Iran Truck Drivers Strike

Protests Continue to Grow in Iran

The Iranian people are speaking out against the regime in a powerful way, using social movements to demand real change. Throughout this report, we will discuss these movements and their impact on the lifespan of the Iranian regime.

Social Movements With Nation-wide impact in 2018

Protest Movement

From

To

The protest movement of fellow countrymen in Ahvaz

March 28

April 8

The effective social movement of farmers of Esfahan

April 9

April 15

The protests of people of Kazeroun

April 15

May 20

The nation-wide strike of truck drivers

May 22

Until now (May 30)

During a period of two months, from March until May 30, 2018,  we are facing a new phenomenon of Nation-Wide Social Movements with nation-wide impact. The four movements in the table have continued uninterruptedly one after the other. In addition to the above-mentioned four continuous movements, during the same time-frame of two months, there was the nation-wide strike of teachers in thirty-four different cities, the protests of workers on May 1, and the shop owners strike in Kurdistan. Following the fall of the value of the national currency, the most important markets of the country went on strike.

A Look into the Strike of Truck Drivers

The strike of truck drivers started on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. On the first day, the truck drivers of 50 cities joined the strike. The next day, the number of the cities on strike reached 70. On the third day, it skyrocketed to more than 100 cities. Today, May 30, there are 279 cities in 31 different provinces on strike. What initiated this strike was the high prices of truck accessories and low truck freight rates.

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Several different companies and syndicates have supported this strike, including Snapp Taxi of Tehran and Esfahan, bus drivers of Robatkarim, and Minibus drivers of Shiraz and Yazd. In addition to the support of similar syndicates, this strike has been supported by several other organisations and syndicates, including the drivers of Persi Gas Company; Farmers of Varzane, Esfahan; parts of Bazaar of Tehran, Esfahan, Bojnurd, Naghde, Karaj, Qom, Maku and Jolfa; as well as the workers of Traverse Railways of Esfahan, Shahrud, Semnan, and Damghan. During the past days, this strike has also been supported by foreign organisations, including the Truck Drivers Syndicate of the United States.

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Strikers’ Demands

As a result of the regime’s multifaceted oppression, the demands of truck drivers are political, as well as economical:

Economical:  protesting the constant fare rates of trucks. Insurance prices, highway tolls, the cost of repairs, and the cost of accessory supplies, among other things, rise every day while the fare rate is constant. And they ask for a reduction in “the right of the commission of state-owned good distribution companies”.

Political: Establishment of an independent syndicate for this class (the current syndicate is a formality) and organisation of open distribution (stop corruption in the distribution of goods).

On Sunday, May 27, 2018, Akbar Ranjbarzade, a member of the parliament, in his pre-order speech, announced that the number of drivers on strike is more than 500,000 and mentioned a number of their demands:

  • Insufficient daily and monthly fuel quotas for trucks;
  • Failure to pay shipping fares by the good receivers;
  • Lack of supplementary insurance and denial to adding this occupation to the list of difficult and harmful occupations;
  • Shipping companies receiving high and illegal fees;
  • Corruption in good cargo terminals especially in ports;
  • Unfair distribution of goods and weakening of good distribution centers by transport officials; and
  • Lack of reaction to the 60% increase in tire and accessory cost.

Mojahed’s website has summarised the strikers’ demands in the following diagram.

A Look into the Main Factors in Transport

Drivers, truckers, freight transport companies, and the government are the four main elements of the transportation system in Iran. The government and freight transport companies exploit drivers and truckers. Based on the statistical data from 2017, there are about 437,000 trucks in Iran (about half a million, as mentioned by the MP above), of which approximately 80% are truck owners, and another 20% are truck drivers. Many owners of these trucks are freight transport companies.

1.Truck Drivers:  The weakest class among the above-mentioned elements lives with low wages, insurance problems, and physical depreciation without taking into account the difficulty of working and having no support other than their freight loads for survival. For these drivers, the increase or decrease in transportation fares, the price of truck accessories, cargo tariffs, and freight transport company commissions have no role in determining their wages. Eventually, the truck owners are the ones who set their wages. The most important demands of these drivers are the reduction of insurance costs, retirement benefits, right to benefits due to the difficulty of their work, having an independent syndicate, and to determine a minimum wage that guarantees their interests.

2.Truckers: These are in fact drivers, who under pressure of loans, have managed to buy a truck for themselves and work with it. Based on statistics, a total of 80% of all trucks are included in this category. These are considered petite bourgeoisie.

Therefore, unlike the developed countries in which large companies are the main owners of trucks, in Iran, most of the owners of trucks are drivers themselves (minor owners). This is one of the most important reasons why the regime has not managed to break this strike so far. The regime is not opposing one unique syndicate or company, but rather hundreds of thousands of individual truck owners who have decided to go on strike together. This stratum is mostly ripped off by shipping and freight transportation companies. Excessive commissions, with no accounting records, charged by these companies reach over 50%.

3. Transportation Companies: These companies, which are owned by elements related to both parties of the regime, despite the fact that they do not carry out any significant role in cargo operations, feed on dealership and intermediation (e.g, they gain the right to commission by connecting a customer to a truck owner). In fact, these companies are the main beneficiaries of cargo transportation in the country.

4.The government: A firm supporter of transportation companies. For example, the freight commission during the first decade of the twentieth century was only 6%. During the second decade, it increased more than two-fold to 13%, which are only the official statistics and by no means represent the reality of commission percentages as the government does not regulate this matter. In addition, the government is practically one of the looters of drivers and truckers, taking tolls, high duty tariffs, raising insurance quotas, eliminating the right to benefits due to hard labor, eliminating subsidies, and setting up corrupted syndicates meant to prevent any kind of independent protest.

Therefore, one could say that in this strike, we have the drivers and truck owners united on one side opposing the cargo companies and the government. The government sought to break the strike by increasing the freight rates by 20% on the second day of the strike. This increase, while being considered a retreat by the regime and a relative victory for the strikers, is:

  • A raise in fare rates means a raise in income for the cargo transportation companies, as they collect interest from a commission, which is a percentage of the fare rates.
  • As freight rates increase, the inflation rate rises.
  • An increase in freight rates makes no difference to drivers who do not own a truck. The burden of rising inflation will be added to them.
  • As the drivers’ wages are not necessarily increased by raising the rental rate, the losers of this solution would be the drivers who do not own a truck. Additionally, this could cause the strikers’ alliance to break down in some way. (The drivers who own trucks would achieve something, but drivers without a truck would be hit by inflation.)

Strikers’ Education

In 2017, the number of truck drivers working in inter-city routes was recorded to be 470,515. Their educational status has been reported to be as following (80% truck owner+ 20% only truck drivers).

PhD

Bachelors’ degree Associate degree High school diploma Middle school graduation  diploma Elementary school graduation diploma Literacy to read and write

Illiterate

171 people

6646 people 7767 people 106416 people 236665 people 93066 people 17794 people

2000 people

This table shows that 22.6 % of drivers have high school diplomas and more than 50% of them have finished middle school (73% for middle school graduates and high school diploma holders). 3.1 % of them have a university degree, and 9.3 % have educational levels lower than middle school graduation diploma.

The average lifespan of trucks in Iran

The statistics provided by the Road Administration Organisation show that the average life of a truck in Iran is supposed to be 16 years. More specifically 17 years for good carrying type and 13 for the vehicle carrying type. Meanwhile, 26% of Iranian trucks have lifespans of between 6 and 10 years. Lower life expectancy of trucks in Iran compared to other countries is due to the low-quality roads, low-quality trucks, and the high cost of logistic services and truck accessories. This factor affects the number of truckers in Iran. This factor has a direct effect on truckers in Iran in such a way that the revenue of 3 Iranian trucks is equivalent to a foreign truck.

The regime’s reaction to the truck strike

  1. On May 23, the second day of Roads Administration ministry workers’ strike, they proposed a 20% increase in freight rates.
  2. On May 24, the third day of the strike, they took the following actions :
  • The Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated organisations tried to defuse the truck strike by bringing the fleet of army’s tanks into the equation. However, with the unity and persistence of striking drivers and their effective role in persuading the truck drivers who were influenced by the guards of the regime, the army’s efforts led to no results.
  • Dariush Amani, deputy of transport director at the ministry of Road Administration, said an average 15% increase in cargo rates has been applied on Saturday at all terminals across the country. He also announced the government’s decision to increase the minimum wage for drivers, as well as insurance and pensions. After the break out of this news, the deceptive government-affiliated news agencies announced the end of the strike. But angry drivers and truckers did not find these promises sufficient. They were not deceived, and the strike continued.
  • The national oil distribution company in Esfahan issued several notifications threatening to fire striking drivers from petroleum-related services and replace them with other drivers if they continued the strike. But the drivers did not pay attention to these threats and continued their strike.
  1. On May 25, the 4th day of the strike, the Revolutionary Guard started transporting fuel tanks with an escort to counteract this strike. Observing this anti-national movement, people alongside the courageous drivers in various cities rose up and stopped the displacement of the fuel tanks.
  2. While silence has continued dominating the regime’s media regarding the strike news, on May 27, a group of parliamentarians considering the consequences of the strike and confessed that, “More than 500,000 drivers across the country have expressed dissatisfaction and have protested in some cities.”
  3. From May 26 on, they have been announcing that an agreement was reached with the drivers and truckers, and the strike is ending. Abdul Hashim Hassanya, Deputy Minister of Road and Urban Development, said on May 26, 2018, ”Based on the agreement reached, from today on drivers and truckers will regularly continue their work in the freight sector. And the representatives of freight related syndicates have as well accepted to end the strike.” Part of drivers demands should be delivered.
  4. On May 26, 2018, a number of truck drivers, who were on their way to Shiraz to join the strikers of that city, were struck by the oppressive police and were arrested.
  5. From May 26 on, the oppressive actions were heightened in different cities:
  • In Kangavar, intelligence agents and law enforcement used various measures to break the drivers’
  • In Bandar Abbas, inflicting oppression led to violence.
  • In Esfahan, hundreds of striking drivers prevented the loading of trucks under police protection in Sepahan Cement Factory. Police officers tried to disperse the strikers by shooting in the air.

Therefore, the regime will continue to plot to stop the strike. But the 9-day resistance of this major strike has neutralised all the plots so far, including the media silence.

The nation-wide strike of truckers and drivers have forced the parliamentarians to support the strikers.

On May 30, 2018, Reza Ansari, a representative of the people of Darab in the parliament, said, “Our people are committed to the ideals of the revolution and martyrs. But they put pressure on people. There are discriminations and injustices that bother the society. Particularly the lower class and the less well to do have complained about this matter. An example of discrimination was regarding the drivers. Unfortunately, the most basic discrimination regarding the truck drivers is special privileges, especially at Bandar Abbas terminal, the main freight port of the country, which has made the drivers angry. Drivers would only be satisfied by the elimination of the discrimination.  … Unfortunately, some freight transportation companies apply extra commissions and, in some cases, cause covert corruption. Unfortunately, driver insurance rate has doubled recently, which is not fair. We have to deal with these social phenomena through social means rather than mechanical.”

Ali Larijani, the head of the parliament, responded, “The Civil Commission is considering the matter, and the Supreme National Security Council is pursuing the issue with the help of various ministries.” Thus, it was acknowledged that truck drivers’ strike is a matter to be dealt with by the Security Council of the regime.

Features of Truck Drivers’ Strike

In a nutshell one can arrange the characteristics of truckers strike in the following order:

  • Fast expansion.
  • Stimulation of the active sympathy of other strata, such as a declaration of solidarity.
  • The rage and the degree of explosion in the protest.
About Siavosh Hosseini (255 Articles)
My background is in the visual arts, particularly in photojournalism. I have had the opportunity to cover scores of international artistic and news events in the US and across Europe since the mid-1980s. I was active in television newsrooms and production as a graphic designer and producer for more than 12 years in different television and news outfits in Europe.

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