Florida truckers brainstorm with media, lawmakers on high fuel prices

| 5/14/2008

Desperate to save his own business from going under because of high fuel prices, one trucker, Robert Solfio of New Port Richey, FL, said he decided to take action before losing it all.

Solfio told Land Line on Monday, May 12, that between 125 and 150 truckers attended a town hall meeting with lawmakers and truckers on Saturday, May 10, in New Port Richey, FL, to discuss how rising fuel prices are affecting truckers’ livelihoods. Solfio said he spent three months organizing the two-hour meeting.

“I asked this question at the meeting, ‘How many truckers are going to be rolling out there if fuel goes up another $1.10 in another six months like it has gone up since November,’ ” Solfio said.

“That would put fuel at $5.35 a gallon around here. Who can afford fuel at that price?”

Solfio said no one raised their hand.

A local dump truck driver, Solfio said he’s been in trucking since the mid-1980s. He moved down to Florida from New York about 12 years ago and bought his own truck three years ago. He said he drives about 300 miles a day, just running locally, burning about 60 gallons a day in fuel. He said he is spending more than $250 a day for fuel.

“These fuel prices are hurting us,” he said. “There’s no profit to be made anymore.”

Solfio said he decided to organize the meeting because he wanted a peaceful, but informational, demonstration that would make others aware of how much truckers are struggling.

“I wanted to invite the media and lawmakers to a meeting where they could hear firsthand from truckers about how badly some of us are hurting,” he said.

Florida state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, attended the meeting. Solfio indicated that Fasano said many of the issues truckers raised at the meeting are issues that need to be solved at the federal level, but that he promised to do what he could at the state-level to give truckers some relief.

“He really felt for us,” he said. “He told me that he didn’t realize things were as bad for us as they are. He promised us he would go back and see what he could do.”

Matt Ubben, vice president of the Florida Trucking Association, also attended the Saturday meeting.

“He drove three hours from Tallahassee to come to this meeting, talked to us for a few hours, and then drove back home,” Solfio said.

The Florida Petroleum Council promised to attend the meeting, but Solfio said they backed out on Friday.

“I guess they didn’t want to take the heat,” Solfio said.

Solfio said he personally knows truckers that are going under or reducing the number of trucks they are running to balance their skyrocketing fuel costs. He said he knows one guy that has gone from owning eight trucks last January to only two trucks today. Another guy he drives with every day had seven trucks this time last year, and now he’s down to one truck.

“I love my truck – I love trucking – but I am sick and tired of these fuel costs and nobody helping us,” Solfio said. “We as truckers have to band together and do something for ourselves because nobody else is going to do it for us.”

Time is running out for some truckers who can’t afford fuel for their trucks, Solfio said.

“We are a necessity and everybody needs to understand that,” he said. “Everybody needs to get behind us and stand shoulder to shoulder with us because we need to get that price for fuel down.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer