After being hit financially by owner-operators refusing to move cargo, the Port of Oakland (California) has formed a committee headed by truckers to address their demands for higher pay rates and better compensation for fuel surcharges. Their protest has frozen operations at the fourth busiest port in the nation.
According to port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur, truckers moved only 25% of the amount of freight they normally haul on Wednesday, which is an improvement over the previous day. The Associated Press reported the protesters have turned violent at times, throwing rocks at working truckers and prompting Oakland police to respond. The protests started on Friday.
The key for the independent truckers is pay rate, said Irvinder Dhanda, a committee representative of the owner-operators, who has worked in the field for 30 years.
“We’re really hurting— the rates have been the same since 1979,” Dhanda told Fleet Owner.
He explained that truckers are frustrated that they have to absorb fueling and maintenance costs while trucking firms they are leased to pocket the margins at relatively little cost. The independent truckers feel protests are the only way companies will absorb more of the high costs of fueling and maintenance.
“They’re losing millions right now— that’s the only time they’d hear us,” Dhanda said.
There are indications that the newly formed committee is a step in the right direction, Dhanda said. Although it appears more truckers are reporting back to work since Tuesday, Sandifur described port activities so far today as “quiet.”
“Our business has definitely been impacted,” Sandifur said, explaining that although port officials have no control over rates and surcharges, the formation of the committee is a move to give owner-operators a platform to voice their concerns.
“We don’t have authority over the issues independent drivers want to address— we’re providing a forum for these people to come together,” Sandifur said.
The duration of the protests, however, will depend on the concessions made in the meeting, Dhanda added.
“We have them on the table now. Before they wouldn’t talk to us,” Dhanda said.
The committee consists of owner-operators, trucking companies and port officials. Although the committee is in its infant stages, it will be the independent truckers who will be deciding the agenda, Sandifur said.
The committee will convene its first meeting 5:00 p.m. PDT this evening.
The California Highway Patrol and Oakland Police were contacted but could not comment at press time.