Some heavy haul truckers are union members and some are not. Those that choose to do so are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). Some of the largest trucking companies are unionized, along with smaller trucking businesses. Truck drivers who are classified as independent contractors can’t join the union.
Labor unions in the U.S. date back to the 18th century. They’ve been a driving force for better wages, benefits and working conditions. The IBT was officially formed in 1903 to represent horse-drawn team drivers, along with stable hands.
The history and nature of unions has been a rollercoaster ride since Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. It deregulated the trucking industry and allowed more low-cost, non-union carriers to enter the industry, which decreased the power of unions.
Combined with that have been the union busting efforts of state governors to strip power from unions and private sector workers, along with bans against deducting union dues from paychecks, and prohibiting unions from participating in collective bargaining.
Current estimates are that only 2 percent of 3.6 million truck drivers are unionized, excluding government workers. Some trucking executives see unionization as the gateway to higher wages for truckers and lower profits for the company. Management of trucking companies say they’d rather take a “relationship building” approach with truckers.
For unionized long-haul truck drivers, the benefits can be worth the dues they pay. They include medical, vision and dental coverage, along with life insurance and long-term and short-term disability. Other heavy haul drivers prefer to negotiate for jobs and terms on their own.
Labor unions have been a topic of continuing contention in all industry sectors. There are some unionized individuals that have given away benefits, while others turned down unionization. Their rationale is that if they don’t have access to those benefits, other drivers shouldn’t either.
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