East Coast truckers fed up with fuel costs

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FREDERICTON, N.B. – Atlantic truckers pledged to take their rigs off the road earlier this month to protest the skyrocketing fuel prices which are causing much financial hardship, but turnout was dismal.

On Mar. 3, blockades were planned for the Trans-Canada Highway near Nevers Road just outside Fredericton, N.B., and for the TCH at the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Three years ago 400 trucks blockaded the N.S-N.B border over fuel prices, and although organizers were hoping for the same turnout, it didn’t happen.

Trucker Barry Cohoon, who orchestrated the protest three years ago, was sitting in a friend’s rig this time because he couldn’t afford to bring his own truck.

“After eight years, I’ve decided it’s not worth my while to continue,” says Cohoon. “I’ve parked my truck, pulled the plates, took the registration off it, and I even think I have it sold. That’s not something I wanted to do because I like trucking.”

Cohoon says he isn’t discouraged that only two truckers showed up for the four-hour protest because the blockade is just the first step in sending the message to the government.

Brian Currie, spokesman for Truckers for Justice and protest organizer, agrees with Cohoon in that the trucking system has to be regulated, and the industry has to organize to get the message across.

“The cost of fuel is burying us…,” says Currie. “We are willing to talk with the government. Something needs to happen now.”

In New Brunswick, a similarly poorly attended demonstration drew an estimated seven rigs and 21 passenger cars to a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Oromocto.

But organizers said the protest raised awareness and made a point.

“Even though the number of trucks were outnumbered 10 to one by police cars and media vehicles, it was a success,” says Currie. “The goal was to let people know that we are organizing and that we are going to take this issue all the way.”

“People are going home and parking their trucks,” he says. “We’re in dire straits. Every day that goes by there’s going to be small businesses shutting down.”

Doras Stennick, president of the Southern New Brunswick Trucking Association and protest organizer, agrees.

“Too many truckers can’t make a living if they can’t pay the fuel and the insurance,” he says, “the big guys get subsidies but the little guys can’t cope anymore.”

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