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How the Little People Lose

By Guy Span

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 sitting still.

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 info@baycrossings.com.

DESTINATION Average

ALAMEDA           $102.50
ALBANY              $102.50
AMERICAN CANYON              $175.00
ANTIOCH              $162.50
AUBURN               $302.50
BELMONT            $130.00
BENICIA               $157.50
BERKELEY           $110.00
BRENT WOOD      $185.00
BRISBANE            $135.00
BURLINGAME      $155.00
CALISTOGA         $235.00
CARMEL              $278.00
CARMELL VALLEY $332.50
CARMICHAEL      $280.00
CHICO                 $415.00
CHOWCHILLA      $348.00
CLEARLAKE        $340.00
CLOVERLADE     $285.00
CLOVIS               $415.00
CONCORD           $135.00
CORTE MADERA $167.50
CROCKETT         $150.00
CROWS LANDING $272.50
CUPERTINO        $187.50
DALY CITY          $145.00
DANVILLE           $145.00
DAVIS                 $245.33
DIXON                 $225.33
DUBLIN               $141.33
EL CERRITO        $125.33
EL DORADO HILLS $305.67
ELK GROVE        $272.67
EMERYVILLE       $105.00
FAIRFIELD           $173.67
FOLSOM             $286.67
FOSTER CITY      $162.00
FRENCH CAMP   $205.33
FRESNO             $425.33
GEYSERVILLE     $260.00
GILROY               $208.00
GONZALES         $297.33
GRASS VALLEY  $352.67
GRATON              $242.00
GUERNEVILLE     $235.00