July 1, 2023

Will truckers answer the call to boycott Florida on Saturday?


Hundreds of social media posts in recent days have called for truck drivers to boycott picking up and delivering freight in Florida on Saturday — the date the state’s new law targeting undocumented immigrants takes effect. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1719 into law in May, which targets undocumented immigrants by requiring employers to check that workers are authorized to work in the U.S. The new immigration law expands requirements for businesses with more than 25 employees to use E-Verify, a federal system that determines if employees can legally work in the U.S. 

With the law set to go into effect this weekend, some truckers have called for a one-day statewide boycott. 

It’s unclear how many truckers plan to participate in the boycott, but seasoned industry veterans say, regardless, the protesters’ efforts will likely fail.

In today’s rocky economic climate — and if shippers are forced to raise their rates in order to get their freight moved — there’s always going to be an owner-operator or company driver, who has little say in where they are being dispatched, that will break ranks with a convoy or boycott “if the price is right.” 

“I sympathize with those calling for a boycott in Florida, but our industry is in survival mode right now and I have a family to feed,” an owner-operator, who didn’t want to be named for fear of retaliation, told FreightWaves on Friday. “If the rates are there and I can make money on the load, you bet my truck will be fueled up and ready to roll.”

OTRI.FL (white) and OTVI. FL (blue). While there’s not a huge change in volume, the chart shows that rejections in Florida are on the upswing, jumping nearly 200 basis points in 10 days, from below 3% to 4.71%. (Chart: FreightWaves SONAR)

Will Florida truckers be impacted by new law?

Joe Rajkovacz, who is the director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association, told FreightWaves he started receiving media calls in mid-May seeking comments about how truck drivers will be affected by Florida’s new law, which invalidates out-of-state driver’s licenses held by people living in the country illegally.

However, Rajkovacz said the law wouldn’t impact Florida truck drivers with valid CDLs because, under federal law, states can’t issue a CDL to a truck driver who doesn’t have a green card, which authorizes them to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis or isn’t a U.S. citizen.

“When it comes to operating a big truck, the Department of Homeland has always recognized that a truck could be used as a major weapon to attack civilians and infrastructure,” Rajkovacz wrote in a recent article in his association’s magazine

He said that what happened on 9/11 is why the industry has seen an uptick in “credentialing requirements for truckers, from the TWIC card to expanded vetting just to be issued a hazmat endorsement on a CDL.” 

Rajkovacz, who hauled produce for nearly 30 years, said Florida farmers, which rely heavily on migrants to work the fields in the state, will be hit the hardest by the new law.

Prior to Saturday’s planned boycott, some truckers on TikTok have been spreading misinformation about the impact the state’s immigration law is already having on the trucking industry in Florida, posting FreightWaves’ articles from March, including one about a Miami-based trucking company and freight brokerage that filed for bankruptcy protection and another article about Medley, Florida-based Flagship Transport Logistics and its affiliates, which abruptly ceased operations leaving 455 truck drivers unpaid, as occurring in late June.

Alix Miller, president and CEO of the Florida State Trucking Association, said she’s “aware of the reports [of a boycott] but am not aware of any issues.” 

One truck driver, who lives in Georgia, said if spot rates don’t spike dramatically in Florida, he plans to stay home, barbecue and enjoy the July Fourth holiday.

“I will be checking spot rates throughout the night,” he said. “If I see something good, I’ll head out because if I don’t, someone else will take it — that’s just how this industry works.”

Noi Mahoney and Joe Antoshak contributed to this report.

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