Economy

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A convoy of truckers converged on a state capital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania today to convey their anger about rising fuel prices.

(Soundbite of protests)

NORRIS: Gone are the days when diesel fuel prices lag behind gasoline. With diesel climbing about $4 a gallon, independent truckers across the country are planning a series of protests. In some cases, the truckers plan to bring their big rigs to a crawl the slow down traffic. Others are planning a staged shutdown, with truckers across the country planning to pull over and park for a few hours starting at midnight tonight.

Dan Little is helping organize one of the protests. He owns Little & Little Trucking Company in Carrollton, Missouri and he has received thousands of messages from truckers in response to a posting on his Web site calling for a shutdown.

Dan Little joins us now. Welcome to the program.

Mr. DAN LITTLE (Owner, Little & Little Trucking Company): Thank you.

NORRIS: So, what were other truckers saying in response to your posting?

Mr. LITTLE: Just pick an e-mail, every one of them say the same thing. And here's one that just come in. You know, we support you 100 percent. We have 30 trucks we're shutting down.

NORRIS: Shutting down because of these rising prices?

Mr. LITLLE: Yes, because they can no longer afford to run and make any money. I mean, for years, you couldn't get three drivers to pick the same coffee shop and now work to the point where we don't have a choice. I mean, whether we want to do it or not, we can go to work and lose money or we can stay home and lose money. Either way, the end result is we're losing money.

NORRIS: Well, Mr. Little, put this in context for us. What's happened to your fuel bills? Have you look at a monthly bill or yearly bill? They've tripled.

Mr. LITTLE: They tripled, more than tripled.

NORRIS: And you're not able to pass that cost on to…

Mr. LITTLE: You can pass it on to a certain point. But where does it end?

NORRIS: Now, we're primarily talking about independent truckers. I imagine, they don't have the kind of cushion that the big companies have to ride something like this out.

Mr. LITTLE: No. No. It's not anywhere near the same playing field. The big mega fleets J.B., Schneider and those guys, they but fuel in million gallon contracts. They self-insure. They put 5 or $10 million into an escrow account, draw interest on it, and by umbrella policy over that. The interest pays with the umbrella policy so that, in essence, is not costing them anything for insurance. The average owner/operator out here today is paying six to $800 a month for insurance premiums.

NORRIS: Now, you're calling for a shutdown on April 1st, what do you expect will happen?

Mr. LITTLE: Hopefully, I'd like to see somebody in our government step up to the plate, and hopefully, they will and say, okay, we're going with this industry as a whole. This is the only industry in the United States that can turn this country off with a turn of a key.

NORRIS: What specifically do you want people in government to do? What's the…

Mr. LITTLE: The first thing I'd like see them do is I'd like to see them suspend this red-horn state fuel taxes and allow these owner/operators a chance to continue to run and put them back in the black - for a time being until somebody in government has the chance to look this over, somebody that's a lot smarter than I am, to look this over and come up with a viable solution to it. Second thing I like to see them do is I'd like to see a insurance regulatory commission to oversee what these insurance companies can charge class-A trucks on their premiums.

NORRIS: Mr. Little, you're calling for a shutdown, for the truckers to pull over their rigs. Won't that just add to their woes? Make problems worst?

Mr. LITTLE: If you're going broke running down the road or you're going broke parked, what's the difference?

NORRIS: Dan Little, Thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. LITTLE: Yes, Ma'am. Thank you.

NORRIS: Dan Little is with Little & Little Trucking Company. He joined us from Carrollton, Missouri.

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