This same logic is being employed by several dozen independent truckers taking a protest ride on the Northway Thursday afternoon. Charles Claburn, director of the New York chapter of Truckers and Citizens United, said the solidarity ride from Exit 17 to Exit 16 is to protest the high fuel prices that have threatened independent truckers.
To draw attention to this plight, Claburn and a veritable convoy of his associates decided to simply waste a bunch of diesel fuel on a fruitless drive down the Northway. And while they’re at it, they can congest traffic so dozens of unassuming motorists can also experience the sheer pleasure of wasting precious gasoline stuck behind a slow-moving convoy. Way to go, Chuck. Waste fuel to protest high fuel prices.
Claburn’s message is largely aimed at the federal government, and how they should build more refineries and ease environmental regulations for drilling. Or perhaps they should set up a couple million derricks in the Arctic wildlife preserve, until the eggheads can figure out how to start burning whale oil in diesel engines. Without this, he contends the droves of independent truckers will lose their livelihoods thanks to a government that never formulated a functional energy policy.
It’s a message that is lost on the general public, which is already contending with price pangs of its own. It’s difficult to sympathize with truckers –an industry that has enjoyed a five decade-long stranglehold on the movements of goods across the nation –when many working class people are having a difficult go at it themselves. In fact, it’s difficult to fathom why anyone would sympathize with truckers at all, seeing as though their industry offers the most inefficient and environmentally unfriendly method of moving goods from point to point.
In essence, the trucking industry is at a crossroads. The industry must reinvent itself to remain viable in an increasingly hostile market. Eventually, shipping surcharges will grow to a point that it will be cheaper for consumers to simply rely on local goods. So Claburn’s theory of turning the coastlines into a derrick-laden oil refinery might help the pinch for a few years, but it’s not a long-term or viable solution.
The future of transportation lies in embracing and bolstering multi-modal methods. For instance, why move shipments from coast to coast by truck, when they could be moved cheaper and more efficiently by rail? That’s the question Paul Esposito of Railex in Schenectady County asked three years ago. Now, the start-up company is doing booming business, moving produce from Washington and California to the Capital Region in less than five days. Once a shipment arrives, trucks disseminate the produce throughout the east coast.
Esposito’s numbers are staggering, considering today’s cost of diesel. Each train carries roughly 200 truckloads of produce. With just two trains running each week, the company realized a weekly savings of more than 84,000 gallons of fuel. Adding it up, that 4.3 million gallons saved annually. That’s a nice savings when considering diesel fuel averages around $4.55 per gallon nationally and close to $5 in the Capital Region.
Ideally, train companies such as Railex would handle all long-distance hauling, leaving truckers to move goods within several hundred miles of a central terminus. It’s a solution that would stave off the ultimate demise of the trucking industry, lower the cost of goods and give rise to a more efficient mode of transportation. But it’s also a solution that would require truckers like Claburn to realize the good ol’ days of rambling carefree across the countryside are over. And they’re not coming back.