday, March 12, that the statewide average price for diesel has topped the $4 mark in 11 states now. Five northeastern states were at the $4 or higher mark on Tuesday, March 11. The national average for diesel is at $3.81, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is up more than $1.134 compared with the price a year ago.

When Taylor parked her rig in December, she said she had planned to work as a dispatcher or broker for the company she was leased to, but those plans didn’t pan out. The company’s freight has pretty much “come to a standstill,” she said.

Several of her friends and business associates still in the trucking industry have been trying to convince her to get back on the road. But Taylor said she’s planning to sell her 1999 Freightliner Classic and has even begun the process of stripping off all the chrome she had on the outside and inside of her truck to sell to other truckers.

“I had all the bling on my truck, but now I just don’t need all of that anymore,” she said.

She said she used to run from Atlanta to Los Angeles every week a few years ago and would spend, at the most, $1,200 round-trip on fuel. Taylor said with the diesel fuel prices as high as they are right now, she would only make it out there for that.

“At that time, I was making enough money to put a couple thousand dollars back every week while driving,” she said. “Now, here we are, beating ourselves up to be gone from our families, missing out on everything they do, while we are on the road all of the time. We don’t even make enough money to pay the bills or make the necessary repairs we need done on our trucks.”

For now, Taylor said she is weighing her options on what she’s going to do now since she’s no longer trucking. She has land where she lives now and has hay fields, so she is considering starting her own hay-cutting operation, but she said that would make her business dependent on diesel fuel again.

“The world as we knew it is gone, and I don’t think it will ever come back,” she said. “Too many people will never get to see our once great county as we have in the past because no one can afford to buy the fuel it costs to drive across it.”

Cheap freight hurting owner-operators
Michelle Landry is responsible for finding loads for her husband, Jonathan, an OOIDA member and flatbedder. They live in Greene, NY, which is one of the states that was first to average diesel fuel at $4 and above.

Landry told Land Line she has a strict policy of not accepting a load that pays less than $2 per mile in order for their business to survive. This policy has worked so far, but she admits it’s been tough because other owner-operators are accepting loads for a lot less.

“I sit here at my computer and check load boards all day long, and it’s so frustrating because I had one company offer me 95 cents a mile to haul a load for them. I have to say, ‘No way, we aren’t taking anything less than $2 a mile,’ ” she said.

However, she said other truckers are taking these loads because they are desperate for a load.

According to Landry, owner-operators must say no to cheap freight, or conditions are not going to get better out there for truckers.

“It’s so frustrating for us because we see other truckers out there taking these loads for $1.35 just so they can get home, or they take freight that takes them to another area that has no freight moving there either. Until we all say no to this cheap freight, it’s going to continue to kill off owner-operators,” Landry said.

Landry said truckers and consumers alike should be outraged because of the soaring prices at the pump and should make their unhappiness known to their state lawmakers and “anyone else that will listen that we’ve had enough.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer