About 40 logging truckers made the Flathead County Fairgrounds their first and last stop Tuesday morning, refusing to deliver logs to Plum Creek Timber Co., in an effort to increase their pay.
The truckers said shipping rates paid by Plum Creek to logging companies, which in turn pay the truckers, are so low driver’s are losing money, and will soon be out of business.
According to Kevin Jump, president of John Jump Trucking Inc., 18 logging trucks have stopped running in the valley in the last year, because they can no longer afford to.
“If rates don’t come up, you’ll see a lot more leaving this year,” Jump said.
Plum Creek, the second largest employer in the valley, has countered that its pay scale is appropriate.
Appropriate or not, Plum Creek pays loggers far less that what area construction companies offer for hauling.
Log drivers are making about $57 an hour. Out of this, they must pay for their truck, its maintenance, insurance and fuel. In the end, according to Jump, log drivers bring home about $30,000 a year. The average wage in the Flathead, by point of comparison, is $26,726. Construction drivers, on the other hand, get a rate of about $68 a hour, plus a fuel surcharge, which varies with fuel prices.
Jump said that most of the 18 truckers that left the logging industry last year went over to construction. He and the other truckers want to be paid the same as the construction truck drivers.
A spokesman for Plum Creek reportedly said that Tuesday’s rainy weather would have kept most of the truckers from working anyway. He expected most of them to be back on the road once the weather clears up.
But Jump, and the truckers who sat with him sipping their coffee in a building on the fairgrounds, thought differently.
“We don’t have a choice,” Jump said. “We can’t afford to go back to work.”