Truckers brace for economic blows if truck ban is adopted in upstate NY

| 8/20/2009

Despite pleas from the trucking community and businesses that depend on trucks to move their products, New York Gov. David Paterson recently signed off on a proposed regulation to ban heavy trucks from certain state routes in the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York.

The proposed regulation is expected to be posted in the New York State’s Register, as soon as next Wednesday, Aug. 26, whichthen triggers a 45-day comment period. Mike Joyce, director of legislative affairs in OOIDA’s DC office, said truckers who oppose this reg need to make their voices heard.

While some residents argue the truck ban is necessary to protect their “sense of environmental quality that is unique to that region of the state,” OOIDA member Terry Button of Rushville, NY, told Land Line that he’s concerned they just might get their wish, with far greater economic consequences than they imagine.

Button, a lifelong resident of the Finger Lakes region, said if the proposed regulation is adopted, small-business truckers and other businesses that operate in upstate New York will be left to deal with the “repercussions” if they are forced to pay additional operating costs for tolls and fuel to route around these state roads.

“The phrase ‘Be careful what you wish for’ is definitely true here,” Button told Land Line recently. “Those who oppose trucks on these routes because they are affecting their ‘quality of life’ may get their wish. But I don’t think they’ve thought it through all the way. The trucking industry delivers our economy to and from the marketplace. Fewer trucks will mean that fewer raw and finished products are going to being moved through New York.”

Button’s family has farmed in Rushville, NY, for more than 135 years. As part of his hay-farming operation, he also owns and operates his own hay-hauling business with customers who have horse farms along the eastern seaboard.

If the regulation is enacted, Button said it would “drastically restrict trucking operations on many routes in the region of the state” where he resides and operates his business.

In a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation, Button expressed serious concerns about the financial impact the proposed regulation would have on his and other small businesses in New York.

“As a farmer and independent trucker, I have paid for the roads that I use and need to use to maintain the vitality of my business – a business that continues to be regulated and overtaxed year in and year out,” he stated.

And as economic conditions continue to worsen in upstate New York, Button said he is worried the state will have problems attracting new businesses if the proposed truck ban passes.

“How are we going to attract new businesses to this state if we move forward with transportation policies like this that hurt our ability to compete both nationally and internationally?” he asked.

The NYSDOT, which proposed the regulation, estimates its plan could cost truckers an additional $10 million per year in additional fuel, toll and operating costs if truckers are forced off these secondary roads and on to the New York State Thruway.

Here are the seven routes that will be affected by the ban:

  • Route 41 in Cortland and Onondaga counties;
  • Route 41A in Cortland, Cayuga and Onondaga counties;
  • Route 90 in Cortland and Cayuga counties;
  • Route 38 in Cayuga County;
  • Route 79 in Broome, Tioga, and Tompkins counties;
  • Route 89 in Tompkins and Seneca counties; and
  • Route 96 in Tompkins and Seneca counties.

A week ago, OOIDA Life Member Lou Esposito of Duanesburg, NY, attended a meeting in Rensselaer, NY, of several businesses that oppose the NYSDOT’s proposed truck ban, which OOIDA has been fighting for more than a year now.

OOIDA agrees with the New York State Motor Truck Association, which spearheaded the meeting, that restricting trucks from these roads would drive up “transportation costs and potentially eliminate thousands of jobs” in upstate New York.

Esposito told Land Line the message that stemmed from the meeting was clear: Businesses need to contact their lawmakers and let them know how this will affect their economic survival if the truck ban is approved.

“We need to make our disapproval known either by contacting our Assembly members or by talking to receivers or shippers and tell them what’s going on here,” Esposito said.

At the center of the issue is the volume of trash trucks that travel these key routes in the Finger Lakes region. While Chris Mix’s company, Sunshine Bulk Commodities in Clifton Springs, NY, has trash trucks that use these roads, he said they have tried to work with the NYSDOT to develop a workable solution with no luck.

“Small businesses are struggling to make a living, and at every corner you turn there is more bureaucracy to deal with,” Mix told Land Line recently. “It boils down to the dollars and cents of it. As much as I love trucking, I don’t do it for free.”

Joyce said the Association favors a solution that offers some incentive for truckers to run the Thruway, such as a reduction in toll costs or a reduction in the ton-mile taxes truckers must pay.

Mix agrees that an “unfunded mandate” isn’t going to work financially for truckers, who will incur additional operating costs, but get nothing back in return.

“There needs to be a financial incentive or just some mechanism to let the truckers recuperate what they are losing to run the extra miles,” he said. “If I have to run an additional 40 extra miles per day, somebody has to pay for those extra miles. From a market standpoint, I am not sure our customers are going to be willing to pony up and pay extra dollars so that we can route our trucks around certain areas.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer