Truckers, lawmakers in New York plan roundtable discussion on fuel crisis

| 4/15/2008

Heavy-hauler Charlie Clayburn of Upton, NY, said he was inspired to make a phone call to his state lawmaker about the growing fuel crisis truckers are facing after reading an opinion piece on apathy in Land Line Magazine.

Clayburn told Land Line on Tuesday, April 15, that the line “Somebody needs to do something,” and the fact that nothing often gets done because everyone is depending on somebody else to do something really put things in perspective for him. He said he realized what he needed to do personally to bring attention to the fuel crisis crippling small-business truckers everywhere.

“I thought to myself, why am I waiting on somebody else to do something for me,” he said. “My attitude really changed because I thought to myself, if nobody’s going to do it, then I guess I’m going to have to do it.”

That opinion piece was written by Land Line’s Senior Editor Jami Jones in the March/April issue of the magazine.

Clayburn then picked up the phone and called a staff member in the office of New York Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, about the issues truckers are facing trying to keep their businesses afloat as diesel prices continue to rise.

His efforts paid off. He has been asked to participate in a roundtable discussion with several state lawmakers in New York. They will discuss the current diesel crisis at 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, at the Fultonville Super Stop in Fultonville, NY.

Clayburn said it’s ironic that he’s spearheading this effort for owner-operators considering he’s not one anymore. He sold his truck in July 2007 after seeing economic conditions in the industry change for the worse. He now drives for an owner-operator, just without “all the headaches.”

“I have nothing to gain by doing this other than I’m tired of seeing people I care about drop from this industry like flies,” he said. “I’m tired of beating my head on my steering wheel listening to other drivers complain about what needs to be done and nobody doing anything about it.”

Clayburn said he’s hoping his actions will encourage other truckers to pick up the phone and call their lawmakers to enlighten them on the issues truckers are facing as diesel prices continue to skyrocket.

“We think these people in power don’t care, but if we don’t call them and tell them what’s on our minds, how are they supposed to know about our issues?” he said. “This is a positive step, and this is where things are going to have to start. It took years for stuff to get this messed up, and it’s going to take some time to get things right again. That’s what guys just don’t understand.

OOIDA member Patrick Valenti of Buffalo, NY, told Land Line on Tuesday, April 15, he’s trying to make arrangements today with his dispatcher so he can make it back on Thursday to attend the roundtable meeting in Fultonville.

“I figure I need to get there because it has an impact on all of our businesses right now,” Valenti said.

He hauls building materials mainly in the Northeast region of the country and said when he bought his first truck more than 10 years ago diesel cost around 80 cents a gallon. When he fueled up in Kanona, NY, on Sunday, April 13, the cost for a gallon of diesel was $4.45.

“It’s tough for me to imagine that prices have gone up more than 500 percent in the 10 years I’ve had this truck,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get some help. It would be great either at the state level in New York or at the federal level.”

The company he is leased to has a certain number of loads it is guaranteed a day so that keeps him and other truckers busy, but it’s the backhauls to get back to the plant that have dried up.

“The other drywall and lumber places aren’t paying what they were before because they have too much capacity now,” he said.

Valenti said he’d be lying if he didn’t think about getting out of trucking, especially with diesel prices as high as they are right now.

“I figure I will stay in it as long as I can still operate at a profit, but this whole business has turned so far against the small operator that it seems like a losing cause no matter how much you fight,” he said.

Truckers who can’t make it to the roundtable discussion, but who would like to make their voices heard, are urged to call Assemblyman Amedore’s district office number at (518) 843-0227 or his legislative office number at (518) 455-5197.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer