SEATTLE --- With diesel prices averaging nearly $5 a gallon, independent truckers like Seattle-based Fletcher Mack, who operates a white Freightliner, are struggling to make ends meet today.
Mack has seen his weekly income drop about $150 in the past year, he told the Associated Press. That income is now about $750 a week, before health insurance and taxes. That doesn't leave enough money to cover all living and business expenses.
"This particular week what doesn't get paid is there's no service on the truck, because I had to decide between food and an oil change on the truck," Mack told AP. "The truck suffers, and the truck is how we make our money. And if the truck breaks then we have a really big problem."
Mack and his girlfriend rent a one-bedroom house in South Park, a working-class neighborhood in Seattle. His annual income is about $38,000 --- slightly lower than the national average of $41,000 for an owner-operator truck driver.
Trucking companies are being forced out of business at alarming rates these days. In the first quarter of this year, an estimated 935 trucking companies closed, according to a report from Avondale Partners. And that number doesn't include companies with less than five trucks or owner-operators.
Many independent truck drivers have complained that freight brokers who charge shippers a fuel surcharge are failing to pass that along to the drivers. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have introduced bills to address the problem, the AP reported.