Since one of the commenters on my truckers item suggested that an independent rig operators strike may be in the offing—and no, I would not like being without food for a while—I thought I ought to check it out. The call for a work stoppage on April 1 is being sounded by Dan Little, an independent livestock hauler in Carrollton, Mo., who runs the UScattlehaulers.com blog. Little says that neither the government nor organizations such as the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association are helping the small truckers cope with $4 per gallon diesel fuel prices:
I do know I or my family can not keep going at this rate. Everyone is in agreement on April 1st, 2008 as the Date to pull over, Park & say enough is enough. The Gov. will hear us Only if we Stand United.
Little writes that he is not the leader of the action, but a supporter, and he also says it should not be considered a strike, but a shutdown, since it's not an action against a company but by independent owner-operators. Among the things Little would like to see the government do is to suspend all state and federal fuel taxes.
But the big trucking companies are saying that any shutdown by the little guys would be to the large firms' advantage. In the upcoming issue of Traffic World magazine, an editorial says that if the independent truckers park for a day, it "wouldn't slow freight in this country for a minute." The larger trucking companies see an overcapacity situation in the industry—too many trucks chasing too little freight, Traffic World says. "Shippers using owner-operators that do shut down for a day or longer are likely to call those larger carriers and get a truck to their docks as fast as possible—and there may not be room for the independents when they return," the editorial says.
However, the one thing that everyone in the trucking industry can agree upon is that the diesel fuel price situation is dire for the industry. Another independent truckers' blog, Life on the Road, implores drivers to "work smart."
"SLOW DOWN, start counting every penny, if you are not getting a fuel surcharge tied to actual prices, then you need to renegotiate your contract or go somewhere else. We must pass these rates on to the customer, who passes it on to the consumer, it is the only way that many will survive."
Message: Even if you don't drive a truck, you'd better pay attention to diesel prices too, because one way or another, you're eventually going to pay.