Two owner-operator groups organized a followup convoy to Capitol Hill, following the event in February, but truckers were either too busy or too short on fuel to show up. The first demonstration drew around 250 trucks. Yesterday’s event drew fewer than 140.
The message this time was the same as last time: do something about fuel prices that are forcing small businesses out of business.
Steel hauler Tom Smith and his wife Marsha, who made the trip in their Freightliner from Pennsylvania, said they can barely keep their heads above water.
“We’re drowning,” said Tom Smith. His costs are $500 to $600 more a week, thanks to fuel. He said a few shippers agree to surcharges, but they don’t cover more than a small part of his higher costs.
The Smiths were on the Mall with the National Owner-Operators Trucking Assn., which was returning after its demonstration in February.
Tom Smith’s solution is to stop the U.S. reliance on foreign fuel.
It’s a popular idea among truckers – and it got a good ride from the congressmen who spoke at another demonstration put on by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn.
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO, blasted the Clinton administration’s energy policy. “For seven years we haven’t paid attention to our relationships with oil producing countries, haven’t done anything to encourage domestic production, haven’t done anything significantly to encourage alternative fuels,” he said.
Rep. J.C. Watts, R-OK, called for more development of domestic oil resources. “Why is it with all the oil we have in America, when the price of fuel goes up at the pump, we have to go to somebody else’s country to say ‘have mercy on us,’” he said.
Rep. Mark Foley, R-FL, and Randy Cunningham, R- CA, drew applause by assailing the oil exporting nations for not helping the U.S. after the U.S. helped them during the Gulf War.
“The next time Saddam Hussein comes calling, and you want us to help lock that door, don’t call on us,” said Cunningham.
For truckers in the audience who were barely holding their businesses together from load to load, the congressmen were long on rhetoric and short on action.
“So far, ya’ll are blowing smoke,” shouted one angry trucker.
The one concrete action that emerged was OOIDA’s call for a national fuel surcharge. And the House Ground Transportation Subcommittee is scheduled to hold hearings on the fuel situation on March 21.