Crude oil is running $100 a barrel and it costs $50 instead of $35 to fill your car, but you carpool occasionally and watch the number of trips across town so you’re doing all right so far. But what happens when, in addition to the $50 fillup, your groceries go from $80 to $120 and you hunt for new jeans but the shelves don’t even have your size?
That’s the very real possibility that is triggering an unofficial nationwide call for a shutdown by thousands of independent truck operators who deliver those supplies – all sparked by the rising costs of fuel.
One website already explains about 18,000 trucks have been committed to the shutdown starting April 1, and whether it goes for a day or a week, they are hoping that their actions will get the attention of officials who, they demand, must do something to help.
The Washington Post reports Lee Klass, hauling 41,000 pounds of hairspray from Florida to Quebec, stopped in North Carolina to refill fuel tanks, and paid $960. Diesel prices, he told the paper, “are terrible, and they’re not getting any better.”
Auto clubs that monitor prices say diesel has gone up more than 50 cents a gallon in barely two months, and has been setting records almost daily. The nationwide average on one recent day was $3.87 a gallon.
The newspaper warned fuel price hikes, especially trucks, have the potential to disrupt the Federal Reserve’s plan to contain inflation while creating growth with low interest rates, combined with the money giveaway program approved by Congress.
That’s because trucking claims 70 percent of U.S. freight transportation, from the cars you drive to work to the milk your children drink.
Tiffany Wlazlowski of the American Trucking Association told the Santa Maria Times projections are for trucking industry fuel costs in 2008 to reach $135 billion, up $22 billion in just one year.
Her organization and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association both are calling on Congress and the Bush administration to address those skyrocketing figures.
The OOIDA has warned in a news release that consumers should not be blaming truckers for the rising costs of goods.
“Often shippers pay higher amounts for shipping when fuel prices are high, but that money doesn’t always trickle down to the person actually paying for the fuel,” the group said.”
OOIDA spokesman Todd Spencer called the jump in fuel costs “a heart attack in the system.”
“Lawmakers need to know what’s going on in trucking, how devastating this record hike in fuel prices is for 90 percent of the nation’s fleet,” he said.
He said the association is aware of the call for an April 1 shutdown, but it does not participate in such movements because it is a trade association, not a union.
On the Topix.com forum for truckers, “goingunder” pulled no punches in explaining what’s to happen.
“The date for the shutdown is April 1st thru April 6th …. nationwide, get the word out … tell every driver you know and then some … talk about it in the truck stops, yell it out on the radio … e-mail everyone that has an e-mail address,” the driver said.
“This strike is world wide now, not only are we striking but drivers from other countires are doing it as well, as we are all striking for the same reasons. We are already backed into a corner, and we have ran (sic) out of options,” added Gator 714.
“I think we can make an impact,” added Flatbed Pete. “For the ones who say it won’t work, you are probably on your way out of business anyhow. It is time we take a stand. Without us even for a short time will hurt everyone. Then maybe we can get the whole country back on track.”
How could a shutdown affect individual consumers? Just remember that your average discount store or grocery will be served my multiple truckloads of goods every day. No trucks backing up to the docks means no new consumer goods on the shelves.
At the Truth About Cars, this announcement was made: “There is a confirmed shutdown in the works for April 1st.”
Several of the blogs and forums point to Dan Little at US Cattlehaulers as a leader. On his website he reports having heard from more than 400 trucking companies who have agreed to “shut down or go broke.”
“The government will hear us only if we stand united,” he suggested. He noted he’d gotten calls from Sen. Hillary Clinton’s office “checking in on our thoughts on the fuel costs and trucking issues.”
Although he’s not in control of the overall situation, “please note, I do fully support this upcoming shutdown and will personally shut my trucking co. down on April 1,” he said. “I am not the leader in this action but I have recv. calls from the AP, Senator Clintons office, and several others…”
The OOIDA reported “hundreds” of calls from truckers concerned about fuel prices.
“Even back in the 1970s, when we saw nearly 100 percent of truckers participating in strikes, it did not lower fuel prices,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA’s president. “Short-term relief from the situation then was the result of a temporary implementation of a mandatory fuel surcharge.”
That cannot be replicated today because rates no longer are regulated, he said.
One plan being pursued by OOIDA is to require disclosure of fuel surcharges on freight transactions and a 100 percent pass-through to those who are paying for fuel.
The association also has petitioned the government to stop diverting oil supplies to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and instead allow it directly into the marketplace.
Little reports his business has gone from a dozen trucks to one because of fuel prices.
He told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio, “I’m calling for a one-day shutdown to get the attention of our leaders that we elected and sent to Washington to represent us…”
One version of a widely circulated e-mail, unsigned, calls for rigs to be parked from April 1-5.
“Others who participate in this event will still be operating on our nation’s highways at a maximum speech of 45 mph,” it continues. “Until the price of diesel is reduced to a rate of $2.00 on average, our country will remain in a recession. These drivers also believe that the more they charge manufacturers to transport products, the more strain is placed on our overall economy.”
The e-mail said it is not a “strike” or an attempt to organize a union, and drivers will not violate any laws.
“This protest is to make the general public aware that, the recession we are in, has been caused by high energy prices,” it said.
Little posted a note that immediate relief could be obtained by having the government suspend federal and state fuel taxes “until such time that this economy is bck on its feet.”
He reported that several truckers in Georgia already have launched their action.
“They said they could not hold out till April 1,” he said.
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