Originally created 12/19/97

Truck drivers join work stoppage



GARDEN CITY, Ga. -- The number of trucks parked along Garden City's Bourne Avenue grew this week as more independent drivers joined a work stoppage that began Monday.

The drivers and truck owners took the action to try to gain increased pay for their work from the companies for which they contract to haul. By midday Tuesday, more than 50 trucks and about 100 or more cars were parked near the main gate into the Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Terminal outside Savannah.

Fewer than 20 trucks were lined up along the road Monday.

A majority of the container cargo in and out of the terminal passes through the Ports Authority gate at Bourne Avenue and Ga. Highway 25, and the work stoppage is having some impact on terminal operations, authority officials said.

"Our observations is that there has been a decrease today as far as inbound and outbound container cargo traffic is concerned at the Garden City Terminal," said Patricia Reese, acting manager of public relations/external affairs at the Ports Authority.

The increased number of trucks and drivers Tuesday was a welcome sight to members of the committee coordinating the efforts of the drivers who claim they are denied benefits and good pay from their companies because they are considered contractors. Most of the truckers own or lease their own rigs.

"It is a real show of solidarity," said Johnny Lowe, a member of the committee. "What you see here on Bourne Avenue represents 300-400 of the independent drivers and truck owners who are involved," Mr. Lowe said.

The truckers say 500-600 independent drivers haul for the numerous companies who are hired by shipping lines to haul their cargoes. Each company decides what to pay their drivers, whom they consider contract workers and not regular employees.

As a result, the drivers say they are not getting any benefits, such as unemployment insurance, health insurance or other economic protection. They also say they are not being paid fairly for the work they do for the companies.

The drivers say they are hauling cargo for 72 cents per mile, and that rate has not been raised in nearly 10 years.

"We are not trying to be the bad guys, we just want fair treatment," driver Herbert Sanders said. "And we'll stay here 'til we get it." The work stoppage does not affect several national trucking companies that have terminals in Savannah. Those companies do consider their drivers full-time employees.