THE INDEPENDENT TRUCKERS are currently only whispering their discontent. There have been a few small demonstrations here and there, but hardly any of the truckers have yet raised their voices. There has been nothing at all like the elaborate disruptions that they created during the 1974 Arab oil embargo.

Perhaps they are waiting to see whether it's necessary. Perhaps they expect that the mere hint of a repetition of the 1974 tactics will telegraph their requirements adequately to the seat of the federal authority, which, presumably, remembers 1974 as well as the truckers do. That would spare them - not to mention everyone else - the trouble of another siege of roadblocks.

The last time, the truckers bitterly complained of rapidly rising fuel costs, and the shortages of it, and the speed limits, and the weight limits. The remedy was action by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which sets the rates under which these trucks operate. It provided a fast pass - through of fuel costs. As for the fuel shortages, they were short - lived in the winter of 1974 and ended when the embargo ended.

Now the truckers are back with the same list of complaints. They were entitled to a good deal of sympathy, for most of them pay their own fuel costs and few work for big companies that can operate their own fuel depots. Trucks operating over the open road have to depend on highway stops for refueling. But, aside from sympathy, what should they get? The ICC rate adjustment is an easy and obvious concession. But unlike the 1974 experience, this time the shortages are likely to persist. Sooner or later the Energy Department is going to be pushed into special allocations of fuel to the truck stops, which will then be placed under an obligation to sell that fuel to none but long-haul trucks, which in turn will have joined the rapidly lengthening list of people who have legal priorities for certain amounts of fuel, for certain purposes, under certain conditions. Does that not begin to sound like rationing?