Fuel tax angers Wisconsin truckers

| 12/26/2002

Diesel prices in Wisconsin typically are 6 to 10 cents a gallon higher than the national average, sending truckers out of state for their fuel purchases, according to the Marshfield News-Herald.

The reason: Wisconsin's fuel tax puts the state's diesel fuel higher than U.S. average prices, said Bob Bartlett, executive vice president of the Petroleum Marketers Association of Wisconsin. At 31.1 cents per gallon, Wisconsin's fuel tax is the second highest in the nation, trailing only Pennsylvania, which has a 31.8-cent tax, Bartlett said.

Some companies pass the costs to consumers, said Michael Saramandich, safety director for Sparhawk Trucking Inc. in Wisconsin Rapids. "When the fuel prices go up, it affects everything," he said. "Are we mad about it? You bet. We buy a lot of fuel out of state, as much as we can. Fuel prices, when they go up, they really hurt us."

"Fuel is a critical part of our business," said Bob Rader, executive vice president of Roehl Transport in Marshfield. He said semi-tractors get an average of six to seven miles a gallon. "So the cost impact of rising fuel prices is three- to four-fold vs. a non-commercial vehicle."

A combination of high fuel costs and a slumping economy forced about 7,700 trucking companies out of business in the nation from 2000 to 2001, the paper reported. Another 2,500 to 3,500 are expected to close in 2002, Rader said.

Higher fuel taxes are perplexing to some, because the state is closing many waysides that were once used to give truckers a safe place to stop.

"We feel a little bit cheated," Saramandich said. "They're getting more money, and they're providing less services. It's ridiculous."