Truckers meet to discuss fuel crisis; Maine governor offers relief

| 12/3/2007

In response to an urgent plea from logging truckers, Maine Gov. John Baldacci declared a civil emergency on Friday, Nov. 30, and said he’ll work to ease weight restrictions on several interstates and try to get state fuel tax reimbursements returned more quickly.

The governor’s announcement followed a meeting with leaders of a group called the Coalition for Lower Fuel Prices. OOIDA member Larry Sidelinger is the leader of that coalition and he said one thing the trucker’s group and the governor didn’t agree on was where the state’s fuel tax money goes.

Sidelinger said he was very encouraged by the fact that the governor actually met with them.

“We got the governor’s attention big time. He agreed to sit down with us, and we asked him what he could do. He said he could declare a civil state of emergency” to get some relief on the weight limits on the interstate and he said he would look into fuel tax refunds, Sidelinger told “Land Line Now” on Monday, Dec. 3.

“We put his feet to the fire (on the state’s fuel tax revenue) and asked him if that money went to the state road repairs. He said yes, but we had some documentation that said that he had taken to the tune of $60 million out of that account and only put $20 million back.”

Sidelinger said that the governor agreed to review how fuel tax money is spent.

Some of the Maine truckers called for a temporary elimination of the state fuel tax for logging truckers, but Baldacci didn’t make any commitment on that.

Meanwhile, the Mining Gazette newspaper reported that another group of about 70 truckers met in Mass City, MI, this weekend to discuss what, if anything, can be done about diesel fuel costs.

Owner-operator Jason Tanpani told the crowd in Michigan, “If things continue as they are, we’ll all be done by spring.”

The truckers say the fuel surcharges they get from the mills are inadequate. They plan to meet again next weekend.

– By Land Line staff
Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.