Q: Do you think anything wasaccomplished by recent protests?

by Frank Condron

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Rising fuel prices have pushed the frustration level past the boiling point for many truckers in recent months, and that has caused some individuals to work out that frustration in angry, sometimes illegal, protests. One group blocked the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and another staged several slow-moving convoys on Toronto’s busiest highways at rush hour. A group of independent truckers in the states surrounded Capitol Hill with trucks and serenaded Congress with air horns.

Truck News asked truckers at the Husky Truck Stop in Mississauga, Ont. whether or not they felt these kinds of demonstrations actually accomplished anything.

Scott Jurgens, who drives for Buskie Transport out of Lynchville, Ill., believes average people are so busy with their own problems that they don’t have time to listen to the truckers. He says he used to be an owner/operator until he couldn’t afford to run his own equipment anymore.

“If you ask them, most people will have an opinion about it, but they are not going to do something about it until it hits them in the pocketbook,” Jurgens says. “And the only way to do that is to shut down the whole system.”

While he doesn’t think temporary blockades and convoys work, he doesn’t condemn drivers who take part in those kinds of protests.

“I don’t think of it as breaking the law,” he says. “I just see it as a bunch of guys showing up at the same place at the same time.”

Ken Knabb is a company driver with Manhard Trucking of Brockville, Ont. He believes every protest that truckers stage is doomed to fail until there is total participation.

“There has been lots of protests, but the freight always got through,” Knabb says. “They got a lot of attention for awhile, and they may have slowed things down a bit for a day or two, but nobody’s schedule was completely thrown off.”

Knabb believes that “shutting everybody down” is the only truckers’ protest that would be successful. But that will never happen, he says, because most truckers could never afford to stay off the road for any length of time. In any case, Knabb is sure the industry would never let it come to that: “The customers are too happy now. You don’t see them complaining because they are getting their freight hauled for free.”

Steven McLean says all the protests succeeded in doing was to “piss off” the public. An independent trucker from Mississauga, Ont., McLean believes the average citizen won’t sit up and take notice of the trucker’s plight until they go to the grocery store and don’t find any food on the shelves.

“We should just shut all the trucks down,” McLean says. “All the independent drivers should just park their trucks and say to the finance companies, ‘come and get it.’ Because the finance companies want those trucks about as bad as we do right now.”

McLean plans to be long gone before that happens though. An independent driver for only two years, he has already sold his truck and is looking forward to starting a regular nine-to-five job within the next few weeks.

“The sad part is, the guy who bought it from me will want to sell it in six to eight months himself,” he says. “There is just no money in this business anymore. It is fine if you want to work 100 hours a week for $5 an hour. Anyone who wants to do this for a living is nuts.”

Mike Lacroix is a company driver for Cherry Express out of Thunder Bay, Ont. Although he has only been driving professionally for 10 months, he already has an idea about the kind of protest truckers should be staging.

“I don’t think they are doing it right. They should shut the whole country down,” says Lacroix.

“They are wasting their time with these little protests because they don’t hurt the economy. How can you be effective with 50 or even 100 trucks. You need thousands of trucks, blocking the border, the ports, the airports. You have to do it in a fashion where it is going to make an impact.

“No doubt there would be people pissed off. But after awhile they would see that protesting against the government and the fuel industry benefits everyone,” he said.

“The price of diesel fuel is going up, but the price of gas is going up higher, and you don’t see tons of people out blockading the roads with their cars.” n

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