Independent truckers stage rally along Houston freeway to protest low pay

A group of around 75 truck drivers stopped traffic along a Houston freeway for about three hours on Tuesday, protesting low cargo rates and high maintenance costs.

The drivers, mostly independent owner-operators, parked a long line of trucks along the right shoulder of the 610 East Loop in Houston, forcing police to shut down the freeway during afternoon traffic.

“What happened this afternoon after 2 p.m., we received reports of about 75 commercial vehicles blocking the 610 Loop, we responded with officers and got the trucks off the freeway and onto an adjacent parking lot,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo during a press conference after the protest ended.

Addiel Santos said the protest was aimed at letting people know truckers want to be paid more for hauling freight.

“The brokers are the ones who are breaking the economy and breaking truck drivers; they are killing us, literally,” said Addiel Santos, an independent owner-operator based in Austin.

“Brokers are paying for trips from Houston to Midland-Odessa like $1,800 to $1,900 before. Right now they are paying $700. A trip from Houston to Odessa costs me $400. If I get a flat tire, need road service, I have to pay out of my pocket, and still only get $700,” Santos said. 

Santos added that many brokers are not paying for detention time.

“People need to think more about truck drivers, because we drive for days, a week. We get tired too. I know other jobs are hard. But we have to be on the road all day, concentrating on the road,” Santos said.

Many of the protesters displayed homemade signs during yesterday’s demonstration in Houston. Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Santos, along with other truck drivers in Houston, wore black T-shirts with the word “Resistance” across the front below an image of Guy Fawkes, a popular symbol of protest.

“We are the resistance. Honest prices on loads. Fair fees from insurance companies. Broker regulations,” a large banner at the center of the protest read.

Drivers also displayed homemade signs that read “Cheap Brokers” and “Raise Rates or No Haul.”

“These are independent drivers who were protesting nonpayment by companies that have hired them to move goods,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “It’s an ongoing problem, but this is no way to fix that problem, by engaging in an illegal activity.”

Stephany De La Caridad, one of the protest leaders, was arrested at the scene, according to Santos.

Acevedo confirmed a woman was arrested “for inciting a riot and obstruction of the highway,” but did not release a name. Acevedo said the woman was transported to the Harris County Joint Processing Center where she was booked.

Acevedo added, “Everyone that was blocking the highway in protest has been cited with a Class C misdemeanor. We now have their driver’s license and truck information, and if they do this again, they will be arrested and their trucks will be impounded.”

Around 75 owner-operators said they were protesting broker fees and high maintenance costs yesterday in Houston. Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves