The Who’s Better Off Game:Truck Transport Workers

They are American icons — truckers in big rigs criss-crossing the nation, delivering more freight than any other form of transportation. Still, being an icon matters little when jobs are disappearing and wages are stuck in neutral. Truck transportation employees, including big rig drivers, have been among the hardest-hit of any single group over the past four years…

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In June, Teamsters President James Hoffa quit a White House trade panel in protest of President Bush’s decision to sign a Central American trade agreement Hoffa said would weaken protections for workers. But Hoffa has other, more immediate reasons to resent Bush’s leadership.

Since 2000, more than 68,000 heavy truck driver jobs have been lost. What’s more, real wages for big rig drivers are slipping. In mid 2003, truck drivers were actually earning about 3 percent less in real income than they were in mid 2000. Even in states where big rig drivers can find work, wages are falling behind the cost of living.

In California, for instance, where truck transport companies added more than 7,500 big rig driver jobs between 2000 and 2003, inflation-adjusted wages actually dropped by about .7 percent. And in Florida, where more than 4,500 driver jobs were added in the same period, real wages fell by nearly 4 percent.

And big rig drivers aren’t the only truck transport workers doing less well today than in 2000. Laborers, including the workers who load and unload freight, have been hit terribly hard. Nationwide, jobs for truck transport laborers disappeared at an astonishing rate of 40 percent between 2000 and 2003, and they aren’t coming back.

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