UPDATE: Cargo Talks Continue in Oakland
Negotiations center on the hauling fee split between trucking companies and independents
OAKLAND - 05/11/05 - Talks between the trucking companies serving the Port of Oakland and the independent owner/operators they hire to haul container cargo are continuing in Oakland.
The negotiations are focusing on the share of the cost of moving containers in and out of the port split between the trucking companies and the independents.
"The whole issue now is the amount of money we're getting to haul their cargo," said Delph Jean, an Oakland-based independent trucker who is acting as senior negotiator and spokesman for the 600 truckers who began a statewide work slowdown two weeks ago to ostensibly protest the failure of some trucking companies to pass along a cargo surcharge aimed at offsetting the rising cost of diesel fuel.
According to Jean, "The fuel surcharge is a nothing issue compared to the fact that the trucking companies want to treat us like employees when it's to their benefit and like independent contractors when they come out ahead."
The trucking companies, on average, operate on a 70%/30% split for hauling a container with the 70% going to the independent owner/operator.
The issue "is that "they don't show us the invoices so we never know how much is being charged," citing a recent truck move at the Port of Oakland that - discounting for waiting time at the terminal, fuel costs, and other fees - netted him a negative $10.00.
About 80% of the trucking companies involved in the negotiations "have agreed to look seriously at how they're doing business with us," said Jean, adding that trucking companies that "hold out" could face a total boycott by the state's independent truckers.
"We're going to be forming a statewide association of independent truckers in the very near future," he said. "We'll work with the companies that are wiling to work with us, but those that don't will have a hard time getting anyone to drive for them."
The cost of relying on employees to haul the cargo now handling by independents "would put them out of business," he added.
In the Los Angeles region, Jean said, "the cost of workers compensation, insurance, health benefits and all would make them have to charge between $500 and $600 to haul a container from the port to one of the rail yards near downtown LA. They couldn't charge those kinds of rates and stay in business."
Last week, the Port of Oakland, which is acting as the intermediary between the Bay Area trucking companies involved in the work action and the independents, issued a press release stating that parties involved had negotiated a proposal with the port "that will enable them to have significantly greater input into issues that impact their operations."
Jerry Bridges, the director of maritime at the Port of Oakland, announced the formation of a committee "to help address the serious economic issues facing the industry as well as other trucking issues in and around the Port of Oakland," the release said.
According to Bridges, "The purpose of this committee is to address the needs of truck owners/operators and all parties who depend upon them for the movement of cargo," adding the port will invite representatives of the truck owners/operators, trucking companies, Customhouse brokers, ocean carriers, terminal operators, and railroads to sit on the committee.
The agenda for the committee, he said, will be set by the Working Group which will be comprised of representatives of the trucker owners/operators and the Port of Oakland.
The first meeting of the Working Group was held last week.
The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) - the primary rail carrier linking the Bay Area with major points in the US midwest and east - is continuing its embargo on cargoes moving in and out of its intermodal facilities in Oakland and Lathrop.
According to UPRR spokesman John Bromley, Lathrop is taking cargo "routinely," while traffic at the railroad's Oakland facility has seen a "sharp drop in activity."
The embargo gives the railroad the power to issue - or refuse - cargo permits and meter the flow of containers moving through the two facilities.
The Lathrop terminal, located near the Port of Stockton in central California, is one of the Union Pacific's largest and busiest intermodal facilities with an annual capacity of 220,000 "lifts."?
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