West Virginia Truckers Rumble Off Interstate to Protest Diesel Costs

Horns blaring, dozens of West Virginia truckers fed up with high fuel costs converged on the state Capitol in protest Friday.

More than 60 rigs rumbled off Interstate 64/77 and pulled up to the seat of state government to demand relief. Trailer-less tractors, coal trucks, lumber haulers and tow trucks were among the vehicles that rolled in single-file after gathering about 70 miles north.

The convoy of mostly independent operators included Donald Cottrill of Dad's Trucking. Cottrill has seen his weekly fuel bill climb to $2,500 from $500 nine years ago. He linked the costs to the rising prices of lumber and other goods he hauls on his flatbed to businesses across the state.

"It's just time for us to make a stand," said Cottrill, 37. "This ain't just for us. We're trying to do this for everybody."

Gov. Joe Manchin was away from the Capitol. His legislative director planned to speak to the protesters. The governor told The Associated Press last week that his options for dealing with the price of fuel appeared limited.

Diesel prices averaged $4.14 per gallon in West Virginia on Friday, up $1.21 from a year ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The report averaged regular unleaded gas prices in the state at $3.38, up 64 cents from April 2007.

Friday's in-state prices for both gas and diesel remain within two cents of their recorded highs, reached last month, AAA said.

States taxes account for 31.5 cents in those prices. A dozen states have higher gas taxes than West Virginia, while 10 have higher taxes on diesel. Federal taxes add another 18.4 cents to the per-gallon price of gas and 24.4 cents to that price for diesel.

But West Virginia's fuel taxes also provide 61 percent of the state's revenues for its main road fund, which relies on federal dollars as well. The state expects these taxes to bring in $405.8 million by the time the budget year ends June 30. Collections were $547,000 below projections as of last month.

Though the Legislature passed several tax cuts and phase-outs during its recent session, none of the 2,134 bills introduced appear to have targeted taxes on vehicle fuels.

Truckers have taken to the roads throughout the country for similar protests all week. On Friday, about a dozen independent truckers staged a protest in Columbia, S.C.

Truckers also clogged streets around Pennsylvania's Capitol on Monday, forced slowdowns on the New Jersey Turnpike on Tuesday and shut down a state port authority terminal in Georgia on Thursday.