LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

SEATTLE -- The Port of Seattle says the strike by hundreds of truck drivers is having an impact and the movement looks like it keeps growing.

The more than 100 drivers picketing outside the Union Pacific rail yard Thursday say they need to make more money and need to be safe doing it.

I do have a family, said Dawit Mekonnem. We are owner operators. We use our own truck, fuel everything.

After expenses like $200 oil changes, $400 tires and $500-a-week in fuel, not to mention taxes, Mekonnem makes just about $15,000 in a year. The drivers say to make things safer they need to make more than $40 or $50 a load.

Mekonnem's 1999 freightliner has sit parked on a South Seattle street for nearly two weeks. And it's not alone.

Containers are moving at the port. While, the drivers claim more than 450 of them are on strike, thousands of others are not, at least not yet. But there is an effect and the port worries cargo could end up going elsewhere eventually costing jobs.

We're seeing a larger impact than just the pure number of drivers who might not be showing up for work, said Seaport Managing Director Linda Styrk.

If the strike continues or expands, hard won port business could go elsewhere.

But if they don't have certainty about where things are headed, that increases their risk factors and they reassess their situation, said Styrk.

That means more of the things you buy could go divert through the Port of Tacoma, which loads more rail cars directly on the dock. Ports in California and Canada could also end up with that business and that means fewer trade related jobs in Seattle.

I think it happens to be a weak link in a chain, said Port Commissioner Rob Holland.

Holland has been talking directly to the drivers asking if the drivers can't make enough money does the system break down.

The dog eat dog process that's out there now. It's not going to help the truckers themselves, said Holland.

The port does not hire the drivers. It leases space to companies that load and unload ships and they hire the trucking companies that contract with the drivers.

Tied up in all of this is safety. A year ago, 97 percent of short haul trucks that were stopped had serious safety problems. Washington State Patrol says that's now down to 70 percent with a long way to go.

The port is now sitting down with police and the people who operate the docks to try and fix the problem on multiple fronts.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.king5.com/story/news/2014/08/02/13059902/