A small group of truckers and its supporters on Monday began a two-day campaign of protests and picketing at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which temporarily disrupted operations at one terminal and caused brief traffic jams at others, according to reports in the Long Beach Press-Telegram
and the Los Angeles Times
The truckers are supported by a union-backed group called Justice for Port Truck Drivers. They complain that they are misclassified as "independent contractors" who bear the financial burden of owning and operating an expensive truck, without the flexibility to maintain their own schedules, health care and federal protections like workman's compensation afforded to employees. Critics of the current system say drivers who work long hours can't make a decent living because their per-trip payments are barely enough to cover fuel, insurance, maintenance, equipment financing or leasing, and other costs associated with operating a truck. In the past two years, social justice organizations and union groups have been effective in getting drivers to file complaints with federal and state labor regulators against companies for poor work conditions and deducting money from their paychecks to cover services such as lease payments or insurance for their trucks.
The Long Beach Container Terminal was the focus of picketers. The longshoremen represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to cross the picket line until a federal arbiter ruled at noon Monday that the action was not a legitimate strike.
The protests were specifically directed at three trucking firms: Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation.
Trucking industry officials in Southern California say they believe the Teamsters union is behind the complaints as part of a years-long effort to turn owner-operators into employees so they can be organized to collectively bargain.
One reason truckers are having a more difficult time making enough money, according to the Harbor Trucking Association in Southern California, is that marine terminal inefficiency is causing long delays for dropping and picking up containers. The long turn times limit the amount of revenue-generating trips a driver can make in a single day and stay within federal safety rules limiting a driver's hours behind the wheel.
Read more about how terminal productivity is crimping the drayage industry in Southern California and elsewhere in this month's American Shipper
cover story, "Ache at the Gate