New York governor’s plan could hurt small-business truckers

| Friday, May 16, 2008

Trucker Dale Stephens of Skaneateles, NY, loves trucking, but he may be forced to find a new way to make a living if something doesn’t change soon.

New York Gov. David Paterson announced a plan this week that would put the state’s Department of Transportation in charge of developing a new policy to keep all large trucks off some back roads in the state and on the National Interstate Highway System.

Stephens said if he has to reroute because of the ban and use the New York Thruway he will have to drive an extra 120 miles a day, which could cost him as much as $140 extra in additional fuel costs. He said that number doesn’t include the toll costs he would incur daily by having to use the Thruway.

All of that adds up to extra money Stephens said he doesn’t have right now.

“Fuel has gone up to $4.69 here, and I got to be honest with you, I am getting to that point where I am not making enough to stay in business,” he said. “Before, I could whack my bills out for the month with two weeks of work, but now I am juggling everything week to week. It’s gotten to the point where I have to decide whether to buy groceries or put fuel in my tanks.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer responded to Paterson’s plan to keep large trucks on the Thruway by saying if this goes through in New York, “ it could happen everywhere.”

“It clearly dispels any myth or smoke and mirrors that proponents of tolling our roads have,” Spencer told “Land Line Now” on Thursday, May 15. “Clearly, once the plan is under way, trucks will be forced to use those roads regardless.”

At Paterson’s press conference on Monday, May 12, at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, he addressed a crowd that included residents who have been complaining about the noise and smell of trash trucks that have been traveling through their town for years.

“You’ve been waiting 20 years?” Paterson asked according to the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper. “Well, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

Paterson has given the state’s DOT until June 1 to come up with a plan to set routes and procedures for policing truck traffic and sending it back to roads in upstate New York, including state Routes 79, 89 and 41, and also U.S. Route 20.

“I am pleased to announce that I have directed the New York State Department of Transportation to develop a new regulatory policy aimed at keeping large trucks off the main streets of Central New York and on the Interstate System, where they should be,” Paterson stated in a press release.

Spencer calls Paterson’s plan “outrageous.”

“It’s just totally outrageous what New York’s doing because the Legislature has looked at this issue numerous times through the years and very correctly said, ‘Nope, that’s not somewhere we’re going to go, and it doesn’t make economic sense for business in the state or for that matter citizens in the state.’ ”

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer attended Monday’s press conference with Paterson and showed his support for the governor’s plan to keep large trucks off local roads in central New York and the Finger Lake region.

“There is finally light at the end of the (garbage truck) tunnel,” Schumer said, according to a joint press release issued by Paterson’s office. “Gov. Paterson, to his credit, has seen that state regulations are the way to go to get trucks – whether they be public or private, from New York or elsewhere – off our community roads and onto the highways where they belong.”

Spencer said the governor can’t prohibit trucks from operating on those specific back roads because they “receive federal funds.”

“And clearly the governor should understand that, but apparently he doesn’t,” Spencer said.

Roundtable for truckers, lawmakers set for May 22 in Wilton, NY
Truckers and New York lawmakers are scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 22, at the Wilton Travel Plaza at Exit 16 on I-87 in Wilton, NY. The high price of diesel and what can be done to help at the state level is on the agenda.

Jim Thompson, chief of staff for New York Assemblyman Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, said McDonald is spearheading the meeting because he understands the problems truckers are facing.

“The price of fuel is the No. 1 issue we are hearing about from our constituents,” Thompson told Land Line on Thursday, May 15.

He said Paterson’s plan to keep large trucks on the interstates and off back roads will also be discussed at the meeting.

“We encourage anyone that is upset with diesel fuel prices, that doesn’t like the situation, to attend this rally to come up with solutions at the state level,” Thompson said.

He said other lawmakers planning to attend the roundtable meeting include New York Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie and state Sen. Elizabeth “Betty” Little, R-48th Dist. He said New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has also been invited to attend the meeting.

Amedore’s Chief of Staff, Matt Ossenfort, said his office has been in contact Schumer’s office, and said his office disagrees with the governor and Schumer that keeping trucks off the back roads is a good plan for truckers in New York.

“Unfortunately, our message about helping truckers is falling on deaf ears for some politicians,” he said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer
clarissa_kell-holland@landlinemag.com

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