Honk if you hate expensive gas!
From noon to 1 p.m. downtown, truckers protested rising diesel prices by driving in loops around Capitol Square, honking horns and posting handwritten sings on the hulls of their rigs.
"When truckers stop, America stops," read one of these signs. "George Bush doesn't care about truckers," read another.
Through a window of one of the many rigs parading up and down East Main Street, a trucker says that "a guy at the port" was the unofficial organizer of the protest.
When prodded further, the truck driver admitted that there was no central organizer. "Maybe that's what we need to get gas prices down," he said.
So yes, the protest wasn't as thoroughly planned as it could have been -- and we won't bring up the fact that driving in circles around the city, um, burns fuel -- but people took notice. Dozens of people filled the lunch-hour streets to see what all the honking was about.
Dale Bennett, executive vice president of Virginia Trucking Association, fleshes out the dilemma. "Diesel prices are getting close to $4 a gallon nationwide and in this region this is a very significant increase. It is costing $615 more than [it did] five years ago to fill the tanks of a tractor trailer. It is costing $856 more than ten years ago."
Bennett warns that there isn't "a whole lot of room to absorb the increased cost. In order to stay in business we have to pass that cost along."
The increased gas prices ultimately fall on the consumer.
As diesel prices continue to increase, the price of products at the consumer level will rise too, says Bennett. Still, it's unclear what the state government can do to curtail rising gas prices, which are still controlled largely by oil output in other countries and OPEC.
Gordon Hickey, Gov. Tim Kaine's press secretary, says the governor feels the trucker's pain. "The governor agrees that gas prices are high," Hickey says. But "the governor cannot change gas prices."
Hickey says Kaine observed that the protest "points to a need to establish alternative domestic resources" in order to curb fuel costs.
"If they don't get increased rates then they will be forced to park their trucks -- it will cost more to haul than what they will make," warns Bennett.