Despite thousands of posts by members of a truckers’ group calling itself StopTheTires2020 promising to turn off their rigs Wednesday, few did.
The StopTheTires2020 Facebook group picked Veterans Day to boycott delivery of nonessential supplies to major U.S. cities “as a way to show support for President Trump.” Trump has not conceded the presidential election.
The group, made up of truck drivers, members of the U.S. military and their families, along with Trump supporters, also wanted to make a stand against President-elect Joe Biden’s “ban on fracking.”
However, Biden clarified that his proposal only opposes hydraulic fracking on federal lands, not all fracking.
Perry Barger, a 17-year truck driver from Kentucky, did not participate in the StopTheTires protest.
“Very few of us did,” Barger told FreightWaves.
His father, J.D. Barger, served in the United States Air Force in the late 1950s. After his military service, he drove for Atlas Van Lines for many years.
“One of the most important things to my father was this country,” Perry Barger said. “Shutting down and hurting the country is the least patriotic thing someone could do. I know my father would have been outraged at the thought of me doing this.”
While Barger said he understands that some truck drivers are upset over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, he said shutting down is not an option.
“The vast majority of us did not and will not shut down over this election,” he said. “We will settle our differences at the ballot box and let this play out in the courts.”
Truckers became heroes during the coronavirus pandemic as they risked possible exposure to the deadly virus to ensure critical supplies made it to hospitals and grocery stores.
“All I could think of was how the nation has been suffering from shortages and how we just got back the respect that we once had in the 1970s and 1980s when country stars were writing songs about us,” Barger said. “Now, we are going to cause people to panic over an election?”
StopTheTires: No impact on supply chain
According to industry sources, the one-day strike appeared to be all talk as it had no impact on the supply chain.
The Outbound Tender Rejection Index (OTRI) measures the rate at which carriers reject customer requests to pick-up freight. It declined from 26.96% on Tuesday to 26.76% on Wednesday, meaning that fewer truckers declined loads on the day of the strike.
Great Plains Transport of Mapleton, North Dakota, which runs more than 230 trucks, said none of its trucks participated in Wednesday’s strike.
“We did not get any reports from our customers of any service disruptions,” Joe Ritchey, employee engagement specialist at Great Plains Transport, told FreightWaves.
Some posting in the StopTheTires Facebook group claimed that massive shutdowns were occurring in their states, when in fact, they were sharing old photos from previous protests.
“Most of the posts are owner-operators on home time and just fanning the flames or using outdated pictures,” Ritchey said. “The people that may have gone on strike had no visual impact on the markets.”
With some loads paying over $3 per mile, some truckers say they had to set aside their political beliefs to feed their families.
“I hauled cars and took a big hit because airports were closed and people weren’t driving much because of COVID,” one truck driver, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told FreightWaves. “If someone else passes on loads, this just gives me the advantage to make money.”
Some group members criticized company drivers and owner-operators who posted that they couldn’t shut down because of family obligations.
Ritchey said he agreed with the truckers who chose to haul freight instead of parking.
“With the spot market and rates at a record high, who wants to go home and not collect the money?” he said.
Oregon trucker Jeremy Rewoldt, the organizer of StopTheTires2020, said another strike is set for Nov. 26-29, when many truckers will already be home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
As of press time Thursday, Rewoldt did not respond to FreightWaves’ request to comment on the Veterans Day shutdown.
Why shutdowns fail
Truck driver Dan “Dusty Chrome” Porter of Florence, Kentucky, has seen a lot over his 52-year trucking career.
He doesn’t support the StopTheTires2020 strike because previous efforts over the past 12 years to shut down over low rates like with the Black Smoke Matters slow rolls or protests over the electronic logging device mandate have mainly been unsuccessful.
“There just aren’t enough truckers that agree on anything or everything to show up and make a stand that will hurt the economy,” Porter told FreightWaves.
The coronavirus pandemic hurt many truck drivers who said they had to set aside their political beliefs to feed their families.
Some company drivers, who said they supported the group’s efforts, posted they asked their carriers to take Wednesday off but were told no.
“With the holidays coming up, I just can’t afford to lose my job,” one company driver told FreightWaves. “My wife lost her job because of COVID, so I am the only one working.”
“As if 2020 hasn’t been hard enough on this country, it’s wrong,” he said. “We should never go against our own people to prove a point about politics — Republican or Democrat — we are all Americans.”
Read more articles by FreightWaves Senior Editor Clarissa Hawes.
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