TRUCKERS THREATEN TO STOP HAULING CAL PORT CARGO
Rising diesel fuel prices and surcharges at the heart of the issue
LOS ANGELES - 04/28/04 - Truckers in California are threatening to halt cargo movement through the state's ports this coming Friday, April 30, sources tell the CalTrade Report.
Flyers and CB radio chatter over the past several days have asked port truckers to stop delivering cargo to and from California ports unless drivers receive diesel fuel surcharges from steamship lines and harbor drayage companies.
The work action has no apparent leader and has, by all accounts, no organized or centralized leadership.
Truckers are voicing anger over the rise in diesel fuel prices in California that have surged dramatically in recent months.
Truckers pay about $2.40 per gallon in California while the national average is only $1.75 per gallon. Some steamship lines and trucking companies compensate truckers by paying an added fuel surcharge when the price of diesel rises suddenly, while others do not. The threatened work action is designed to force all ocean carriers and trucking companies to pay truckers a fuel surcharge.
The harbor drayage industry has operated under tight financial conditions in recent years. Harbor truckers, predominantly independent owner-operators, suffer from depressed rates-of-pay and increases in insurance premiums. The surge in diesel fuel costs further deteriorates the poor financial condition of these truckers and has incited many to demand compensation through a threatened work action.
Ocean carriers and harbor drayage companies are expecting a work action designed to shut down goods movement through California ports. The work action is expected to be much greater in the Los Angeles / Long Beach region where truckers will attempt to block roads and bridges leading to the port complex.
In Oakland, truckers say they will attempt to halt the movement of intermodal freight.
The Sacramento Bee reported that a strike among port truckers in the Port of Stockton successfully halted about 40% of the two-way trade moving through that inland deep-water port.
The paper said that that 95% of one rail carrier's intermodal moves were successfully disrupted.
Several harbor drayage representatives in Southern California said they believe the strike would "successfully disrupt" virtually all truck-borne and intermodal moves through both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.
The increase in congestion caused from a mild work action could effectively shut down traffic on major highways and truck moves to intermodal rail yards, sources said, adding that, if successful, the shut down could extend well into the weekend and perhaps even longer.
However, in Southern California, a work action in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has been declared twice without any effect.
Local police officials stated that officers would impound trucks and arrest any trucker disrupting the movement of freight. Independent owner-operators are banned from organizing a collective work action by violating anti-cartel laws.
In anticipation of the strike, sources said many marine terminals in California have extended terminal gate hours on Wednesday and Thursday and are encouraging their customers to pick-up freight during these extended hours.
If the work stoppage occurs, it would be the greatest blow to California's international trade infrastructure since the fall of 2002 when a two-week dispute between the International Longshore & Warehousemen's Union and terminal operators and ocean carriers effectively closed down every deep-water port on the West Coast.
That work stoppage - which finally came to an end after President George Bush enforced the Taft-Hartley Act - cost the national economy billions of dollars in lost revenues and closed down assembly lines, retail outlets, and distribution operations across the country.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the nation's busiest container ports, handling literally millions of containers annually, while Oakland consistently ranks in the top five most active ports in the country.
California's other deep-water ports - Sacramento, Stockton, Hueneme, San Diego, Redwood City, Benecia, and others - primarily serve niche industries mainly handling such cargoes as bulk commodities (oil, grains, coal, sulphur, and potash to name a few), automobiles, agricultural products, steel, forest products, and heavy-lift project shipments.
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