National News

Truckers Protesting High Fuel Prices

Posted April 1, 2008

— Independent truckers around the country pulled their rigs off the road, and others slowed to a crawl on major highways in a loosely organized protest of high fuel prices.

Some truckers, on CB radios and trucking Web sites, had called for a strike Tuesday to protest the high cost of diesel fuel, saying the action might pressure President Bush to stabilize prices by using the nation's oil reserves. But the protests were scattered because major trucking companies were not on board and there did not appear to be any central coordination.

On New Jersey's Turnpike, southbound rigs "as far as the eye can see" were moving at about 20 mph near Newark, said Turnpike Authority spokesman Joe Orlando. Other truckers had gathered at a service area near Newark chanting and protesting.

Outside Chicago, three truck drivers were ticketed for impeding traffic on Interstate 55, driving three abreast at low speeds, said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Luis Gutierrez.

Truckers at an Interstate 95 rest stop in Johnston County said they were refusing to haul freight Tuesday in support of the protesters.

Trucker Travis Loggins said diesel fuel for a trip from Raleigh to Los Angeles now costs about $4,000, compared with about $1,500 two years ago.

"Fuel prices are taking all my profit away," Loggins said. "We're losing money now. A lot of owner-operators – a lot of my buddies – are losing their trucks because they can't make the payments."

Near Florida's Port of Tampa, more than 50 tractor-trailer rigs sat idle as their drivers demanded that contractors pay them more to cover their fuel and other costs.

"We can no longer haul their stuff for what they're paying," said David Santiago, 35, a trucker for the past 17 years.

Santiago, like many of the more than 50 truckers gathered on a side street near the Port of Tampa, said he can't support his family on what he makes. "If it wasn't for my wife, we would have been bankrupt already," he said.

Some other truckers, however, didn't join the protests, saying they doubted a strike or mass demonstration would be effective because trucking companies are not on board and there was no coordination.

"The oil company is the boss, what are we going to be able to do about it?" said Charles Rotenbarger, 49, a trucker from Columbus, Ohio, who was at a truck stop at Baldwin, Fla., about 20 miles west of Jacksonville. "The whole world economy is going to be controlled by the oil companies. There's nothing we can do about it."

Jimmy Lowry, 51, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and others said it costs about $1 a mile to drive one of the big rigs, although some companies are offering as little as 87 cents a mile. Diesel cost $4.03 a gallon at the Baldwin truck stop.

"I feel like its truckers versus truckers," said driver Marekia Kelly, who works for a larger trucking company.

Teamsters union officials said they had nothing to do with any kind of protests. An independent truck drivers group, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said it also was not organizing anything. Federal law prohibits the association from calling for a strike because it is a trade association.

In Washington, meanwhile, top executives of the five biggest U.S. oil companies said Tuesday they know high fuel prices are hurting consumers but deflected any blame and argued their profits – $123 billion last year – were in line with other industries.

Rather than joining the protests, some truckers were forced to sit idle because of shippers' fears of a possible strike.

In western Michigan, independent trucker William Gentry had been scheduled to pick up a load and take it to Boston, but his dispatcher told him there was a change of plans.

"She told me that her shipper was shutting down," fearing that someone would sabotage deliveries if their drivers worked during the protest, Gentry said at the Tulip City Truck Stop outside Holland, Mich.

He and Bob Sizemore, 55, a 30-year veteran trucker, decided to return to their homes in Ohio, 280-mile trips that would cost each one about $200 of their own money for fuel alone.

"We can't ride around here looking for freight," said Gentry, 47, a driver for 23 years.

If something isn't done about fuel prices, the cost of consumer goods will shoot up, Gentry said. "People aren't seeing that the more we pay, the more they're going to pay," he said.

Trucker Ross Pearson agreed that consumers would ultimately pay the price for higher fuel costs.

"The prices are just going to go up. It's passed on down the line. Everyone feels it," Pearson said.

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  • bluewind Apr 2, 2008

    We have enough oil in this country to support our needs, yet liberals like Al Gore and the rest are controlling our going and gettin' it!! We deserve high gas prices for putting up with his shananigans!

  • AmandaB2kids Apr 2, 2008

    Well said DaMoFo and JuanGrande. Washington cannot fix this until we drill. The "Greenies" are the biggest part of the problem...Go Al Gore.....yeah right

  • VT1994Hokie Apr 2, 2008

    We need all truckers to keep our economy going. It could be much worse than it is now. I remember cursing about paying 2.30 a gallon, and now look what we have. I sincerely hope that our leaders in the Congress will forget about their millions and think about us average folks.

    Iam going to write letters to all Congress members in our state. I urge others to do the same.

  • daMoFo Apr 2, 2008

    Anyone who thinks price controls work has no understanding of basic economics. Nixon tried price controls as did the Soviet Union and they do not work. Price controls lead to reduced supply. So what is Exxon spent $100 million on alternate fuels research? Why should they fund something that will cut their own throat? Do we ask doctors to fund the trial lawyers? Look at a detailed financial report from Exxon and see how many BILLIONS they spend on looking for and developing new oil fields. They spend billions on drilling new test wells that often come up dry. Tapping the strategic petroueum reserve has no significant effect on prices and was a publicity stunt by Bill Clinton, plus we're hardly in a "crisis". How much does Exxon make on a gallon of gas? That is more important than total profit. When you sell billions of gallons ata few cents profit per gallon it will look like a lot but the profit margin is small.

  • flashlight Apr 2, 2008

    As a whole, we like big cars with big gas tanks. Well look at what happened to the price of the supply when the demand went up! But it's not our fault, it's the oil companies' fault...

  • Weetie Apr 2, 2008

    I too BLAME the government for high fuel prices. They could freeze oil prices if they chose to do so. But because of the war in Iraq - prices will continue to climb. The government allows it and uses the war as their excuse!

  • JuanGrande v3.0 Apr 2, 2008

    I love how everyone blames the government for fuel prices. Oil companies make record profits.... blah blah blah. They pay more in taxes to the government than any other business. The problem lies with the environmentalists. We can't drill for oil off the ocast or in Alaska because of the "greenies". We haven't built a new oil refinery in the US in over 30 years because of the greenies. Ethanol from corn is load of junk. Because of that, food prices have gone through the roof. Milk, egg, poultry, and beef prices have skyrocketed because more and more corn is diverted to ethanol. Corn feeds poultry and cows. We will never be independent of oil. Build more clean nuclear plants for electricity but the environmentalists won't let us do that either.

  • dogs_rule Apr 2, 2008

    The last time congress talked about a windfall profits tax for oil companies, the price of fuel increased to over a dollar a gallon. Who do you think is going to pay for a tax increase or any attempt to control the oil companies? We are! Gasoline prices stayed over a dollar a gallon until President Reagan deregulated the oil companies.

    Take a look around you while driving today. There are still narcissistic morons out there in their Navigator, Escalade, Expeditions, or Suburban or high performance sedan with their pedal to the medal, weaving through traffic, in a big hurry to get to that next Red Light. I usually wave at them, laughing when we meet again at the next intersection. The ones I enjoy most are the ones that hammer down from behind me, actually maneuvering past four or five cars and three intersections later, I’m end up right behind them. Yes, that’s me in your rear view mirror laughing clapping and holding up one finger. “You are the man” I say. All that fuel and

  • Raptor06 Apr 2, 2008

    Support the truckers! The oil companies talk about the market economy but don't turn away those tax breaks given by the current administration (that's corporate welfare). When he was asked, one oil company president stated they have spent $100 million dollars in alternate fuels research. One congressman though that was rather humorous since that company had made more than $40 billion in profits. We, the American people, will need to DIRECT out next president, regardless who he/she is, to do what's right for American, and not corporate America. I'm a nationalist, first, and capitalist, second, but contrary to popular thought, what's good for big oil (business) isn't always what's good for America.

  • FromClayton Apr 2, 2008

    Bless their hearts. They are just trying to make a living and feed their families. How would you feel if you got a drastic pay cut because of oil companies greed? I support them in whatever they have to do to make a better life for themselves. At least they are doing something, while the rest of us just complain. Greedy oil companies!

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