(April 2, 4:25 p.m.) A shutdown by independent owner-operators appears to have had little effect on freight, but the effort did bring national attention to the trucking industry.
“That’s the great thing,” Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said April 2. “I had about 80 phone calls from reporters yesterday. If this brings attention to the concerns of truckers, that means there is more awareness and more opportunities to ask for change.”
Truckers were calling for a shutdown on April 1, but there did not appear to be a consensus on whether the big rigs would be parked for one day or a week. Taylor said OOIDA, which is monitoring its members activities but is not involved in the strike, had been unable to confirm a timeline.
Truckers are upset about skyrocketing costs, particularly diesel fuel prices. The Energy Information Administration reported March 31 that the national average price for a gallon of diesel fuel was $3.96. That was $1.17 more than at the same time a year ago. The average price was more than $4 a gallon in several areas, including the West Coast.
The April 1 shutdown coincided with the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing from executives from BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell. High oil and fuel prices helped the nation’s top five oil companies recorded profits of $123 billion last year.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that 200 drivers gathered for a protest at a New Jersey Turnpike service area, and drivers took to the road at lunchtime near Newark for a leisurely 20 mph drive that snarled traffic on one of the nation’s busiest highways.
The AP reported that 50 drivers parked their rigs at the Port of Tampa. The news service said three truckers were ticketed for impeding traffic on Interstate 55 near Chicago, and about 30 trucks drove in a convoy at slow speeds around Atlanta.
Deborah Sparks, vice president of development for the Truckload Carriers Association, which represents trucking companies that use owner-operators and employee drivers, said the shutdowns were isolated, grassroots efforts.
“None of our owner-operator drivers are stopping,” she said. “They understand why the independent owner-operators are, but they’re not stopping. We’re working with the American Trucking Associations to focus on the real issue of what’s going on with fuel and what’s going on with our oil reserves.”