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Economy forces local truckers off the road

Culberson Motor Lines Owners Ron and Sandy Tillotson thought they were in it for the long haul. On Saturday the Sanford-based company and its trucks were on the auction block.

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SANFORD, N.C. — Amid high diesel costs and other economical issues, some local truckers have been getting out of the business.

Culberson Motor Lines Owners Ron and Sandy Tillotson thought they were in it for the long haul. But June 30 was the last day of business for the truck company that Sandy Tillotson’s father started 45 years ago.

On Saturday, the Sanford-based company auctioned off everything that belonged to it.

While some blamed rising fuel prices, the Tillotsons said insurance and equipment costs have also gone up, but shipping rates have not.

Trucking companies make bids on loads that need to be hauled. Bigger trucking companies have been offering lower bids that Culberson could not match.

When the lowest bidder wins, the rate is set for the load to be hauled. When fuels prices go up, however, the rate doesn’t change. The extra money usually ends of coming out of the trucker’s profits, truck driver Douglas Smoak said.

Smoak, a contract truck driver Culberson Motor Lines for five years, said it is a reflection of the trucking business now.

“It used to be you could make a good living in it, but not anymore,” Smoak said.

Smoak stopped trucking a year ago because high diesel prices ate too much into his profit margin. He now works at a local industry, but said it is not as enjoyable as driving a big rig.

Truck Driver Dennis West, who drove for Culberson for 11 years, said he is struggling to keep on trucking.

“It’s so hard now that you have to work twice as hard to make what you used to make,” West said.
West now works for a trucking company based in Charlotte.

Smoak said Culberson was “one of the best places” to be an owner and operator.

“They were stable and you never thought they’d go down and go out of business because of the economy,” Smoak said.

Sandy Tillotson said the auction was painful for her. She and her husband have applied for jobs at several local companies.


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