In an unusual move, a truck fleet group and a truck drivers' group worked together to organize the rally, which was supported by a coalition of more than two dozen business groups across the state.
The New York State Motor Truck Association, and a grassroots organization called Truckers and Citizens United of New York held the convoy and press conference to protest Gov. David Paterson's plan to close major highways in upstate New York to trucks. The convoy and press conference were held at the same time Paterson was giving his State of the State speech at the capitol.
"It makes no sense for the state of New York to be erecting barriers to the free flow of commerce on its roadways," says Kendra Adams, executive director of the New York State Motor Truck Association. "This policy will kill jobs and drive up cost for all consumers."
At issue is a new state Department of Transportation policy to restrict truck traffic on seven major highways in the Finger Lakes and Central New York regions. Proponents of the plan say Each day, nonlocal trucks, many hauling municipal garbage, leave the interstates and cut through towns across the Finger Lakes and Central New York region. Instead, they say, trucks should stay on the National Network of highways, primarily the Interstate highway system, because it's designed to accommodate the long distance movement of people and goods between cities and rural areas.
Truckers say the restrictions, which are scheduled to take effect later this year, will force them to drive hundreds of extra miles and significantly increase transportation costs for regional businesses. (See "New York Proposes Banning Through Trucks from Some Highways," Truckinginfo.com, 8/7/09)
But their concerns, Adams says, have fallen on deaf ears. "We built a coalition of 25 plus business groups from across the state that represent pretty much every industry in New York state that oppose the restrictions because of concerns about job losses and increased costs," Adams said on an appearance on "The Lockridge Report" on Sirius XM Satellite Radio shortly after the protest. "Their concerns have basically just been ignored. The governor in his speech today talked about rebuilding New York State and the growth in upstate New York; it's an absolute conflict with everything we're talking about doing, [The truck restrictions] would increase burdens to industry that could potentially cause job loss."
Adams noted that because the Finger Lakes region is a high-profile, high-tourism area with its lakes and wineries, "they were able to get the ear from both state politiicaions as well as [U.S.] Sen. [Charles] Schumer and convince them something needed to be done," Adams said. "The problem is, our Interstates are really quite spread apart, and for trucks to opeatie efficiently, they need to have the flexibility to take the route that costs them the least amount of money to run."
Adams said the frustrating thing has been that since the issue first raised its head in 2008, the New York State Motor Truck Association has never been able to get a direct meeting with the governor, only his staff.
She also said if New York officials do not relent on this, the trucking group will pursue legal action.
The seven state highways affected are:
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;
Route 96 in Tompkins and Seneca counties.