TACOMA — Andy Bishop, a second-generation independent logging truck driver from Buckley, says he makes no more money today than his dad did 20 years ago.
In addition to stagnant pay, 12- to 15-hour days and high injury rates, rising diesel prices are threatening the once-flourishing industry.
“Everybody is broke,” said Bishop, who passed up his $200-a-day salary and drove his logging truck to the Tacoma Dome Tuesday, joining more than 250 other drivers from Washington and Oregon to demand timber companies compensate them for the spiraling diesel prices.
Fueling a truck like Bishop’s costs $50 more a day than it did a year ago.
It’s enough to obliterate any profit Bishop and other drivers might make, and put many truck hauling companies out of business.
The timber business has been declining for the past two decades. Wages for loggers and truck drivers haven’t kept up with inflation, and many workers say they haven’t seen a pay raise in more than a decade.
Most drivers make about $35,000 a year and get no benefits, said Gary Barnes, president of the Northwest Log Truckers Co-op.
Although the average driver makes about $120,000 a year per truck, insurance, maintenance and other costs take away more than two-thirds of the total, said Brian Gallagher, a log truck driver who shut down most of his operation Tuesday, parking six of his seven trucks.
One of Gallagher’s trucks continued to work for 2x4 Lumber Co. in Morton, which pays a fuel surcharge.
He said he loses about $650 a day in revenue per truck each day he’s closed.
Drivers worry that some will sacrifice safety so they can stay in business, perhaps putting off buying new tires or replacing brakes because they don’t have the money.
Gordon Pogorelc, owner of North Fork Timber in Chehalis, said the logging business has been tough for several years. His company made a profit in only one out of the last three years.
His company hires about 30 independent log trucks a day. A few months ago he increased the fee he paid to those drivers by 5 percent. “As I start new jobs, I am increasing it more than that,” he said. “I have very loyal independent truckers.”
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