Well, today marks the 12th continuous day of the trucker protest in Washington D.C. and we haven’t really heard anything new in a few days. The White House did send out a bunch of hats a little over a week ago, and the President acknowledged the truckers insistence of broker price gouging during an interview last week, but since then, we have not heard anything new from virtually anyone involved.
The focus of the protests seem to have flip-flopped a bit as days passed. Originally the groups were fragmented, each with their own agendas while protesting together against the common theme of cheap freight. In the beginning we were hearing of disagreements among the groups leadership as some wanted the group to focus on the broker price gouging claim, while others wanted to highlight issues with Hours-of-Service reform and to take on the autonomous truck fight. Some of the most vocal organizers either left DC on their own or were forced to go back out on the road due to financial constraints.
As days pass, one of the groups organizers, who left the protest a few days after it began, called for the drivers to leave, saying that he did not believe a meeting with the White House was going to happen. Rick Santiago, one of the group’s members left DC shortly after the protest began and returned home to institute a call to action, calling on drivers who believed they were price-gouged, to send him documented proof via rate confirmations and broker/carrier contracts, in hopes to provide evidence of illegal price gouging by freight brokers. Then, surprise reversal, Santiago posted a video online saying he was wrong. That freight brokers are not doing anything illegal, but instead insisted freight brokers are acting immorally by increasing their profit margins, and, according to many, forcing drivers to take rates far below their operating costs. Santiago called for more trucks to head to DC and vowed to return himself if they are able to round up 1,000 trucks.
The Facebook group The Disrespected Trucker, as done as much as anyone could to keep the protesters together in the mission, providing a constant stream of video and social media post updates, welcoming other drivers to the protest and encouraging all stakeholders to show up and support the cause. The group seems excited as another separate rally is planned in D.C. May 13th where nearly 800 motor coaches are slated to arrive in the Nation’s capital to raise awareness about the transit industry’s importance and the need for emergency funding. It appears the Facebook group and the trucker protesters both hope for that rally’s individual success in raising awareness for their mission and hope to bring national media attention to the hundreds of truckers who have been protesting, and have received very little national media time.
What is unknown is what the cause actually is. The Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association says the issue is cheap freight and the group in D.C. is pushing for freight rate transparency, a regulation currently in place but typically waived as part of the freight broker/carrier set-up process. The OOIDA is also calling for the prohibition of these requirements in contracts in hopes to bolster the carrier negotiation position.
The Transportation Intermediaries Association has fought back against the freight broker price-gouging claims, attributing the drastic drop in freight rates to the basic economic principle of supply and demand. They put out lengthy videos and press releases defending their position while being one of the few groups to actually call on the White House to provide immediate financial support to small business truckers on the front lines, with the understanding that if something is not done immediately, these companies will fail.
The truckers on the ground, seem to be rejuvenated each day as the protests continue. The group seems content to focus on cheap freight rates, broker price-gouging complaints and the push for broker transparency. We have not heard any official request for emergency economic funds to help keep these small businesses running from any of the protest’s organizers at the time of this writing.
The country is starting to open up again as states begin to release their stay-at-home orders. As businesses begin to reopen, load volumes are also starting to increase. Rates were slow to increase, but are showing marginal increases this week according to DAT Trendlines. As these load volumes and rates continue to increase, some are wondering how long the drivers protesting cheap freight rates will remain in DC or return to the spot market when rates level out.