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Truckers make statement in
anticipation of possible strike

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

While pumping diesel fuel into his 18-wheeler Tuesday, at a rate of $3.87 a gallon, Desmond Culpepper lamented an ongoing dilemma facing many truck drivers.

"With gas prices being so high, we're putting all our money into the fuel tank," said Culpepper, 29, who hauls frozen food and produce for his father's company, Jackson Culpepper Trucking. "You're barely making enough to pay your truck note."

By the time he was done putting fuel into his rig at the Kangaroo gas station on Ga. Highway 155 in Locust Grove, Culpepper had paid more than $150 for less than one-eighth of the amount needed to fill the trucks two tanks.

Culpepper is among independent truck drivers nationwide who have felt the pinch at the pump in recent months, and are hoping a strike will force fuel prices down.

According to the Associated Press, trucking owner-operators in Georgia, hope the state legislature will cut state fuel taxes, and they plan to join a "nationwide truck shutdown," if an agreement is not reached by Thursday.

In metro Atlanta Tuesday morning, a convoy of drivers circled around Interstate 285, to make a statement regarding fuel prices. The group's protest began at a truck stop in Jackson, Ga., and eventually built to a "three-mile string" of truck drivers.

Georgia State Patrol Senior Trooper Larry Schnall said the group of truck drivers did not cause problems on the interstate while participating in the protest.

"There were no issues ... from a public safety standpoint, other than congestion for a period of time," Schnall said.

James Hawkins, 34, has owned and operated McDonough-based Brothers, Inc., trucking company for 12 years, and said fuel prices are worse on drivers now than they have ever been.

"It takes $700-800 to fill up my truck completely," he said. "It's nearly doubled in the last year."

Texas trucker, Michael Leonard, 42, said diesel-fuel prices have been "killing" him for months.

"When fuel prices started going up, my profits started going down," said Leonard, who had been driving through Georgia Tuesday on his way to Illinois. "According to my pay statement, I made $157,000 last year, give or take. When I did my taxes, according to Uncle Sam, I only made $11,000 after all my expenses."

Leonard said, on average, half the money he earns from his driving, goes toward fueling his truck.

Culpepper said the prospect of parking his truck indefinitely has him "torn," but that he wants to "take a stand" by participating in the strike alongside his fellow drivers, many of whom are paid per load.

"I hate to lose the money, but we need a change," he said. "With the way it is now, independent guys like me and my dad won't be able to survive."

- The Associated Press contributed to this article.