US, Mexican Truckers Unite To Protest Low Wages, Poor Working Conditions

US, Mexican Truckers Unite To Protest Low Wages, Poor Working Conditions

Convoy of truckers travel through West Texas to highlight grievances

Noi Mahoney

A cross-border trucker-led convoy [rolled] through parts of West Texas on Monday to spotlight everything from violence against drivers, low wages to poor working conditions in both Mexico and the U.S., organizers said.

The convoy — a joint action between the U.S.-based Truckers Movement for Justice (TMJ) and the Mexico-based United Mexican Carriers (TAMEXUN) and the Binational Carriers Union (STB) — [consisted] of about 75 truckers from both sides of the border on a 150-mile trek from Odessa, Texas, through Kermit and Monahans, Texas.

“TMJ, STB and TAMEXUN are fighting for the rights of the drivers to organize and to negotiate collectively with trucking companies,” Billy Randel, founder of TMJ, told FreightWaves in an interview.

Randel and members of TMJ, STB and TAMEXUN said they are seeking “respect” and “justice” from the trucking industry and want government action or changes in the industry.

“In one word, we want justice. We’re all talking about justice for truck drivers. We carry the backs of the world on us,” said Jazmin Lovos, a member of TMJ. Lovos and her husband Oscar are truck drivers in the Permian Basin.

The majority of drivers participating in the Texas protest are owner-operators working in the oilfields of West Texas or Mexico-based B1 visa drivers hauling goods into the U.S.

Across the border, drivers from Mexico said they are often recruited by U.S.-based trucking companies initially offering pay rates of 30 cents a mile, then later the company will reduce a Mexico-based driver’s rate to 19 cents a mile.

“There’s a lot of people who also care about the 19 cents a mile because they think they are making money with that,” Jesus Chuy, a driver from Mexico and member of STB, said. “The industries get the best of Mexican drivers with that.”

Randel said it doesn’t matter which side of the border truckers are from.

“We go back to the simple fact that trucking companies are using our brothers and sisters in Mexico, against our brothers and sisters in the United States,” Randel said. “This is why we have the solidarity, an alliance that we built with the TAMEXUN, STB and TMJ, we’ve got to fight.”

The majority of drivers participating in the Texas protest are owner-operators working in the oilfields of West Texas. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Poor working conditions for truck drivers in the U.S.

Oscar Lovos, a member of TMJ, and several other drivers said truckers have faced poor work conditions in the Permian Basin area of West Texas for years.

The Permian Basin is an oil and gas producing area mainly in West Texas, as well as southeastern New Mexico.

The issues drivers in the region face range from low wages, long waits to unload trucks, to companies that don’t pay for fuel surcharges, TMJ members said.

“I’ve been in the oil field for over 11 years, driving in the Permian Basin. The oil field has gone downhill tremendously. Inflation is going high, the price of oil is still high, but yet our wages are going lower and lower,” Lovos said. “It seems like every month they’re going to lower the rates on us. We’re barely surviving as it is.”

Lovo said being an oil field truck driver can be tough physically due to the condition of roads in the Permian Basin.

“I’ve been in the oil field for over 11 years, driving in the Permian Basin … wages are going lower and lower,” truck driver Oscar Lovos said. (Photo: Jim Allen/ FreightWaves)

“The roads out here are extremely bad. Driving on these roads beat up our trucks, then we have to pay for repairs and nobody helps us with the repairs,” Lovo said.

Jazmin Lovo said truck drivers working in the oil fields often get stuck waiting in long lines when they are dropping off shipments. Many shippers in the Permian Basin don’t pay detention or demurrage fees to owner-operators, she said.

“Some days they spend a long, long time unloading the trucks and they don’t pay detention time or demurrage,” Jazmin Lovo said. “They use our trucks like a storage unit, like a warehouse. But if you’re going to rent a warehouse to have your stuff, you get charged. But the companies that hire us to carry the frac sand are not paying detention time.

Other complaints include the lack of adequate restrooms for drivers in the region.

“We’re lucky if they give us port-a-johns. We demand restrooms that have air conditioning in them. My wife Jazmin is a truck driver. Me as man, I don’t want to go inside of port-a-john when it’s 100 degrees outside. Do you think she wants to go in there? The restrooms they give are not fair, not right,” Oscar Lovo said.

Marco Mery, who drives trucks in the Permian Basin, said the detention times and road conditions cost them money.

“We don’t get any respect,” Mery said. “There’s too many things involved in being a driver. We have to pay to be a truck driver, owner-operators, we pay the insurance, the stickers, license plates and everything. Everything is a lot of money. And we don’t get that money back.”

Truck drivers in Mexico face theft and assault everyday

Across the border in Mexico, truck drivers face hijackings, theft, low wages and lack of adequate facilities, such as restrooms and rest areas, members of TAMEXUN and STB said.

“In Mexico, one of the biggest issues is there is absolutely no security for the drivers,” Chuy said. “Drivers are routinely beaten every day. There are trucks stolen from drivers every day and the National Guard and the federal government as well as the state governments do nothing to protect the drivers from assaults.”

In the first five months of 2024, Mexico totaled 700 cargo truck thefts, according to the National Association of Vehicle Tracking and Protection Companies (ANERPV).

More than 65% of cargo robberies involve the use of violence, according to ANERPV. The lack of cargo security is why many Mexican truck drivers choose to get a visa and work in the U.S., Chuy said.

“Drivers get assaulted from both government police as well as criminals,” Chuy said. “A driver was murdered earlier this year, killed while he was working. This is a struggle. We need respect and we need protection of law.”

Once Mexico-based drivers begin working in the U.S., trucking companies often use them to keep wages lower for U.S. drivers., Chuy said.

“Truck drivers from Mexico are routinely used to push down the wages and working conditions of American truck drivers,” Chuy said. “This is why we formed this alliance. We feel strongly that we need to equalize the working conditions for truck drivers in both countries, so we can all have a quality of life.”

Manuel Mendoza, president of TAMEXUN said truck drivers keep the economies of the U.S. and Mexico moving, but make very little money.

Truck driver salaries in Mexico averaged $4,400 in 2022.

“The truth is that every day there is more and more discrimination. Our work is made more humiliating, subjected to the whims of carriers, big businessmen who come from political parties,” Mendoza said.

“We want better payments for our drivers. We don’t need brokers. We need to deal directly with the shippers so that we have a better life.”

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(TLB) published this article by Noi Mahoney as posted at FreightWaves

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]

Header featured image (edited) credit: Trucks/(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Emphasis added by (TLB)

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