The New Jersey Turnpike
toll increase that will go into effect New Year's Day for cars and trucks
is hardly a surprise, being the second of a two-part hike approved nearly
three years ago.
But with a sluggish economy,
skyrocketing Delaware River tolls, and a possible war-related rise in fuel
prices all having materialized since then, truckers in particular are bracing
for a hard road ahead, The Associated Press reports.
Tolls will rise 13 percent
for cash-paying truckers at all times and 8 percent for E-ZPass users under
a toll increase approved by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in 2000 under
then-Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
terms, the new toll for a standard, five-axle tractor-trailer will be $23.20
for the 118-mile length of the road, which runs from the Delaware Memorial
Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. That's up from $20.55. The same trip
using E-ZPass will be $21.20, up from $19.65.
Gail Toth, executive director
of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, an industry group, said the gradual
nature of the two-part hike softened its impact on truckers, especially compared
with river toll hikes.
However, the bridge and
turnpike toll increases could be compounded by rising gasoline and diesel
prices that would result from the destabilization in the Middle East if the
United States goes to war with Iraq, Toth said.
Meanwhile, other trucking
officials say the industry is extremely competitive, with profit margins
in the low single digits, and is sensitive to even seemingly small increases
in tolls and other costs.