Economics Report 10E
The 1983 Independent Truckers' Strike:
An Assessment of the Effects
on the Florida Produce Industry
From January 31 to February 10, 1983, the Independent Truckers
Association staged a strike in opposition to the pending federal fuel
and road use tax increases for heavy trucks. In order to see if the
truckers were effective in disrupting movement of produce out of
Florida, truck brokers and shippers were surveyed. The surveys examined
preparations made by brokers and shippers for the strike, the percent of
carriers which went on strike, delays and incidence of orders lost
during the strike, and elicited comments about the effectiveness of the
strike. In addition, freight rate and shipment levels during and around
the time of the stike were examined.
While it would have been desirable to collect data that would allow
more complete analysis of the financial impact on all parties involved,
limited resources precluded this. For example, the truck industry is
such that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, the iden-
tify the incidence of bankruptcies among independent truckers. To use
the data collected to extrapolate economic effects would be risky and
This study, however, does provide some important findings. First,
receivers attempted to stockpile commodities in order to dampen the
impact of the strike should it prove to be a long-term one. This in-
creased demand resulted in shipments increasing rather than decreasing
during the strike period. Just prior to the strike, there was a slight
surplus of truckers to haul produce. This meant that there were car-
riers for which the costs of striking, in terms of forgone loads, were
not great. It also meant, however, the a very large proportion of
truckers would have needed to strike before the flow of goods would be
Shippers took advantage of capacity available on the railroads.
One important result of this is that, although after the strike ship-
ments via railroad decreased, they were at a higher level than before
the strike. Not only were the railroads carrying a larger percent of
produce shipments after the strike, they were carrying a greater variety
of commodities. Freight rates charged by brokers increased 12 to 24
percent during the first four days but they tapered off as carriers
returned. There were areas of the country, in particular the Northeast,
where it was more difficult to arrange carriage and some orders were
unable to be filled. Overall, however, brokers, shippers and receivers
found the strike to be mild enough that they could operate essentially
on a business-as-usual basis.
Key Words: transportation, truck, strike
Table of Contents
ABSTRACT .............* ......*..................*.....*** ******** i
INTRODUCTION... ..............................................***** 1
BACKGROUND............................. ...................... 2
Market Conditions at Time of Strike............................ 2
Shipper Mail Survey...............*......... *.................. 6
Shipment and Rate Data......................................... 6
Shipper and Broker Strike Preparation Strategies............... 6
Overview of the Strike........................ .............. 8
Proportion of Truckers Striking................*............* 8
Shipment Amounts during the Strike........................... 11
Total shipments..................................*** .****** 11
Shipments by TOFC. ................... .................. ... 12
Time to arrange carriage................................... 18
Carrier reluctance to serve specific areas................. 19
Rates, ..... ......... ......... ...* ..* ......*** ******... ****** 20
Comment on violence and the media........*................. 23
Short term effects................................*........ 23
Long term effects........... ........*****........*.....******** 24
Truckers........................******** *****************.*** 24
The railroad.............*............................ .. .. 25
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS.......................................... 26
APPENDIX 1....................................... ....... 32
APPENDIX 2........................ .... ...... *................. 35
REFERENCES...... ....... ....... ..... .* ............* ..** .*.* 43
List of Tables
1 Incidence of truckers on strike as perceived by
produce shippers..........................********* 9
2 Incidence of truckers on strike as perceived by
brokers .......... ................* ......**** ****** 11
3 Length of time for brokers to arrange carriage.......... 17
4 Difference in time to arrange carriage by destina-
tion, as compared to pre-strike period.................. 18
5 Shippers and brokers reporting having lost orders
during the strike............................... ..... 19
6 Difficulty in arrange loads by regions.................. 20
7 Rates per box pr crate reported by brokers for
selected commodities before and during the strike
by destination.......................* ........ .****** 22
1 Produce Shipments from Florida by Truck and Rail........ 3
2 Percent of carriers striking in Florida at selected
points in time during the strike.................1..... 10
3 Total fresh fruit and vegetable shipments from Florida
December 31, 1982-March 27, 1983 (excluding overseas
exports)..... .................... .... ....... ....... 12
4 Trailer-on-flatcar total fresh fruit and vegetable
shipments from Florida, December 13, 1982 March 27,
1983 ................................................... 14
5 Percent of total fresh fruit and vegetables shipments
from Florida shipped by trailer-on-flatcar, December
13, 1983 March 27, 1983 (excluding exports over-
seas).... ........... ................*.** ..........*. 15
6 Percent of shipments by trailer-on-flatcar that were
citrus, radishes, and tomatoes.......................... 16
7 Average rates to ship citrus, tomatoes and potatoes
to Atlanta (-), Chigcago (--) and New York (-f-)....... 21
List of Figures (continued)
8 Percent of total trailer-on-flatcar shipments that
were citrus, tomatoes and radishes...................... 27
9 Tomato shipments from Florida by trailer-on-flatcar,
December 13, 1982 March 27, 1983..................... 28
10 Percent of tomato shipments from Florida shipped by
trailer-on-flatcar, December 13, 1982 March 21,
1983.............. ......................... ........ 29
A.1 Percentage change in Federal road use tax, due to Sur-
fact Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, by gross
vehicle weight... ..*....... ..... ... ................. 34
The 1983 Independent Truckers Strike:
An Assessment of Its Effects on the Florida Produce Industry
Richard Beilock, Dorothy Comer and Valerie Butler
On January 6, 1982, President Reagan signed into law the Surface
Transportation Assistance Act of 1982. This legislation provided for a
major tax change, including a raise in the federal fuel tax from 4 cents
to 9 cents and increased road use taxes for heavy trucks (see Appendix
1). Many truckers vehemently opposed the increased taxes and as a
result, from January 31 to February 10, 1983, the Independent Truckers
Association (ITA) staged a strike. Part of the ITA's rationale was that
if they could disrupt the movement of products significantly, they would
have leverage with Congress to bring about changes in the tax structure
In this report the short and long run effects of the strike on the
Florida produce industry will be assessed. This industry was selected
because of its vulnerability to such strikes. Florida is almost totally
dependent upon trucking to transport its produce, which is highly per-
ishable and must be shipped soon after harvest to prevent product deter-
ioration. In addition, the majority of the carriers hauling produce
from Florida are independent truck owner-operators (Beilock and
Fletcher). For these reasons the Florida produce industry would likely
be among the most severely affected sectors of the U.S. economy.
Richard Beilock and Dorothy Comer are Assistant Professors and
Valerie Butler is a student in the Food and Resource Economics Depart-
The organization of this report will be as follows. First, the
market conditions existing at the time of the strike will be briefly
described. This is followed by a description of the data employed for
the study. The results are, presented as follows:
1. shipper and broker preparation strategies,
2. proportion of truckers striking,
3. shipments during the strike,
4. time to arrange carriage and associated problems,
5. freight rate levels during and around the time of the
6. short term effects, and
7. long term effects.
The results are summarized and conclusions are drawn.
Scope and Limitations
This study focuses on information obtained from surveys of produce
shippers and brokers and compares their responses with USDA shipment and
truck rate data. The study is limited in scope as it does not analyze
all the economic ramifications. It does, however, provide information
on the extent of the strike, its impact on produce shipments and survi-
val strategies. In addition, this study shows the capability of alter-
native shipping modes to fill in if truck shipments are curtailed.
Market Conditions at Time of Strike
Florida's produce shipping season generally begins in October and
continues through June (Figure 1). At the time of the strike, produce
shipments were averaging about 70,000 tons (roughly 3,260 truckloads)
0 -i- -1 x --- I--I------
Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mtar. Apr. lay June
Figure 1. Produce Shipment from Florida by Truck and Rail (Note:
In January 1982, there was a severe frost which lowered
produce shipments below usual levels,)
per week and expectations were that shipment volumes would remain close
to this level until mid-March, when shipments would begin to rise to a
Florida, in general, was in a surplus transportation supply situa-
tionI at the time of the strike for two reasons. Excessive rains,
especially in South Florida, had slowed harvesting operations.2 In
addition, after years of largely peding produce traffic to motor car-
riers, the Seaboard FysLEni Railroad (SSR) instituted on November 15,
1982, a new service called the Orangri Blossom Express. This new service
dedicates a trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC) unit train to transport produce
from Florida to the Northeast six days per week, with second or third
morning delivery to most points. Assuming a one and one-half to two
week turnaround time (i.e., the time from departure in Florida until the
TOFC trailer is back in F J.ida r eady for another ti t.p), SSR's fleet of
500 refrigerated trailers can run between 250 to 330 trailers per week.
Therefore, the Orange Blossom Express was capable of carrying eight to
ten' percent of the shipments leaving Florida the time of the strike. In
addition to the TOFC trailers offered by the Orange Blossom Express,
there were TOFC trailers available through nonrail firms.
Historically TOFC has been utilized primarily to transport radishes
and potatoes, and prior to the strike, the addition of the Orange Blos-
som Express had not changed this situation significantly. Weekly pro-
IFifty--four (61 p.'rcerin) of the brokers surveyed reported having a
surplus or slight sjrc.Ls truck supply situation before the strike.
None reported any shortage.
During the weeks tionledi rely pr-Ccediig the strike, heavy rains had
caused the cessation of harvesting operations in some areas around Lake
Okeechobee. Several truckers interviewed at that time reported waits of
up to two weeks to secure loads (Beilock and Fletcher), and in the USDA
Truck Ratc 1 Perp)r the truck availability situation was described as
lightt suirpl.Utj' o 'surplus.'
duce shipments for all TOFC ranged between 700 and 1,255 tons (about 35
to 57 truckloads) and, as in the past, the large majority of these
movements continued to be radishes and potatoes, indicating limited
success in attracting other commodities to this mode of transportation.
One reason for this may be because the service was new and doubts lin-
gered on the part of shippers and receivers about the railroad's ability
to deliver high quality service. In addition, the surplus supply of
trucks obviated the shift to an unfamiliar transport option.
In summary, then, at the time of the strike the Florida production-
shipping season was well underway, with shipments averaging over 3,000
truckloads were week. There was, however, considerable transport capac-
ity, both of trucking and TOFC services. Therefore, while the Florida
produce industry was vulnerable to a severe or prolonged strike, if the
strike were one in which only a small portion of the truckers partici-
pated, it would ha7e caused few problems.
In order to assess the effects of the 1983 truckers' strike, data
were collected from four principal sources:
1. a mail survey of produce shippers in Florida,
2. a phone survey of Florida agricultural truck brokers,
3. shipments and truck rate data published by the USDA and the
Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, and
4. informal discussions with personnel at Seaboard System
Shipper Mail Survey
In April, 1983 a questionnaire (see Appendix 2) was mailed to all
Florida produce shippers listed in the 1983 Blue Book. Of the 823
surveys that were mailed, 48 of them were not deliverable and 173 sur-
veys were returned for a response rate of 22 percent.
Shipment and Rate Data
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services main-
tains checkpoints (roadguard stations) to monitor shipments of agricul-
tural products into and out of the state. The Florida Crop and Live-
stock Reporting Service compiles these data into reports that show total
shipments from the state by day, by mode, and by commodity (Florida Crop
and Livestock Reporting Service, 1982 and 1983).
The USDA Agriclltuirj-1 Marketing Service (AMS) collects weekly
produce truck rate and availability information (USDA, 1980-1983). Rate
estimates represent an average of those reported by brokers, carriers
and shippers contacted by the AMS. This service was first instituted to
monitor conditions during the 1979 strike.
Si.pper and Brrikec 3'.'ike Pre paration Strateg_ e
Shippers and brokers were questioned about measures taken to pre-
pare for the strike. Sfxi:-*-i.xice shippers (36 percent) reported taking
action to prerpre, while 105 h:;ppers (61 percent) made no preparation.
Only 21 (23 percent) if the brokers reported taking any prestrike act-
ion. The large number taklcii no action is thought to be due to one or
more and the following reasons:
1. perceived inability to Prepare,
2. discounting of the chances for, or severity of, the impend-
ing strike, and
3. confidence that the firm would be able to adjust after the
onset of a strike.
For shipers, a strong relationship was found between preparing for the
strike and increased rates during the strike.3 This may suggest that
shippers taking (not taking) action had correctly judged that they would
(would not) be affected.
Of those shippers taking action, 26, or 41 percent, reported that
they reduced their picking operations. However, as has been previously
stated, severe weather conditions also contributed to reduced harvesting
prior to the strike, thus, it is not clear to what extent the reported
reductions were due to the strike. Eighteen shippers (29 percent)
stated that they attempted to sell an increased amount prior to the
strike. The importance of this strategy is supported by the fact that
shipments rose by about 10 percent during the week before the strike
(9,000 tons two weeks before the strike versus 9,875 tons the week
before the strike). Both reduced picking and increased prestrike ship-
ments would serve to reduce warehouse inventories. This has the advant-
age of providing additional space to refrigerate produce which may need
to be harvested but which may not be able to be shipped. The remaining
30 percent of shippers taking actions did not specify the measures
Nineteen (23 percent) of the brokers surveyed reported taking
special steps to prepare for the strike. Seven made special efforts to
The null hypothesis of no relationship between preparatory action
and observing increased rates could be rejected at the .01 percent level
(Chi-square 23.6 with 3 degrees of freedom).
contact truckers to encourage them to stay on the job. Five prearranged
loads and drivers, often with a view toward taking care of their regular
customers first. Three brokers organized caravans or arranged for
daylight runs and safe fuel stops. Two attempted to shift more of the
burden to in-house trucks, and one ceased guaranteeing times of deli-
very. Finally, one broker attempted to run more loads prior to the
strike, and then shut down.
Overview of the Strike
Proportion of Truckers Striking
While no precise figures exist to indicate the number or proportion
of truckers striking, an indication of strike behavior may be determined
from the shipper and broker surveys. Both groups were asked to estimate
the proportion of carriers with whom they deal that were out on strike
during the first four days and the last week of the strike. In addi-
tion, brokers were asked to differentiate between carriers holding ICC
authority (regulated) and those which do not (independent).
About half the shippers and 83 percent of the brokers reported that
any of the carriers whom they commonly employ struck (Tables 1 and 2).
As might be expected, brokers reported a significantly lower percentage
of regulated truckers out on strike than independent truckers. An
average of 5.4 percent of regulated truckers struck whereas 38.7 percent
of the independents went on strike (Table 2 and Figure 2). After three
to four days, an average of 27.2 percent of the independent carriers
were still on strike compared to 4.0 percent of the regulated carriers
(significantly more at the 5 percent level).
Table 1. Incidence of truckers on strike as perceived by
Did any of the truckers
you commonly use strike? #
Yes 84 (50)
No 82 (50)
No response 7
If some struck, how many
returned after first four
No answer (or no answer
Most returned 37 (45)
Half returned 14 (17)
Few returned 20 (24)
None returned 11 (13)
There were differences between the percent of truckers returning
after the first four days between the shippers and brokers. Sixty-two
percent of the shippers reported that half or more of the truckers
returned after the. first four days whereas 62 percent of brokers
indicated less than 26 percent of independent striking truckers
returned. Employing the percentage striking and the percentage returning
estimates from the broker survey, it is estimated that 14.5 percent of
the independent carriers and 2.8 percent of the regulated carriers
struck for the entire eleven days.
Percent of carriers striking in Florida at selected
points in time during the strike.
Table 2. Incidence of truckers on strike as perceived by brokers
L I I II I I I i
What percentage of truckers
Average pet.lent on strike
Of those striking, what percentage
returned after first four days?
Of those striking, what percentage
stayed out the whole 11 days?
Shipment Amounts During the Strikes
Ironically, the total amount of shipments during the strike was
comparable to the periods immediately preceding and after (Figure 3).
In fact, total shipments during the three-week period encompassing the
strike and adjustment period (January 24 February 14) exceeded that of
any three-week period after the strike until mid-May. This rise in
shipments during the strike may have been caused, in part, by receivers
stocking heavily in an attempt to minimize the effect of a prolonged or
12/13 12/212 12/27 1/3 I/)1 1/17 1/24 1/31 2/7 ./11 21/1 2 I/ 3/7 3/14 3/21
leek (begi'in! ing datul'l
Total fresh fruit and vegetable shipments from Florida, December
31, 1982-March 27, 1983 (excluding exports overseas).
increasingly effective strike. Several shippers noted that their
customers bought unusually large quantities in an effort to insulate
themselves against the strike. Given the brevity of the strike, many of
these purchases, no doubt, proved to be unnecessary.
Shipments by TOFC
Possibly the most important development during the strike was the
increased usage of TOFC. Two weeks prior to the strike, TOFC shipments
averaged about 100 tons per day, or between one to one and one-half
percent of total shipments (Figures 4 and 5). Although this represents
an increase of 80 percent over shipments by TOFC in 1982, these amounts
were still very small,considering the substantial investment SSR had
made in the Orange Blossom Express. Equally important was the fact that
TOFC had not yet captured a significant share of the traffic of any
commodity other than radishes or potatoes. While 41 percent of the
radishes were being shipped by TOFC, less than one-half of one percent
of any other commodity were using the railroad for shipping. Moreover,
in three of the six weeks prior to the strike, the only commodity
transported by TOFC was radishes (Figure 6).
Shortly before, the strike, SSR instituted a major promotional
campaign whereby a contract for 10 trailers would get one free. This,
coupled with efforts of shippers to position themselves for the strike,
led to a fourfold increase in TOFC shipments in the week prior to the
strike (Figure 4), and the proportion of total TOFC shipments that were
radishes plummeted from 100 percent to 35 percent (Figure 6). During
the strike, TOFC shipinenr s reached a rate of 850 tons per day, or nearly
10 percent of total shipments, and radish shipments dropped to 8 percent
of total TOFC movements. To accomplish this high rate of service, the
r I I I
12/13 12/20 12/27 1/3 l/It 1/17 t/24. 1/3/ 2/7 /1 I 2/21 2//-i i/7 i/14 3/21
jeAk (beghtiiingl dallc)
Figure 4.. Trailer-on-flatcar total fresh fruit and vegetable shipments
from Florida, December 13, 1982 March 27, 1983.
12/13 12/20 12/27 1/3 1/10 1/17 1/24 1/31 1/7 2/1-I 2/21 2/2S 3/7 3/14 3/21
Week beginningg diiiate)
Percent of total fresh fruit and vegetables shipments from Florida
shipped by trailer-on-flatcar, December 13, 1983 March 27, 1983
(excluding exports overseas).
60_- Radishes / /
12/13 12/2012/17 1/3 1/10 1/17 1/24 1/31 2/7 2/14 2/21 2/28 3/7 3/14 3/21
Week (beginning date)
Figure 6. Percent of shipments by trailer-on-flatcar that were citrus,
radishes_ and tomatoes
Orange Blossom Express ran seven days per week, and trailers were
sometimes rushed south without waiting for a return load to Florida.
Time to arrange carriage
Prior to the strike, brokers averaged about five hours to arrange
for a truck to carry a load. Seventy percent could arrange carriage to
any area with a phone call (Table 3). Only about 10 percent reported
taking longer than a day. During the strike the average time had
increased to about 16 hours to arrange a load to the Northeast or
Midwest and 12 hours to the Southeast (Table 4). Depending upon the
destination only, only 38-42 percent could arrange carriage with one
phone call and 23-29 percent required more than a day. Even so, 57
percent and 52 percent reported no difference in time to arrange a load
to the Southeast and Northeast, respectively. Slightly fewer 49 percent
reported no difference for a load going to the Midwest.
Table 3. Length of time for brokers to arrange carriage
Before Strike During Strike
Time Northeast Northwest Southeast Northeast Northwest Southeast
# %* # % # % # % # % # %
Call 55 (71) 50 (70) 48 (72) 28 (42) 24 (38) 25 (45)
Half day 14 (18) 13 (18) 12 (18) 21 (31) 21 (33) 18 (32)
More than day 8 (10) 8 (11) 7 (10) 18 (27) 18 (29) 13 (23)
Table 4. Difference in time to arrange carriage by destination, as
compared to pre-strike period
Difference Northeast Northwest Southwest
# % # % # %
Less 3 (4) 3 (5) 3 (5)
No change 35 (52) 31 (49) 32 (57)
Half day 13 (19) 14 (22) 10 (18)
More than day longer 16 (24) 15 (24) 11 (20)
As might be expected, those brokers reporting smaller percentages
of truckers striking tended to report smaller differences between the
time to arrange carriage before and during the strike. Of those seeing
no difference in the time to arrange loads, 63 percent reported 25
percent or less of the truckers initially striking. By contrast, only
25 percent of those reporting more than one day longer to arrange loads
also reported 25 percent or less of the truckers striking.
Shippers were asked to report the longest delay in arranging car-
riage during the strike by region (Table 4). The responses averaged 1.3
days to the Northeast, 1.0 days to the Midwest, and 0.35 days to the
Southeast. The differences in maximum delay between the Southeast, on
the one hand, and the Northeast and Midwest, on the other hand, were
significant at the one percent level. This pattern was consistent with
that noted by the brokers.
Thirty-one percent (50) of the shippers and 28 percent (23) of the
brokers reported losing orders due to transportation difficulties (Table
5). Forty-two percent of the shippers and 60 percent of the brokers
reported that the orders they lost had been destined to the Northeast.
Table 5. Shippers and brokers reporting having lost orders during the
# % #
Did you lose orders?
Yes 23 (28) 50 (31)
No 58 (72) 110 (69)
if so, to which region: Regiona Regiona
# % # %
East 7 (70) 22 (48) 6 (35)
South -- 4 ( 9) 2 (11)
West 1 9 (20) 6 (35)
Everywhere 2 5 (11) 1 ( 8)
Other -- 6 (13) 2 (11)
aRegion 1 was the region for which shippers reported losing the most
orders; Region 2 was second.
By contrast, only 12 percent of the lost shipper orders and none of the
lost broker orders had a Southern destination.
Carrier reluctance to serve specific areas
As is indicated in the preceding sections, during the strike the
Northeast was an area for which there was reluctance to serve (Table
6). Of the 29 brokers identifying regions to which carriage was parti-
cularly difficult to arrange, 80 percent (23) indicated the Northeast,
while only one broker (3 percent) saw and South as being a problem area.
One hundred and five shippers (79) percent stated that carriers
were reluctant to serve particular regions. Of these, 79 or 75 percent
indicated that truckers were adverse to going into the Northeast. Only
6 shippers (less than 6 percent) reported reluctance by Carriers with
respect to destinations in the South.
Table 6. Difficulty in arranging loads by region
Question Brokers Shippers
Were there areas to which # % # X
truckers were reluctant
Yes 29 (36) 105 (79)
No 52 (64) 59 (21)
If so, where?
South 1 (3) 6 (6)
New Jersey 20 (69) 40 (38)
Northeast 3 (10) 39 (37)
East 1 ( 3) 15 (14)
West 4 (14) 4 (4)
Canada 1 ( 1)
During the strike it is evident that rates rose, for at least some
commodities and destinations. Brokers were questioned with regard to
per box rates for citrus, tomatoes and potatoes or cabbage before the
strike, during the first four days of the strike, and during the final
week of the strike. The results are presented in Table 7 and Figure
7. Except for tomatoes going to Chicago, the average rates reported by
brokers rose during the four four days of the strike. For citrus going
to New York and Chicago, as well as for potatoes going to Atlanta, this
increase was significant at the 5 percent level. Except for potatoes
going to New York, rates had declined somewhat by the end of the strike.
These declines are thought to be due to an easing of the truck supply
situation as truckers returned to the job.
Seventy-two (42 percent) of the shippers reported that rates in-
creased during the strike. The mean percent of increase by destination
B M E B M E B M E
Citrus Tomato Potato
Time period and commodity
Figure 7. Average rates to ship citrus, tomatoes and potatoes
to Atlanta (---), Chicago (-,-) and New York (-t+).
B = WVeek before strike M = middle of strikeI E = ,rn,. of strike2
first four days of strike
"last week df. strike
Table 7. Rates per box or crate reported by brokers for selected com-
modities before and during the strike by designation
Destination and Time Under $1.26 $1.26-$1.50 Over $1.50
First 4 days
End of strike
First 4 days
End of strike
First 4 days
End of strike
First 4 days
End of strike
First 4 days
End of strike
First 4 days
End of strike
provides further evidence of the difficulties involved in
Northeast and, to a lesser extent, into the Midwest.
increase in rates reported by shippers was 16.1, 15.6,
Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast, respectively. The differences between
percentage increases in rates between the Southeast, on the one hand, and
the Northeast and Midwest, on the other hand, were significant at the 5 and
10 percent levels, respectively.
1 ( 3)
0 ( 0)
1 ( 7)
1 ( 7)
- --- -----" II -I I ---- ------~
Comment on violence and the media
The high proportion of lost orders to the Northeast, difficulties in
arranging freight to that area, large rate increases for loads to the
Northeast, and driver reluctance to haul into that region are thought to be
due, in large part, to the well publicized acts of violence which occurred
there (especially in Ohio and Pennsylvania). Indeed, one of the more un-
pleasant lessons of the strike is that violence, particularly well publi-
cized violence, increases the effectiveness of a transportation strike.
Several shippers commented that the media's 'hyping' of the violence story
both encouraged more violence and unduly dissuaded and worried those car-
riers wishing to stay in operation.
Short term effects
As has been described in the previous section, the truck strike did
little to prevent produce from reaching its market, somewhat elevated truck
rates, lengthened the time necessary to arrange carriage and increased the
share and absolute amounts of produce shipped via TOFC. All but the last
effect appears to have been temporary.
After the strike, truck supplies again outstripped demand in that
truckers typically had to wait to secure loads and could not be selective
regarding destination.4 The return to an excess capacity situation is
reflected in the weekly average rates reported by the USDA. From Figure 7
it is evident that the strike percipitated a transitory increase in rate
4During the strike the truck adequacy scale employed by the USDA
Agricultural Markerting Service in USDA Fruit and Vegertable Truck Rate
Report indicated that there were 'slight shortages' to some regions.
The adequacy code quickly reverted to 'adequate' or 'slight surplus' for
all regions after the strike.
levels ranging from 12 prei-cent for citrus to 24 percent from tomatoes5. By
early March, however, rates fell back to prestrike levels.
The post-strike rate levels are extremely low. Truck rates have not
risen in nominal terms and have fallen in real terms since 1980 (Table
6). Many, no doubt, participated in the strike as a general protest
against a system which, for them, has gone sour. Moreover, due to the low
rates, the opportunity costs of striking were not high. However, as rates
rose during the strike, the losses from not running also rose. This forced
many financially weak carriers back to work, and precipitated the collapse
of the strike (as evidenced by our estimates that less than half of those
who struck initially were still off the job at the end of the strike).
Lo-i Term Effects
The stated purpose of the truck strike was to bring about a change in
the tax laws. On February 10, 1983, ITA called off the strike in return
for a promise that Congress would review the relevant taxes. This review
is not expected for several months, but it appears doubtful, to these
authors, if any substantial changes will be made. The taxes in question
are based on the premise that users of a service should pay for that
service, a concept deeply rooted in the U.S. political-economic philosophy.
Many truckers were hurt financially by the strike. First, they lost
revenues from loads Foregone by striking. Several brokers indicated that
some owner-operators were forced out of business due to the strike.
5The larger pei-entage increases for tomato rates were not
unexpected. Being high valued and very perishable, the losses from
delay in shipping tomatoes can be great. Therefore tomato shippers are
more willing than shippers of less perishable, lower valued commodities
to offer premiums for expedited Eervice.
Second, and possibly more damaging, several shippers and brokers remarked
that the image of the truckers had been hurt, both in terms of the politi-
cal power they are perceived to wield and in terms of reliability of ser-
vice. The latter may convince some shippers and receivers that there is a
need to diversity shipments into private motor carriage and rail (TOFC).
As has been previously described, during the strike produce shipments
increased dramatically and the variety of commodities carried greatly ex-
panded. What is most significant, however, is that after the strike TOFC
shipments did not slide back to prestrike levels. To see this, three
periods will be compared, the six weeks prior to the week before the strike
(the prestrike period), the three weeks encompassing the strike (the strike
and adjustment period, and the following six weeks (the poststrike period).
During the poststrike period, average weekly produce shipments by TOFC
rose to 2,411 tons (four percent of shipments) from the 700 ton average per
week of the prestrike period (one percent of shipments) (Figures 4 and
5). Growth in TOFC shipments would be expected if total shipments were
growing: however, during the three periods, total produce shipments were
stable or slightly declining (Figure 2). Total citrus shipments, which
showed the largest increase in TOFC shipments, also decreased over this
period. Moreover, regardless of the growth pattern of total shipments, the
increase in the percentage of total shipments carried by TOFC indicates
that shippers and receivers were switching from motor carriers to TOFC.
The mix and variety of commodities carried by TOFC increased markedly
after the strike relative to before. As can be seen in Figure 6, before
the strike, radish shipments dominated TOFC movements however, after the
strike radish shipments did accounted for less than a third of TOFC move-
ments. Citrus fruits have become the dominant commodity shipped and TOFC
shipments of tomatoes have grown to rival those for radishes. Moreover,
the mean percentage of TOFC shipments accounted for by the three most impor-
tant commotities dropped from 97.8 in the six weeks prior to the strike-
adjustment period to 86.4 in the six weeks following this period, indicat-
ing the broadening base of commodities being shipped via this mode (Figure
The continued use of TOFC after the strike for shipping high valued,
damage prone commodities, such as tomatoes (Figures 9 and 10), underscores
the fact that shippers have been pleased with the quality of service offer-
ed. The traditional dominance of radishes and potatoes in TOFC shipments
from Florida was, in part, because of the ability of those commodities to
withstand longer-than-truck transit times, rougher handling, and lack of
monitoring, which were commonly associated with TOFC services. However,
with the Orange Blossom Express, shippers are offered a level of service
comparable to trucking in most respects.6
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
In this report some of the effects of the Jamuary 31 February 10,
1983 independent truckers' strike on the Florida produce industry have been
assessed. As this industry produces perishable goods and is almost totally
dependent upon trucking to transport its products, it was particularly
vulnerable to a strike. This vulnerability was further enhanced by the
fact that an estimated 56 percent of the truckers serving the industry are
independent (Beilock and Fletcher). At the time of the strike, produce
shipments were steady at about 3,200 truckloads per week.
6Forty-seven shippers reported using the Orange Blossom Express
during the strike. Of these, 8 (17 percent) rated the performance as
better than trucking, 33 (70 percent) the same as trucking, and 6 (13
percent worse than trucking.
S I Week
1..1 1 .. .--
Figure 8. Percent of total trailer-on-flatcar shipments that
were citrus, tomatoes and radishes
12/13 12/20 12/27 1/3 1/ll
1/17 1/lt4 1/:1 2/7
2/14 2/-21 2/_ .7/7
Welkl, (ltwr|illlilln;in, d itl
Figure 9. Tomato shipments from Florida by trailer-on-flatcar, December
13, 1982 March 27, 1983.
r m --I
12/13 12/20 12/27 1/3 1/10 1/17 1/24 1/31 2/7 2/14 2/21 2/28 3/7 3/14 3/21
Week (beginning date)
Figure 10. Percent of tomato shipments from Florida shipped by trai lCr-on- fltatciar, Decelber
13, 1982 March 21, 1983
The results of the study suggest that the strike had the following
short run effects:
1. Demand initially increased as receivers attempted to stockpile
2. Initially 39 percent of the independent and 5 percent of the regu-
lated carriers shut down. By the end of the first four days of
the strike 27 percent of the independents and 4 percent of the
regulated carriers were still on strike. By the end of the strike
only 15 percent of the independents and 3 percent of the regulated
carriers were still out.
3. There was a 12 to 24 percent increase in freight rates (depending
upon the commodity and the destination) during the early part of
the strike, which tapered off as carriers returned to the job.
4. There was some increase in the difficulty of arranging carriage
and some orders could not be filled. These problems were most
severe for loads going to the Northeast.
5. Many shippers switched to TOFC, taking advantage of the newly
instituted Orange Blossom Express to the Northeast. Overall,
shippers rated the TOFC service as comparable to trucking.
For the most part, shippers were able to deliver their loads to market.
Total shipments during the three-week period encompassing the strike actu-
ally exceeded that for the three week periods immediately before or after.
Shippers, receivers, and brokers coped with the strike by the use of
four main strategies: reduced picking, increased shipments prior to the
strike, prior scheduling with encouragement and safety arrangements (con-
voys, safe fuel stops, daylight schedules) for carriers, and use of TOFC.
Many, however, found that the strike was so mild enough that they could
operate essentially on a business-as-usual basis. This became increasingly
true as carriers returned to the job.
The longer run effects of the strike are:
1. A shift to TOFC by many shippers. The strike accelerated movement
to this mode by forcing shippers to try it before they otherwise
2. Questionable political gains for truckers in the form of a pro-
mise by Congress to review tax measures. This dubious gain is
more than offset by the overall impression that the independents
demonstrated only modest economic power due to an inability to act
in a unified manner.
Prior to the strike about one percent of produce shipments were by TOFC and
the largest share was radish shipments. After the strike four percent of
shipments were by TOFC, and the variety of commodities shipped had expanded
The truck strike did not seriously disrupt the Florida produce indus-
try. To the extent that shippers were driven to utilize TOFC service, the
railroads were helped. It appears that some of the gains made by TOFC
during the strike have persisted. The ability to transfer some of the
burden to TOFC has weakened trucking's market power over the produce indus-
try. The value of having such alternatives has not been lost of the ship-
pers and receivers.
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION ASSISTANCE ACT
Surface Transportation Assistance Act
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, coupled with amend-
ments to an earlier U.S. Department of Transportation appropriations bill,
provide for three major changes affecting the motor carrier industry:
1. increased expenditures for construction and repair of federally
2. relaxed truck weight and length restrictions on all U.S. Inter-
states and some other roads, and
3. tax changes, including a raise in the federal fuel tax from 4
cents to 9 cents and increased road use taxes for heavy trucks.7
In the truckers' view, by far the most onerous tax is the road use tax.
For full sized tractor-trailers (the type of vehicle typically used for
interstate produce hauls) this tax will increase from 240 dollars annually
to 1,600 dollars in 1984, or in 1985 if the firm owner owns five or fewer
vehicles. While the road use tax will escalate for most smaller sized
trucks, heavier trucks will bear the brunt of the tax (see Fig. A.1). The
reason for this tax structure is to force heavier vehicles to pay for the
greater amounts of damage they are purposed to do to roadways and bridges.
To the owners of these vehicles, however, the tax was seen as unfair dis-
crimination, and it'comes at a time when many truckers are struggling to
stay in business.
7For more detailed explanation of these measures see Anderson
(1983) or Beilock (1983).
26 30 35 40 45 SO 55 60 65 70 75 80
Gross Vehicle Weight (1,000 Ibs.)
Figure A.I. Percentage Change in Federal Road Use Tax, Due to
Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, by
Gross Vehicle Weight.
1983 TRUCK STRIKER BROKER SURVEY
1983 Truck Striker
1. Prior to the strike which term would you say best described the truck
__ Surplus Slight surplus Adequate Slight Shortage
2. Prior to the strike, how long did it take you to arrange a truck for a
load to the
And how long during the strike
3. What actions, if any, did your firm take to prepare for the strike?
4. About what proportion of the independent truckers you serve shut down
during the strike? %
Of those, what proportion came back after the first 3-4 days? _%
and what proportion of those striking stayed out for all '11 days? %
How about the regulated, fleet operations? What proportion shut down
Of those, what proportion came back after 3-4 days ? %
and what proportion stayed out for all 11 days? %
5. Were there any areas of the country to which you had particular problems
arranging carriage? __ Ye. .No
If yes, where? ____-.______
6. What were typical rates being charged for citrus, tomatoes, and potatoes
or cabbage just prior to the strike for the following destinations?
Destination or to Strike
DestnationCitrus Tomatoes Potatoes or Cabbage
1st 4 days of strike (Monday-Thursday)
Last week of strike
7. Were you unable to arrange carriage for any loads
If yes, how many loads and to where?
8. By about what percentage did the strike lower the
During the 1st 4 days of the strike? During
during the strike?
number of loads you
the last week of the strike?
9. Did you or any of your customers use the Orange Blossom Express?
If yes, how was the service?
10. Did the strike accomplish anything? Yes
If yes, what?
Thank you. Would you like a copy of the final report ?
Survey of the Effects of the January/February 1983
1. What commodities were you shipping at the time of the truck strike?
2. What actions, if any, did you take to prepare for the strike?
shipped unusually large quantities before the strike
reduced picking or purchases just prior to the strike to avoid
being stuck with large-inventories
other please explain:
3. How do you arrange for carriage?
Normally During the strike
brokers % % of time
direct contact with truckers % % of time
receivers trucks % _% of time
your own trucks % % of time'
rail (piggyback) % % of time
other % %_ of .time
4. How long, on average, did it take you to arrange for a truck (from the
time you-started looking):
in the weeks prior to the strike? during the strike?
5. Did any of the truckers you usually use strike?
If yes, about what percent of them? %
Did any return after a few days?
Yes, about half
Yes, a few
6. Did freight rates paid during the strike go up? Yes No
If yes, by about how much did the rates go up?
% to the Northeast
% to the Midwest
% to the Southeast
7.. What produce loses, if any, did you incur due to the strike?
Commodity Value of loss
Total loss Reduced value from overly
8. What was the longest delay you experienced in shipments
days to the Northeast
days to the Midwest
days to the Southwest
Were there any orders you completely lost due to lack of transport?
If yes, what commodity(ies) and to what areas) of the country?
9. How much did you actually ship during the following periods and would
you have shipped if there had been no strike?
Number of Truckloads
Week prior to strike
Week following strike
Actually shipped /
strike or threat
of a strike
10. During the strike, were there any areas of the country which truckers were
particularly reluctant to serve? 'Yes No
If yes, where and why?
11. Did you consider using the new piggyback service, the Orange Blossom
Yes, used it Yes, considered it No, not considered
If used, was the service as good or better than for trucking?
Better than trucking About the same Worse than trucking
If different from trucking, in what way(s)?
_I I~ I___~_
If not used, why not?
Not necessary as trucks still available
Receivers won't accept rail deliveries
Other, please explain
12. What should the state of Florida do to prepare for strikes?
13. Additional comments?
Thank you for your time and effort. If you want a copy of the final report,
please include your name and address on a separate piece of paper.
1. Beilock, R., and G. Fletcher. Report to the Florida Agricultural
Transportation Task Force of the Preliminry Findings of the Florida
Department of Consumr Services--Food and Resource Economics Department
Study of Exempt Perishable Goods Haulers, Food and Resource Economics
Staff Paper #237, University of Florida 1983.
2. Federal-State Market News Servie, Florida Shipment Report: Fresh
Fruits and Vegetables, Federal-State Market News Service (1982-1983)
3. Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, Citrus Summary: 1982,
4. Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, Vegetable Summary: 1982,
5. Produce Reporter Company, The Blue Book. Weston, Illinois, 1982.
6. USDA, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables and Ornamental Crops: Weekly
Summary--Shipments and Unloads, Agricultural Marketing Service (1982-
7. USDA, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Truck Rate Report, Agricultural
Marketing Service, (1982-1983), (weekly).