If the American Trucker Fails, So Will the Nation

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/31/2008 - 9:23am.

The Fed is bailing out banks that irresponsibly loaned money to home buyers (that the home buyers could not afford to pay back). Meanwhile, many Americans are blithely waiting for their IRS “rebate” checks – a feel-good, election year tactic to “stimulate the economy.”

 

 

Yet the United States is facing a different – and serious – economic crisis. If this crisis is left unchecked, it could leave grocery stores with empty shelves and the local mall with fewer gadgets and gizmos.

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In 1987, I purchased my first truck for $50,000 and my first trailer for $9,000. Fuel was 67 cents per gallon and, as an owner/operator I earned approximately $1.25 per mile. The truck I purchased in 1999 cost $120,000, trailer was $20,000. When I parked my truck and went to Iraq in 2004, fuel cost $1.37 cents per gallon and my rate per mile was still $1.25 per mile. 

 

Today, the American trucker is faced with upcoming emissions controls which will force them to trade in their older trucks for the more expensive, emissions compliant ones. Since my start in the trucking industry, equipment costs have more than doubled, the cost of maintenance, paying taxes, insurance and complying with Federal regulations has tripled, and fuel prices have quadrupled. However, not everything has risen for the American trucker: our miles per trip have been cut in half while freight rates have remained steady, right where they were in 1987. Not a day goes by that we do not receive an e-mail, read a blog or a newspaper article relating the story of yet another independent owner/operator having to park his truck permanently, unable to pay the fuel bill.

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Manufacturers are reluctant to pay trucking companies a fair price to haul their goods, fearing public outcry when prices skyrocket to offset the increase in transportation costs. Tensions are rising as frustrated truckers attempt to renegotiate contracts for some type of fuel surcharge that will cover the rising cost of fuel. They see their livelihood – their Freightliner, Peterbilt or Kenworth – driven away by the repo man.

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They see Congress bailing out banks and Wall Street speculators and giving hard earned tax money to illegal aliens for free health care and education, yet Congress is silent on the plight of the American trucker. Department of Transportation head Mary Peters is so self-absorbed in convincing the American public we need Mexican truck drivers, she is ignoring the very lifeblood of the American trucking industry – American truckers. Is part of Peters’ mindset the same as that of the produce and construction industries? Is there an effort to convince the public we need Mexican drivers, who get paid considerably less than the American truckers, so they can bring in low-wage workers to replace us as we park our trucks? With fewer American truckers on the road, the argument seems to take a life of its own.

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Congress, believing in and/or profiting from an Al Gore-inspired global warming hoax, can only come up with such solutions as biodiesel, ethanol and other technology that does absolutely nothing in the short term. For years, they have grabbed their ankles and bent over for militant environmentalists, refusing drilling in ANWR and other domestic locations. Their appeasement has given us a dangerous dependency on foreign oil, giving terrorist-supporting countries a measure of control over the U.S. economy that will have disastrous consequences.

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With every barrel of oil we buy from the Middle East and Venezuela, we fill the coffers of those very countries who are giving arms to the Islamic enemy I faced while driving a truck in Iraq.  All the while, the lunatic, progressive Left still will try to convince you the war in Iraq was “fought for oil.”

 

As truckers struggle with less-than-minimum wages, the concern in Washington is for ensuring illegal aliens have free health care, free schooling and decent working conditions. Yet Congress ignores the company driver who works 70 hours per week, unable to take time at home because, as fuel increases, his company is cutting back on loads. He is driving less, his “off time” taken in some far away city away from his family. 

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Industry publications pay lip service to the issue by advising truckers to “slow down” to save fuel, as if “slowing down” will alleviate the problem of high fuel costs. Most of us maintain the legal speed limit due, in part, to speed governors on our trucks and general safety. Once again, rather than standing up for the American trucker, Congress and the industry itself toss out cute slogans and “feel good” press releases, while the American trucker must decide between paying for fuel and paying his mortgage.

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News stories have increased in recent weeks about talks of “shutdowns” and “strikes,” much as they have in years past. Some desperate truckers have resorted to using “off-road,” “non-taxed” diesel, which is the same fuel used in over-the-road trucks without the added taxes, to fill their tanks. 

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The fuel, which is dyed red, is sold for farm and construction equipment. While legal to use in the fuel tanks of refrigerated trailers, it is illegal to use this red “off-road” diesel in the truck’s fuel tank. The trucker will ultimately get caught and fined outrageously, as DoT officers increase inspections and enforcement.

 

In addition, locking fuel caps are becoming a necessary security item, as unscrupulous thieves (especially in larger, urban areas) siphon fuel to sell to the highest bidder/trucker desperate for a break from the highway robbery at the pump. This, too, is to the detriment of the trucker if he gets caught buying stolen fuel. Violence is always a possibility, as truckers with no tolerance for such thuggery vigilantly watch for potential fuel thieves.

 

One of the places truckers can explain their plight and give vent to their frustrations is the blogosphere, as there are few organizations representing the independent trucker. The Owner/Operator Independent Drivers’ Association (OOIDA), born out of the trucker strikes in the 1970s, with lobbyists in Washington, has refused to advocate a strike or shut down, as it would, according to their website, violate Federal anti-trust laws. Their members are getting frustrated as the organization has been unsuccessful in assisting them in obtaining fair freight rates. Bumper stickers proclaiming “Just Say No to Cheap Freight” plaster members’ trucks, yet bumper stickers do not pay the fuel bill and for every trucker who refuses a load at $1.00 per mile, there are three more who will take it. None of them will stay in business long in this climate.

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Will 2008 see a repeat of the 1970s, when the striking union truckers shut down factories and nearly brought the nation to its knees? Without the organization of the labor unions, it will be a daunting task, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility. 

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Many of us will refuse to shut down, a lesson in futility that will do more damage to the economy than any election year propaganda piece the mainstream media can spew in support of one candidate or another. Renegade organizers, some reliving the nostalgia of CW McCall’s Convoy, are holding rallies across the country, encouraging truckers to “shut down” with dates ranging from March 24th to April 3rd. 

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While the news reports and blog posts claim the shutdown will “call attention to the plight of the American trucker”, there are few, if any, clear cut answers or solutions to bring to the table. This is not just an election year issue. With military vehicles, first responders and the transportation industry that fuels the American economy struggling to service the needs of the nation, we cannot wait for a Clinton, Obama or McCain to wave their magic wand and walk on rivers of diesel fuel in November. November will be too late.

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It will take more than empty rhetoric and nonsensical, make-me-look-good sound bites. It will take immediate and instant solutions, such as permanently lowering fuel tax rates on over-the-road diesel, lowering of tolls and other Federal and state taxes on all truckers – whether the one truck owner/operator or the large fleet owner. The country can afford this – standard business practices dictate that you cut where necessary to absorb immediate costs. 

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We can start by completely cutting funding for National Public Radio and anything named after Robert Byrd (D-WV). Every trucker, every motorist, every family needs to demand we open our lands to domestic drilling – Montana, Alaska, and off the coast of Florida, California and Texas. We must end the reliance on hostile nations to provide oil for our nation. Call the White House; call fax and e-mail your representatives and senators. Demand they take action – NOW.  We have the technology – do we have the will?

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With more operating funds, the trucks will continue to roll. The stores will be filled with food and other goods. But without an immediate, plausible solution, there will be no need for a $600 rebate check. There will be nothing in the stores to buy with it.

 

 

 

Mark R. Taylor - March 26, 2008 - posted at www.familysecuritymatters.org

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/31/2008 - 9:23am.