OOIDA members, Washington state lawmakers support relief for truckers

| 3/3/2009

Soaring fuel prices in 2008, followed by a collapsing housing market that continues today, have forced many log haulers in Washington state to shut down or reduce the number of trucks they run. Hundreds of them say they are currently riding out the worst economic recession this country has seen since the Great Depression.

And despite this “perfect storm,” which has dramatically affected the demand for their log-hauling services, OOIDA members Sherrie and Bob Bond of Chehalis, WA, are not going down without a fight. They have been making frequent trips to the state capitol in Olympia to meet with lawmakers about the dire situation the entire trucking community is facing.

“No is not an option for us at this point,” Sherrie Bond told Land Line Magazine on Monday, March 2. “We’ve worked hard for more than 40 years to build up our business. This isn’t how we thought our story would end.”

The plight of the log truckers in Washington state has gained the support of several key lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-24th  Dist., House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-20th Dist., as well as Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-18th Dist.

Lawmakers there recently sponsored House Joint Memorial 4014 to encourage the U.S. House of Representatives to support HR6922, which would have provided low-interest loans for small-business truckers through the Small Business Administration. The bill was originally introduced in 2008 by U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-WA, who met with truckers dealing with skyrocketing fuel prices in Chehalis, WA. That bill died during the previous session because of the national economic meltdown.

Kessler told Land Line Magazine on Tuesday, March 3, she is hopeful the bill will be reintroduced during this session in the U.S. House of Representatives.

So far, HJM 4014 has already passed the state’s House by a unanimous vote (94-0), and the first reading on the bill was scheduled in the Senate on Tuesday, March 3.

“The reception the bill has received has been so positive,” she said. “The vote shows that we get it, and we agree that something needs to be done to help them.”

She describes this as a difficult and “brave new world” in which to navigate toward economic recovery. Kessler said log haulers in Washington state have been struggling for some time as the economic climate worsens in the timber industry.

“They are such hard workers and do a dangerous job for very little pay,” Kessler said. “We are encouraging our delegation in Washington, DC, to support these efforts to help them recover from this devastation. It’s not like they are getting rich on this deal; they just need some relief.”

On Feb. 24, the Bonds and several other log haulers testified before a House Transportation Committee in Olympia on the severity of their financial situations. Kessler and DeBolt also provided joint testimony on the importance of supporting the bill before the committee.

House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn then called for committee members to vote on whether to move HJM 4014 forward.  Kessler said rarely happens while those testifying are still there. The Joint Memorial passed with a unanimous vote.

Even Sherrie Bond’s 87-year-old mother, Violet Iund, testified at the hearing. Iund’s husband was involved in the logging industry as a logger and log trucker. The couple moved to Washington state in 1936.

“I have witnessed the good time and the hard times in the timber industry, but I have never seen problems like the ones the truckers of today are facing,” Iund wrote in her testimony.

The latest report on residential construction shows that new “housing starts” are down more than 56 percent from a year ago, which Bond said is terrible news for those who count on the timber industry for their livelihoods.

“We are not asking for a handout, but a hand up,” she said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer