‘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