Spanish truck drivers announce three-day strike ahead of Christmas

With diesel prices spiking, the sector is calling for urgent action from the government, which it accuses of ‘neglect’

Trucks parked in a service station in October.
Trucks parked in a service station in October.Samuel Sánchez
Ignacio Fariza

Spain’s National Road Transportation Committee (CNTC) announced on Wednesday a three-day strike, between December 20 and 22, to protest what it calls the government’s failure to address a crisis in the sector. In a press release issued Wednesday evening, the CNTC – which represents freight truck drivers in Spain – accused the administration of “neglect,” arguing that “all reasonable channels of negotiation have been exhausted.” The strike was called following a meeting with Jaime Moreno, the managing director of Ground Transportation.

The CNTC said the action was in response to the “exorbitant rise” in the cost of diesel, which it described as the “deathblow to a sector that has been struggling since before the pandemic.” Diesel represents around one-third of the industry’s costs.

The CNTC has, however, left the door open to further negotiation with the Spanish government, which is a coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos. “Only radical and urgent change from the government and clients [in reference to the companies that hire trucking services] can prevent this conflict,” the document stated.

If the strike is not called off, it could negatively affect the supply chain ahead of Christmas – key days for business, when more is sold than at any other time of the year. The last national strike from the sector took place in June 2008, at the beginning of the financial crisis, and led to massive bottlenecks and fuel shortages.

The sudden rise in the cost of diesel this year has been the final straw for the industry, which has been in crisis for some time. In the press release, the committee alluded to “several years” of negotiations on thorny issues such as banning drivers from having to load and unload freight, the Euroviñeta road toll for heavy transportation, creating safe rest spaces and the automatic renewals of fees that reflect the rise in the cost of fuel, a measure the sector said is not being met.

Not even by working the maximum hours allowed by the tachograph do you make enough
José Ramón Jimeno, self-employed truck driver

According to the press release, these problems are compounded by “the absolute lack of sensitivity from our clients [...] who take advantage of their position of power granted to them by the current regulation on contracting road freight transportation.” The CNTC added that the “degrading and inhumane treatment” suffered by workers at the hands of clients is also to blame for the shortage of professional truck drivers in the country. In Spain, around 15,000 drivers are needed, and although this shortfall is not a major factor, it is one of the ingredients contributing to the global supply chain crisis.

The rise in costs, particularly the price of fuel, is pushing the sector to breaking point, according to workers. “You cut expenses one way or another. You push back revisions, changing the wheels… As we say among ourselves, you start eating away at the truck,” José Ramón Jimeno, a self-employed truck driver who works out of the port of Valencia, told EL PAÍS recently. “Not even by working the maximum hours allowed by the tachograph do you make enough. We either pass on this rise in prices or many of us are going to fall.”

Concerns of a strike had been brewing for some time before Wednesday. The general secretary of the National Federation of Transportation Association in Spain (Fenadismer), Juan José Gil, raised the idea last week in an interview with EL PAÍS, saying that a strike could be called to protest the rise in fuel prices, which have spiked 30% since the beginning of the year and 40% in the last 12 months. “I don’t know if it will get to that point, but we are not ruling it out,” he said. Now, these fears have turned into reality.

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