New York truckers plan June 19 convoy to statehouse in Albany

| 5/30/2008

For months now, truckers in New York have been waging a public battle to raise lawmakers’ awareness and gain media attention about the fact that high fuel prices are forcing many of them out of business.

They started their battle back when diesel prices were still in the $3.50-per-gallon range. By Thursday, May 29, diesel was selling for $5.19 a gallon in some parts of New York.

Truckers in the state have been successful in gaining the attention of some New York lawmakers. But drivers are still being punished at the pumps.

Vincent Gramuglia, owner of the Betty Beaver’s Fuel Stop in Fultonville, NY, has participated in two roundtable discussions with lawmakers in New York about the struggles small-business truckers are facing to stay in business. He also owns four other fuel stops and a home heating oil company that has 25 trucks.

Skyrocketing fuel prices, the multiple taxes New York truckers have to pay to operate, including the ton-mile tax, and New York Gov. David Paterson’s plan to force truckers to use the New York Thruway by banning heavy trucks from certain highways, are among the issues that Gramuglia and other truckers have discussed with their lawmakers.

Actions speak louder than words
There’s been plenty of talk lately on the issues affecting truckers, Gramuglia said, but no action has been taken yet. Many truckers who couldn’t wait any longer for relief have already given up the fight or lost their trucks because of high fuel prices. Some are fighting just to keep their homes after losing their only source of income – their trucks.

Now, those truckers have a new plan: a convoy on June 19 to the statehouse in Albany. Their hope is to get the governor to come out and discuss their concerns, Gramuglia said. He has even offered to pay the tolls for all truckers participating in the convoy from Fultonville to Albany.

“We are encouraging anyone to take loads up into this area and then stay around and convoy to Albany with us,” Gramuglia said. “We know this is a lot to ask, but we need to let the governor and lawmakers know we need some relief and we need it soon. We are going to ‘shake, rattle and roll’ New York.”

He has a meeting with the city clerk’s office and the Capitol Police in Albany on Monday, June 2, to discuss traffic control issues and finalize convoy details.

Staging for the convoy is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Betty Beaver’s Fuel Stop at Exit 28 on I-90 in Fultonville, NY. Additional staging space will be available at TravelCenters of America and the Ambest Super Stop, which are also at Exit 28. Gramuglia said as many as 1,000 truckers pull in to the three trucks stops on a daily basis.

Gramuglia has been in the trucking business for more than 40 years. He started out as an owner-operator, hauling containers out of Port Elizabeth in the 1960s.

“Things have really changed in this business – that’s for sure,” he said. “Everybody is suffering as a result of high fuel prices. We are seeing the last of the true cowboys. Truckers that have been doing this for most of their lives are parking their trucks because there’s just no profit to be made in trucking right now. Some independents have had to park their trucks and go back to work as company drivers.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer