NY truckers rally, meet with lawmakers about diesel price, truck ban

| 5/23/2008

Car horns honked in support of the more than 50 trucks spread among three traffic lanes on Interstate 87 in upstate New York Thursday, rallying to decry rising fuel prices and to protest against a plan that would ban heavy-duty trucks from certain highways.

The trucks convoyed for four miles to the town of Wilton.

Following the convoy, truckers and several state politicians gathered for a roundtable discussion at a Wilton truck stop. Both groups decried Gov. David Paterson’s plan to ban trucks from state and county highways. They also discussed skyrocketing diesel prices and oil company profits. Truckers explained to lawmakers the multiple taxes New York truckers pay to operate, including the ton-mile tax.

Lawmakers were shocked.

“This is much worse than people realize,” said New York Assemblyman Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga.

OOIDA Member Lou Esposito participated in Thursday’s rally and roundtable. He said he and other upstate New York truck drivers are building relationships with the state’s power brokers, including McDonald, as well as Assemblymen George Amedore, R-C, Rotterdam; Jim Tedisco, R-C-I Schenectady; and state Sen. Betty Little, R-C-I, Queensbury.

“I always found that when I was dealing with a large group – when you’re at that type of setting, emotions run high,” Esposito told Land Line. “But people are in serious trouble.”

Two days earlier, Esposito was one of several drivers who met with Tedisco, Amedore, McDonald and several staff members Tuesday at Tedisco’s office in Albany. The meeting was productive, and the assemblymen and senator were receptive and supportive of small trucking businesses, he said.

“I always think you get more accomplished talking to these legislators in small groups where you can actually explain everything,” Esposito said.

Esposito said he’s left messages with Paterson’s office opposing the governor’s plan to keep all large trucks off most so-called back roads in the state. The plan would force many small-business trash haulers and truck drivers to pay exorbitant tolls and avoid shortcuts that save diesel, emissions and hours-of-service time.

“It’s very upsetting to me,” Esposito said.

Recent protests and convoys have gained much attention from mainstream media outlets, and Thursday’s reports of 50 to 100 trucks attending the rally reverberated through the Northeast.

Jim Thompson, McDonald’s legislative director, said most of Albany’s Capitol District newspapers, radio and television stations covered Thursday’s rally, with many media actually riding along with the convoy.

Local news showed truck after truck rolling down the highway and interviewed many drivers, he said.

“It was unbelievable to witness,” Thompson told Land Line. “It was surreal, watching and listening, let me tell you.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer