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Proponents of offshore oil drilling say it's needed, especially now that gas prices are heading to that five dollar a gallon mark. Almost everyone on the road is feeling pain at the pump, especially those with gas tanks that hold more than 100 gallons. Reporter Tamara Keith at member station KQED recently visited a truck stop in the Sacramento area.
TAMARA KEITH: The gas station at the Sacramento 49'ers travel plaza is called Liquid Gold, and for the truckers filling up here, the name is painfully accurate. David Bailey moves people's stuff for Allied Van Lines. I caught him while he was topping off his truck. It's $4.99 today here?
Mr. DAVID BAILEY (Trucker): $4.99 here. When you start filling these things up, you're talking about six, seven, sometimes 800 dollars to fill up!
KEITH: Yup. Eight hundred dollars. Bailey tries to avoid filling up in California because diesel is so much more expensive here than in neighboring states. He's what's known as an owner-operator. He owns his truck and pulls the moving company's trailer.
Mr. BAILEY: I have to pay for all the fuel. Everything comes out of my pocket. Now they have what they call a fuel surcharge, but it don't ever equal out to taking care of fuel and everything.
KEITH: Do you ever think about giving up?
Mr. BAILEY: Yes, every day. I've talked with my wife and the only thing that's keeping me going right now is this truck's paid for. If I had a truck payment, I couldn't survive.
KEITH: His wife, Brenda Bailey, says they don't put money in savings anymore.
Mrs. BAILEY (Trucker's Wife): Last year we were running out here in California the whole summer and we profited. And this year we've made a fourth of what we made last year - a fourth!
KEITH: On some runs, the Baileys say they're actually losing money. Ed Shackleton and his wife are having similar problems. They're independent truckers from Indiana.
Mr. SHACKLETON (Trucker): Today, I've bought about 150 something gallons. That's probably been around 700 dollars today in fuel.
KEITH: How did that feel?
Mr. SHACKLETON: It doesn't feel good at all! Hey, it's affecting everybody, even like you, you know? People just don't realize how much you're going to pay. The fuel surcharge is being passed off to the consumer, you know?
KEITH: Shackleton says he's taking his foot off the gas, sticking to 57 miles an hour.
Mr. SHACKLETON: Slowing down saves on tires and saves on fuel.
KEITH: Every mile per gallon he saves adds up to thousands of dollars in a year. So Shackleton puts up with a little ribbing from other truckers for being the slow guy on the road.
Mr. SHACKLETON: Yeah, they give you a hard time, some of them do. But I don't care. They're not paying my fuel bill. I am. But all the companies have slowed their trucks down. A lot of the big companies, they've slowed them down 65, 60.
KEITH: And you're doing 57.
Mr. SHACKLETON: Fifty-seven. I'm getting passed by everybody. I don't care.
KEITH: And it's working. He says he's getting seven miles to the gallon, where before he got five or six. For NPR News, I'm Tamara Keith in Sacramento.
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