the Little People Lose
According to local truckers, the Port of
Oakland truckerís strike was brought on by the independent
truckers getting squeezed by rising fuel prices and stable
haulage rates. In many ways, the independent truckers and
small companies are much like migrant workers. The large
steamship lines lease their own terminal facilities and use
their bulk container shipping to force down truck delivery
rates. If one trucker refuses a low-ball rate to say,
Stockton, thereís always another driver who might accept it.
What we saw with the truckerís strike was
absolutely unprecedented, where virtually all the
independents and small companies refused to take anything
anywhere, until the rates were more compensatory. Literally,
itís all about making a living wage. Interestingly enough,
if the truckers try to organize and set minimum rates, they
are in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, a piece of
legislation that was designed to stop large companies from
colluding on artificially high prices. And the shipping
lines were not slow to invoke this clause.
The truckerís strike moved the Port of
Oakland to try to intervene and set a meeting between the ad
hoc truckerís representatives and the shipping lines. And
guess what? The shippers decided not to attend (except for
one who didnít get the word) and nothing was resolved. This
issue is not just Oakland based, as every West Coast port
has the same problem. But the shippers will use their market
power to divert containers to other ports while there is a
problem in Oakland. And since the independent truckers are
independent, they can be divided and conquered.
It is not just about haulage rates,
however, because the truckers are paid to deliver and pick
up empties, with penalties assessed if they are late. But
they are paid for moving containers, something they canít do
when they are sitting in long lines at the terminals,
waiting to make a delivery. The Bay Area Air Quality
Commission has rules that limit the waiting times for trucks
at terminals and recently assessed fines against one
terminal operator for exceeding the maximum 30-minute
waiting period. The terminal operatorís usual response to
this problem is to speed the trucks into the terminal and
then let them wait up to four hours to actually make the
delivery. And once in the terminal, there are no rules about
how long it takes.
Sitting in the terminal, the driver is
making no money. So four hours out of his life costs the
shipping company and terminal operator absolutely nothing.
The problem then belongs to the trucker, who needs to earn
enough to make payments on his truck and perhaps bring
enough home to pay the mortgage. And he canít earn a dime
While there is no financial incentive for
terminal operators and shipping companies to expedite the
trucks, the owners and small companies will have to eat the
difference. According to our local truckers, they are at the
point where they can no longer stomach the results.
Something will have to give. Either the terminal operators
will pay more for delays and delivery or they will not be
able to provide that service, as bankruptcy for the drivers
is the alternative.
As a public service, Bay Crossings is
publishing average local delivery rates so the drivers can
see what others are getting. Remember these rates are
average so some are higher and others are lower. You can
contact Guy Span at email@example.com.