Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Port of Oakland Truckers Vote to Strike

There could be about 25 percent fewer drayage truck drivers operating at the Port of Oakland starting tomorrow, as an organization representing the drivers says its members plan to go on strike Nov. 27 because the port won’t help pay for truck retrofits required by upcoming state-mandated anti-pollution regulations.

Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA) members voted unanimously the evening of Nov. 22 to stop work at the port on Wed., Nov. 27. Truckers Association representatives have been pushing for an extension of the California Air Resources Board-enforced deadline of Jan. 1 to acquire trucks built in 2007 or later in order to continue working at the port.

Under the regs, trucks built before 2007 can continue to operate at the port only if they undergo significant retrofitting, estimated about $80,000 per truck.

The Association has also asked for grant funding to help about 800 truckers offset the financial burden of costly truck upgrades required by the law. Those 800 drivers, according to the Truckers Association, will essentially lose their jobs once the regulations go into effect, since they won’t be able to work at the port.

The majority of truckers have already bought new trucks at a cost of between $50,000 and $80,000, and many are applying for microloans to pay loan payments on upgraded trucks just to keep working, according to the POTA. Because of this, the Truckers Association has also demanded that a green emissions fee – a tariff on each container, imposed on terminals by the Port of Oakland – be paid to truckers to offset the costs of meeting state regulations.

The truckers also seek a “congestion fee” of $50 per hour after the first two hours truckers spend waiting in line to pick up a load, to compensate them for work that is currently unpaid and to encourage terminal efficiency. They are also demanding a per-load rate increase.

“If they won’t give us an extension or money for upgrades by January, it only makes it more important that we get the green emissions fee, congestion fee and rate increase we’re demanding,” Oakland port trucker Roberto Ruiz said. “We have so much debt and we can’t afford the monthly payments that we have to make just to keep working.”

The Truckers Association, a self-organized group of owner-operator truckers representing about a quarter of the drivers at the Port of Oakland, says if the strike begins, it could go on indefinitely.