Why nationwide trucker strikes don't work

alk of a nationwide driver shutdown has been echoing nationwide for years. Despite drivers’ service, recent public accolades, and personal sacrifice, they often ask: “What do we have to do to get our

Why nationwide trucker strikes don't work

Talk of a nationwide driver shutdown has been echoing nationwide for years – most notably and recently on social media sites. But these angry words have done little to coalesce truck drivers into a potent force that can bring about the changes they desire.

Empty shelves during the early days of the pandemic brought home to Americans the vital importance of trucking. The consuming public noticed and applauded drivers' selfless sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers themselves took pride in what many considered their patriotic duty to keep the nation supplied with essentials like food and medicine even while they suffered to find their own meals on the road.

However, despite their service, public accolades, and personal sacrifice, drivers ask: “What do we have to do to get our voices heard?”

Some would say that they have been heard, but to no avail. 

"I think they are often heard," explained Steve Viscelli, a former driver and sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "We've been hearing about problems, whether it's ELDs, hours of service or other complaints for the last few years. Drivers just don't have the power to influence change the way many of them would like to have," added Viscelli, who authored "The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream." 

"The current situation stands in stark contrast with the history of the industry, which is, without a doubt, a group of workers who were among the most powerful in the entire country,” Viscelli said. “There's no industry where you had a stronger union than the Teamsters. Not only were they strong in the markets where they were present, but markets everywhere."

That was decades ago. The Teamsters in the 1960s, then led by Jimmy Hoffa, not only negotiated rates for their union members but, by default, other drivers as well. The union negotiated The National Master Freight Agreement which set wages and working conditions for truck drivers across the country. Driver pay and benefits were relatively high, solidly middle class, and were often bettered incrementally during subsequent negotiations as a nationwide driver strike was a formidable threat.  

This all changed largely due to industry deregulation. Drivers lost their negotiating power as fleets undercut each other to entice shippers to sign on. Ironically, many independent drivers sought deregulation because they wanted to enter new markets and wrangle for higher rates, but deregulation was not always to their benefit.

Posted Date : January 11 2021