Truckers in New York – fed up with high fuel prices, increasing toll costs and other taxes – proved on Thursday, June 19, that grassroots actions to wake up lawmakers and the media can work.
For more than six months now, truckers in New York have been in constant communication with state lawmakers about the dire situation many are facing as they teeter on the brink of losing their livelihoods because of record-high fuel prices, high taxes and rocky economic conditions.
On Thursday, more than 150 truckers converged on Albany, NY, where they rallied in front of the statehouse. Many New York lawmakers, including New York Gov. David Paterson, addressed the protestors. Paterson recently announced a plan – widely unpopular among truckers – to keep heavy trucks off certain roads in upstate New York.
On the topic of fuel costs, Paterson said he would support a summer fuel tax holiday only if fuel companies promise to pass the savings on to consumers, according to The Associated Press. But he said more needs to be done as well.
“What we wanna do is reduce this country’s dependence on foreign oil and the unstable governments in the Middle East that we continue to do business with while they jack up the prices and make Americans suffer more and more and more,” Paterson told truckers at the rally.
For Bill Sutton, a flatbedder from Batavia, NY, said the convoy and rally in Albany was an “experience of a lifetime.”
“It was a very, very good day for truckers,” he said. “Everybody was positive. It was moving to see how many people showed up and showed their support for what we are trying to do here in New York.”
Sutton said he happened to be in the right place at the right time after the rally. New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who spoke at the rally, talked to truckers afterward about some of the issues that led them to convoy to Albany.
“He said if someone would hand him the keys he would show us how to drive a truck,” Sutton said. “So I whipped the keys out of my pocket, offered them to Mr. Bruno and said, ‘Mr. Bruno, if you would like to drive my truck, I would be more than glad to have you operate my truck.’ He drove it just like a professional.”
And he should know. Sutton, who has been trucking for 22 years, has a bright purple 2005 Western Star LowMax, which cost him around $130,000.
Sutton said Bruno is no stranger to the trucking world. Bruno told him his first job was delivering ice in a straight truck.
“I was impressed with Mr. Bruno,” Sutton said. “He said he’s going to do all that’s within his power to help us resolve some of our issues.”
A big point of contention is the fact Democrats in the New York Assembly are refusing to put a bill on the floor, which the Republican-dominated Senate already approved, that would eliminate a tax on fuel until at least Labor Day.
“That will take 32 cents a gallon off of fuel immediately,” he told truckers at the rally.
New York Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, also addressed protestors at the rally. He has attended at least three meetings in recent months with truckers in the state.
While at the rally, Amedore met up with OOIDA member Lou Esposito of Duanesburg, NY. Esposito said he was impressed with Amedore’s “energy and willingness to help truckers.” He said Amedore expressed interest in riding along with Esposito to New Jersey to “get a better understanding of what truckers face.”
“The event was peaceful; everybody was positive,” Esposito told Land Line on June 19. “The governor and several lawmakers came out and supported the truckers, which was nice to see.”
Prior to the rally, Amedore issued a written statement in support of the truckers rallying at the statehouse in Albany.
“I am proud to join truckers from not only my district but from across the state on this historic day in Albany,” Amedore wrote. “Whether you are an independent trucker, motorist or consumer, we all bear the burden of rising fuel costs and high taxes. Today’s protest represents the frustration and anger of working-class families across the state.”
– By Clarissa Kell- Holland, staff writer