Buoyed by the apparent success of last week's demonstration
in Washington, DC, organizers are planning a second, larger convoy for March 16.
The recently formed National Owner Operator Trucking Assn. hopes to organize at least 200 trucks to convoy from California to New Jersey, where the group is based. There, the group plans to have 400 trucks from the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware areas. From New Jersey, the trucks will convoy once again down I-95 into the nation's capitol to push for legislation that will help independents through the current fuel price crisis.
Charlie Hentz, NOOTA executive director, points to the success of last week's convoy of more than 200 trucks. Sen. Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell, R-CO, introduced legislation in the Senate less than 48 hours later that would temporarily roll back the federal 24-cent excise tax on fuel. According to Hentz, one of the reasons for demonstrating in Washington on the 16th is to help get the bill passed by alerting legislators to the plight of independent truckers. The truckers hope to meet with the leadership of both the House and the Senate.
NOOTA is a new group that was formed in response to the fuel price crisis independent truckers have been facing in the Northeast since late January. Formerly the South Jersey Owner Operator Truckers Assn., the group decided to go national when it didn't see any other owner-operator groups doing anything about the fuel situation.
"There really hasn't been an effective organizing voice," Hentz says. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., the nation's largest owner-operator group, "has been taking a rather laissez faire attitude toward this, and most of the members have felt disenfranchised."
Several highway interest groups have criticized the Campbell proposal to roll back the fuel tax because it will adversely affect highway construction funding, but Hentz calls that "a parochial, shortsighted, narrow minded, ignorant point of view." Hentz compares the highway trust fund to the social security fund, claiming that Washington politicians have raided the fund for other purposes. "Only a small portion of that federal excise tax actually goes to build roads," he says. "And if the truckers don't stay alive, what good will it do to build highways, there won't be anyone on them!"
NOOTA is also asking the federal government for a 15-cents-per-gallon rebate on fuel to compensate for state fuel taxes.
Photo: Trucks convoy into Washington, DC, February 22. Next month's convoy is expected to be three times as long. Photo by Bette Garber.