Truckers upset as New York governor bans trash haulers from back roads

| 5/13/2008

New York trash haulers struggling to eke out a living as high fuel prices continue to punish their bottom lines have been dealt another blow – this time by Gov. David Paterson.

Paterson announced at a press conference on Monday, May 12, in Skaneateles, NY, that trash haulers will no longer be allowed to take the back roads through upstate New York. Instead, truckers will be required to stay on the state’s major interstates as they travel to landfills in upstate New York.

The state’s Department of Transportation has until June 1 to come up with a plan to set routes and procedures for policing truck traffic on back roads in upstate New York, including state routes 79, 89 and 41, and also on U.S. Route 20.

The new regulations will require trash haulers to use the New York Thruway and other highways, while municipal and state police will patrol these back roads. According to the regulations, companies who fail to comply will be fined.

Paterson announced the new regulation by way of an executive order, which means he doesn’t need the approval of the state’s legislature.

OOIDA member Lou Esposito of Duanesburg, NY, who admits he travels the back roads as much as possible to avoid costly tolls on the New York Thruway, said the governor’s plan boils down to one thing – money.

“Now, they are going to force these trash haulers, who run these back roads purposely to avoid toll prices they can’t afford, back onto the interstates because they want to make money off of them,” he said. “This doesn’t make sense to me because the reason they are running the back roads is because they can’t afford to pay these high toll costs out of their own pockets now that fuel prices in New York are the highest in the country.”

Esposito said he uses the New York Thruway once a week to deliver a time-sensitive load, but that’s about the only time he pays tolls.

“I try to find the shortest route, and that usually means taking the back roads,” he said. “Tolls and everything else in this state are too high.”

Trucker Dale Stephens, a Skaneateles native, said he is opposed to the governor’s decision to ban trash trucks from taking the back roads through towns in the Finger Lakes region. While his business isn’t directly affected yet, he said he is standing with those truckers who are being affected now because he knows his business may be next.

“I am not happy with the governor’s decision at all, and I have lived in Skaneateles all of my life,” he said. “This is how something like this starts. They first ban the garbage trucks; then they target the dump trailers and then the dump trucks. How do they expect to get anything done in their towns if they start banning the trucks that provide a service they need?”

Stephens said it just doesn’t make sense to him that some lawmakers in his state are focusing on banning trucks from back roads at a time when the fuel crisis in this country is forcing small-business truckers out of business because they can’t afford to operate any longer.

“It seems some people are not concerned with fuel prices and toll costs and things that are really hurting truckers. Instead, they are more concerned about campaign contributions and votes,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, also attended the press conference in Skaneateles, along with New York state Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-50th Dist., who has twice introduced legislation that would have classified solid waste as hazardous waste. He has introduced another bill – S1820 – which would prohibit any truck with a trailer 48 feet or longer from operating on that part of Route 41 or 41-A that is between Route 20 and Route 281 in the counties of Onondaga or Cortland, absent a local law to the contrary. The Senate approved the bill a year ago. It is now in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

OOIDA member Charlie Claburn of Hudson Falls, NY, who hauls trash into the landfill at Seneca Meadows in Waterloo every day, said the governor’s decision to ban trash haulers from using back roads will be an enormous financial burden on owner-operators.

“This is really going to hurt some of these guys that are just trying to make a living and are just trying to keep their expenses down by using these back roads,” he said. “I don’t see how some of them are going to make it; they are already paying enough in tolls, in taxes and fuel costs. They continue to punish the truckers who are the backbone of this country.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer