Over 300,000 men and women criss-cross our country every day in big rig trucks they own, hauling every type of product we consume, use, and desire. These men and women represent 9% of the truckers on the road; they are the Owner/Operators, the independents who work without the net of a union--probably the closest thing to a cowboy in our present society.
The cost of diesel fuel has doubled in the last four years; the rate-per-mile these drivers receive has changed little in the same time period. Fuel is the single biggest cost for the drivers, representing a full half, or more, of their gross pay each week. Paydays are dismal affairs for many of these independents whose take-home pay is one-fourth of their gross pay.
Independent truckers are rugged individuals for the most part, not looking for handouts or sympathy. What they want is to be able to continue to do their jobs and to bring home a decent wage for doing so. Independent truckers don't have health insurance or 401k plans because they are self-employed. Those necessities must be paid out-of-pocket from their take-home pay, in addition to the monthly bills everyone else incurs.
Then there is maintenance on their trucks: an oil change, needed about every 15,000 miles costs over $200.00. Most drivers are logging 3,000 miles/week, so an oil change is a frequent need. Tires are the most replaced items on these trucks; one tire costs $400 or more. Big rig trucks have ten tires to maintain; each lasts approximately 100,000 miles.
What these independent truckers are seeking is either a cap on diesel fuel prices, or a tax credit on fuel expenses. Just as the farmers who in the recent past needed assistance to keep from going under, the independent truck drivers are in the same situation today.
Think it won't effect you one way or the other if independent truckers go the way of the dinosaur? If the trucking business became completely company run, it would decrease competition for reasonable shipping rates. Shipping rates would increase. Increased shipping rates will be passed onto consumers.
We don't need to do a lot to help these people out. A letter, a phone call, an email to our elected officials letting them know we support the struggle of these self-employed folks, that we endorse either or both the cap on diesel fuel prices or tax credits for fuel expenses. A letter to the editor of your local newspaper with the same information would be useful to spread the word. When we help these small business owners survive this critical economic situation, we are helping ourselves, too.
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