The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 21      May 26, 2008

(front page)
California truckers stop
work over fuel prices
Militant/Tom Tomasko
Truckers picket Port of Oakland May 7.

OAKLAND, California—Hundreds of truckers marched through the Port of Oakland May 7, refusing to move cargo in protest of high diesel fuel prices.

At the action drivers handed out a flyer with their demands, which include a doubling the rate they get for transporting a load. They are also demanding a rate increase of 1 percent for every 5 cents the price of fuel rises above $4 per gallon. Diesel prices are now well over $4 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area, and drivers said they expect it to hit $7 by July.

An owner-operator with 17 years of experience told the Militant that a two-week strike by drivers in 2004 at the Port of Oakland won a 10 percent increase in the rates paid to drivers to move loads and a 10 percent fuel surcharge to partially compensate for higher diesel prices.

Drivers are also demanding increased payments for driver assistance, maintenance costs, and for transporting hazardous materials.

Truckers told the Militant that the companies that hire them to haul cargo often skim off a big portion of the rates paid by large retail companies to have their containers transported. This is money that could alleviate the crushing burden on the owner-operators, whose costs are rising—from insurance, to maintenance of truck engines, to costs of tires and fuel. Truckers said that they get 5-6 miles per gallon of fuel, a new tire costs $400, an oil change $230, a rebuilt engine $11,000, and registration with the state $3,000.

Several drivers told the Militant that it is illegal for them to strike because each owner-operator is considered “a company.” One driver said that in the aftermath of their 2004 strike three spokesmen “were sued for a million dollars.”

During the most recent action, Oakland police closed Shoreline Park to prevent truckers from parking there and threatened to ticket drivers parking near lunch trucks, forcing them to park outside the port area and then walk back in order to demonstrate at the entrances to the big shipping terminals.

Many of the drivers in this latest action are immigrants from Latin America and the Punjab region of India, with many African Americans as well.

According to workers at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yard in the port, the truckers ended their strike by May 9.  
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