Truckers discuss crisis, ‘There’s almost no work’

By Rachele Fruit
April 27, 2020

ELLENWOOD, Ga. — “You see all these trucks? They haven’t moved for weeks,” Jimmy Calloway, an independent owner-operator working on his rig at a truck stop here in early April, told Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, and this worker-correspondent. “There’s almost no work, and what there is we can’t afford to move.”

Calloway has been trucking for 20 years. He showed us the log on his phone that lists available freight runs. A trip from Athens, Georgia, to Rochester, New York, offered $600. “That trip costs $700 in fuel,” he said. “Insurance on this truck alone is $1,400 a month.”

“We’ve been dying for the last four years,” Calloway said, as truckers have faced rising fuel and maintenance costs. Federal rules, imposed on the pretext of defending safety, make life more difficult for independent owner-operators.

Calloway showed us a device that, he said, “made someone a millionaire” — the Electronic Driver Log, a little white box that uses GPS to let shipping bosses keep track of the truckers’ time and movements. “They give us 14 hours to accept a job, pick it up, eat or do whatever you have to do, and get to the destination. If we run out of time, they shut us down for 10 hours. That’s why you see trucks parked along the side of the highway.”

The SWP 2020 campaign platform starts with the need for all workers to fight against the attacks of the bosses. The trucking bosses want owner-operators to see themselves as aspiring capitalists. But they are fellow workers who need to organize together to have control over their work conditions and to fight for adequate wages.

Calloway got a copy of the Militant  and introduced us to fellow driver Oneil Grant, who used to own seven trucks but now has two. He and his wife sold the others and opened a small restaurant down the street, where business has plummeted under the government’s current “social isolation” restrictions.

“They call it a stimulus. I call it a bailout for the biggest companies,” Grant said, pointing to the $2 trillion package Congress and President Donald Trump recently put together for the airlines, hotel bosses and other big-business tycoons. “The separation between the poor and the rich is just getting bigger. And look how the Trump administration treats immigrants. Immigrants labored and built this country.”

“Working people must break from the capitalist two-party system,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t matter which of the bosses’ parties is in the White House. We need a labor party. We call for amnesty for all workers in this country, so all workers have equal rights and we can organize together.”

Rachele Fruit is Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia.