American carriers worried of a widespread truckers’ strike need only look to Europe to see what the worst-case scenario could be. Tens of thousands of truckers in Spain have engaged in widespread protests against fuel prices, occasionally resorting to violence and sabotage, according to news reports.
According to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report, Spain’s second largest union, Fenadismer, which said it represents 70,000 truck drivers, began an open-ended strike today by jamming main highways, including several points along the border with France.
A second group, the Platform for the Defence of the Transport Sector, which said it represents 50,000 truckers, walked off the job last week and said they plan on disrupting the opening of the International Exposition in Zaragosa this weekend. Because of the strikes, the number of trucks delivering to wholesale markets were far lower than normal, the report said.
French truckers have become entrenched in the strike as well, holding protests near the Spanish border and in the southwest part of the country, disrupting traffic at border posts and stopping trucks from crossing, AFP said.
The report added that in Spain’s neighbor, Portugal, truckers threatened to “paralyze” the country, leading to many trucks parked at fuel pumps being attacked and having their windshields shattered.
The European strikes have been far more extensive than recent actions in the U.S., where truck strikes were rumored throughout April but very little materialized. The result was several small shutdowns spread around the country but no organized movement that did any substantial damage to freight or retail activity.
Diesel fuel has surpassed labor as the largest expense for some fleets, with prices averaging well over four dollars a gallon in the U.S. and the total bill for fuel this year is estimated by the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) to be $135 billion.
Those prices pale in comparison to those in Europe, where the average price of 1.30 euros per liter, or about $7.73 per gallon, compares to 0.95 euros per liter a year ago, or around $5.58, the New York Times reports, adding that at some stations the price nears $9 per gallon.