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NewsTrucking

‘Mayday’ protest underway at nation’s Capitol as truckers protest low rates

A convoy of around 70 small-business truckers convoyed to the nation’s Capitol around 2:30 a.m. on Friday, May 1, to protest low freight rates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group plans to remain parked along Constitution Avenue until May 4 in hopes of attracting the attention of President Donald Trump about the plight of small-business truckers, said Scott Jordan of Peculiar, Missouri, and owner of Powerhouse Transportation.

He has written a letter, which he hopes to deliver to Trump in person.

“As trucking continues to deteriorate to the point of starvation, we essential small-business truckers have decided it is time to make trucking great again,” Jordan told FreightWaves. “We are encouraging anyone to join us in an effort to save small-business truckers from ruination during this critical time in our nation.” 

While Jordan said it’s too late to save his four-truck operation as his equipment is scheduled to be repossessed by the bank next week, he is in D.C. to support others who may be teetering on the brink of closure. 

“My company is going to die through this process, but I was able to find my owner-operators good companies to work for,” he told FreightWaves. “They didn’t want to leave, but I told them I am the captain of the ship, get on the lifeboat and go. I didn’t want anybody riding with me until the end because I wanted to make sure every driver was paid.”

A convoy of around 70 truckers convoyed to the nation’s Capitol around 2:30 a.m. on Friday, May 1. Photo: Scott Jordan

While the truckers didn’t obtain the necessary permits for their May Day protest, Jordan said the Capitol Police have been great to them so far.

“We’re exercising our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and address our grievances with our government,” he said.

All morning, truckers have been blaring their horns, which Jordan said is an SOS call to the president.

“All we want is to meet with President Trump and let him know that small-business truckers need a fair and equitable shake as many mega-brokers don’t want to even deal with companies like mine with fewer than 10 trucks,” he said. “For somebody that’s given their heart and soul to this country to get treated like shit all the time, it sucks. This really is my last ride.”

More protests are scheduled in Los Angeles and Chicago today. 

Some truckers participating in the mayday demonstration say they want the government to put a cap on the percentage brokers can take on a load.

However, DuWayne Marshall of Watertown, Wisconsin, who was a 35-year trucking veteran before retiring after the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate took effect, says asking the government to step in and regulate freight rates is “dangerous.”

Marshall, who hauled produce as an independent owner-operator, also owned a brokerage company.

“Some are saying that brokers should only be able to take a certain percentage of the load, so if it becomes regulated, now a broker is always going to take that amount even if the load is a piece of junk,” Marshall told FreightWaves. “So, on a load that I would have overpaid just to get it moved for my customer, now I will never be allowed to overpay on a load again. That’s why a cap on rates is dangerous.”

While some truck drivers are being offered rates around $1 per mile or less, Marshall’s advice to them is simple: Don’t take it.

“The only reason why brokers are offering these loads at those low prices is because some truck drivers are moving those loads for that price,” he said. “Truckers have been their own worst enemy forever. Truckers have to know their worth and if they all refuse to haul for $1 a mile, then brokers will have to up the rates to get their freight moved. Right now, there’s no incentive for them to do so.”

When truck capacity was tight after the ELD mandate took effect, Marshall said carriers were able to name their price to shippers to get loads moved. But now that there are more trucks than loads during the pandemic because many businesses are shut down, brokers may have the upper hand, for now, Marshall said.

“The markets make these wide swings, but when you ask the government to step in and regulate the swing, it’s never good,” Marshall said. 

This is a developing story.

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa Hawes, Senior Editor, Investigations and Enterprise

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and Trucks.com. If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to chawes@freightwaves.com.

22 Comments

  1. I have been trucking for over 28 years! I have 2 things to say about the LOW RATE JIVE!

    First and foremost no one is making you say yes to low rates! If you, or your company is offered a rate below, a profitable margine then just say no! Counter with what you know is an acceptable operating cost counter offer! If the broker does not meet your rate then say, ” thank you but, no thank you”!

    Number 2. Anyone who says that brokers are honorable and forthright all full of it! Most brokers claim to operate on a 12-17% rate which is a fantasy! Most operate on a 25-45% profit margin! They will roll fuel surcharge into the rate, claiming the price is all in! B.S!

    Say NO TO CHEAP FRIEGHT RATES! If enough of us say NO, Then the brokers will have to raise the rates to get the freight moved!

    So much for the 1099 payroll protection! All the big coperations got ALL THE Small bussiness money! Multimillion dollar islands and sports affiliates getting payroll protection!? Bulls@#&!

    A person with less than 2 emploies is gonna rise this out WITHOUT GOVERNMENT BAIL OUT! Because I am not worthy of being treated as an equal!

    1. Brother. I have been driving for 30 plus years myself. What you said is one 1000% CORRECT!

      This nation doesn’t give a SHIT about truck drivers. The media never ever and never will thank truck drivers for what we’re doing. I’m going back to work Monday morning because my bills are piling up and no money is coming from the government for someone like me. The first thing I’m going to do is take my truck to the shop I have those American flag mud flaps removed from my truck.

      Stay safe brother.

      1. Should put a pirate flag and run 24/7 no regulation to make up for the low rates. Have to do what you have to do.

  2. What I would like the government to look at is how brokers are taking 60% margins and are laying off staff in scary amounts. Trucking companies in the other hand, are taking a beating , got no government help and are keeping their drivers employed.

    Regulation is always dangerous, but maybe some industry specific relief help for trucking companies would be nice.

  3. Say no to cheap freight drivers!!! Brokers know they can get it moved for $1-1:30 /mile. I hear guys say well it’s better than sitting at home. Absolutely wrong!!!!! Look at the large fleets that went out of business in the last 2 years. Hauling cheap freight doesn’t work!!!!!!!!!! We don’t need government help we need drivers/ owner operators to put a head on there shoulders and stop being stupid!! Think your things through and make sure it is a smart move. Protesting will not help because shippers/ receivers are still paying the same rate they have been but brokers are being greedy. So stop hauling cheap make brokers be honest and you will be successful.

  4. Why would a person buy a trk and trailer then ask a MF what they’ll pay you to haul something????? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!!!! Get into a cab and see if the driver will u what you’ll pay him or her. You bought the truck dummy!!!!! Tell a shipper or broker what Your Rate is. Simple. If they don’t agree leave that load there. If you can’t do that you weren’t prepared to buy a truck and didn’t do any business planning shame in you!!!!!

  5. If you talk about regulation, may be cap broker commission, not the rates! Those suckers are taking up to 60% of the load in some cases, make it like in a real estate, 5% -10% commision-max, and everybody will live happily ever after

    1. Agreed. We have huge overhead expenses (insurance, trk/trl payments, maintenance, fuel, permits..etc etc) Then ofcourse home expenses. It is not logical to work for free or even worse pay to work. Its like a bank legally trading suckers a dollar for 10 dollars (cheating the ignorant.) Those morons taking those loads cannot do math and are now going bkk.

  6. All these are facts…..,but thats ok when the market does turn we are all gonna take these brokers out to the killing filed……..

  7. We need minimum freight rates and all companies pay O T R truck drivers 1.9 times minimum wage plus overtime. The current model for Uber and incorporated truck drivers needed to be outlawed 2 years ago. Some these owner ops were opposed to California A B C tests . You can not have it both ways and expect the government to bail you out and not pay payroll taxes. I have camped out at queens park against the insurance company and actions that make people homeless including leased ops but I do not see this protest for government pay out to trucking going to happen without a major change in truck drivers thinking.

  8. AMEN!!! Right on the nose. We were over the road owner operators for 18 years. We leased on to a company to buffer our losses. We still made the decision as to what loads and how to run. We made good steady money. We talked to many young drivers who didn’t last long driving. They ran hard not wise. Know your numbers and don’t give in to cheep loads. If you don’t know your base cost then you are guaranteed to lose money. Take advice from old timers who made the mistakes and learned from them. Awesome article. God bless and keep on trucking.

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