Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oxygen needed in the system of transactions

Someone said diesel is the lifeblood of ground transportation.

If that’s true, then truckers are the heart. And many are needing life support.

But don’t stop pumping just yet.

The good news is, more and more media are reporting the plight of independent truckers and the fuel cost crisis. The word is getting out in local and national media outlets all over the country. People are starting to notice.

The bad news is, those same stories are predicting that added costs from surcharges will trickle down to the consumers without explaining how brokers are keeping part or all of that additional overhead. They mention nothing about the middlemen who take money intended to pay for ever-rising fuel costs and line their own pockets with it. It’s a stoppage in the flow of transactions that is creating a heart attack in the system. And it’s an exploitation of shippers, truckers and, ultimately, consumers.

It so happens that right now Congress is out of town through March 31 on its annual spring break. Many of your representatives and senators will be in their home states or their home district. This is a good time to call or, better yet, meet face-to-face, and ask them to create a bill that includes a mandatory pass-through of fuel surcharges to the person paying for the fuel, including full disclosure of all fuel surcharge information by everyone involved, including brokers and carriers.

Regardless of your situation, if you’re hanging in there or about to bail, we can agree that in all fairness, the small-business truck driver should not disproportionately bear the brunt of price increases driven by global issues.

With this in mind, instead of shutting down, we need to join the conversation by loudly and clearly asking what can be done about this, while emphasizing how it affects all Americans, not just truckers.

It won’t be easy to fix all of the factors that have put truckers in this predicament. Many of the economic issues that have come together at this time such as U.S. dependency on foreign oil, a tight petroleum market, a slow economy and low freight levels, are all so complex they will require long-term, painstaking solutions.

For the shorter term, we need to find ways to clear out all the processes and procedures in the trucking industry that have allowed brokers to exploit truckers and small businesses. We need to change the dynamics of trucking transactions to ensure that small-business truckers have the same tools available to them that the big companies in the trucking industry have.

We need some breathing room. We need to pump oxygen into the circulatory system by way of transparency and full flow-through in transactions.

You are represented by one person in the U.S. House, and two people in the U.S. Senate. You need to call on all three of them.

Call (202) 224-3121. That’s the U.S. Capitol Switchboard. Give your ZIP code, and the operator can transfer you to the offices of your representative and senators. Staff will be in those offices during the spring break and should be able to tell you how to reach your senator and representatives even when they aren’t in Washington, DC.