June 20, 2016 2:15 AM, EDT

Some Florida Truckers Threaten Strike


This story appears in the June 20 print edition of Transport Topics.

More than 2,000 truck drivers in Florida are threatening to go on a strike June 25 for possibly two weeks to protest work conditions, a spokesman for the group organizing the strike told Transport Topics.

Camioneros USA is urging the governor and Florida Department of Transportation to help ensure companies that hire them provide more details about the jobs they offer to its membership, made up primarily of Latino owner-operators.

On June 7, Camioneros USA’s leadership met with a top aide for Gov. Rick Scott (R) in Tallahassee to share their concerns in writing, said Joe Alfaro, the group’s spokesman.

Truckers from Camioneros USA, with affiliates such as Camioneros Miami, are prepared to strike from June 25 through July 4 if state officials do not respond to their concerns.

“We are being paid very low rates,” the group told the governor in the letter obtained by TT. “We are trying by all means not to bring this country to an imminent halt. We are imploring you for your assistance in this matter.”

Alfaro added members of “Camioneros,” which is Spanish for truckers, are convinced certain companies are not disclosing contractual information that could affect wages. The group formally requested the governor ensure companies that hire them adhere to written lease requirements, such as a federal law that states the “amount to be paid by the authorized carrier for equipment and driver’s services shall be clearly stated on the face of the lease or in an addendum which is attached to the lease.”

According to that law, “Such lease or addendum shall be delivered to the lessor prior to the commencement of any trip in the service of the authorized carrier. An authorized representative of the lessor may accept these documents.”

“This is a very serious problem,” Alfaro told TT regarding the claim of a lack of transparency.

“We’re having people that are homeless and living in their trucks. We have people that have to choose between an oil change and a light bill,” Alfaro said, stressing that increases in pay would help the group’s members to invest in their trucks.

The governor’s office passed the matter on to DOT. Dick Kane, a spokesman with Florida’s DOT, confirmed the agency met this month with a trucking group that called itself CDL911.

“CDL911 convoy leaders came to Tallahassee to express their concerns about certain trucking issues.

While the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have no direct purview over these issues, the state agencies will work with convoy leaders to ensure they contact the appropriate federal authorities that can address their concerns,” Kane told TT.

Robert Buduen, CDL911’s president, acknowledged his group met with Florida officials this month. Unlike Camioneros USA, his group will not engage in a strike, opting instead to resolve its concerns in concert with government officials.

Alfaro said Camioneros USA is not in partnership with CDL911 Both groups are made up of members who transport a variety of items, but primarily construction materials.

Alfaro said Total Quality Logistics and Coyote Logistics are firms the group claims do not disclose certain information pertaining to contracts. Representatives for the firms — which rank Nos. 2 and 5, respectively on the Transport Topics Top Freight Brokerage list — did not comment about the group’s claim when contacted by TT. The firms also did not comment about an impending strike.

Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the group is monitoring the situation in Florida. OOIDA, she added, supports “anyone’s rights to a peaceful protest.” They do not, however, support a strike.

Florida Trucking Association President Ken Armstrong indicated his group is not involved in the matter.

Recent strikes involving truckers around the country have affected the flow of goods at surrounding ports. Andria Muniz-Amador, a spokeswoman for PortMiami, told TT officials were not aware of protests led by Camioneros USA. Andy Fobes, a spokesman for the Port Tampa Bay, shared that sentiment.

During their visit to the governor’s office June 7, two members of Camioneros USA were arrested, a spokesman for Leon County Sheriff’s Office told TT. The truckers were charged with failure to obey officers who were directing traffic in the state capital. Alfaro said the arrests prompted more than 100 members of the group to demonstrate along Okeechobee Road at Palmetto Expressway in Miami on June 7.