Truck drivers have gotten some relief the past few months as diesel prices have fallen from springtime records, but they’re still painfully high, as are state Thruway tolls. Is it any wonder that increasing numbers of them are trying to avoid the Thruway, even if it means going out of their way or driving on rural highways that carry them through small upstate towns and villages that have lots of traffic lights? Is it any wonder that the state and those localities are none too pleased by this development?
The state Department of Transportation has struck back, pushing new regulations at Gov. David Paterson’s instruction, that will attempt to discourage large truckers — especially garbage haulers using shortcuts through the Finger Lakes on their way to a huge landfill in Seneca County — from straying off the Thruway. The truckers aren’t happy, but the regs are warranted for at least a couple of reasons.
For one thing, it’s not safe when large numbers of large trucks, 45 feet and up, go rumbling through a populated area. The mayor of Skaneateles, for example, estimates that as many as 200 such trucks a day are passing through his village. The roads in his and other upstate communities weren’t designed for such traffic — there have already been some serious accidents with trucks overturning — and can’t withstand the wear and tear the way bigger highways can.
For another, there are aesthetic considerations: If you live in one of these small upstate villages or towns, it’s one thing to have hundreds of cars and local delivery trucks driving past your house daily, but another to have dozens of loud tractor-trailers and smelly garbage trucks do so. Especially when those trucks have no real business anywhere in the area.
The state’s policies (i.e. Thruway tolls and diesel fuel taxes) helped create this problem, so it’s not inappropriate for the state to try to solve it. Forcing trucks back on the Thruway will not only protect the state’s interest in that highway, but in smaller state highways that are in danger of being damaged by the heavy trucks.
Truckers say they use back roads because they’re more direct than the Thruway and thus require less fuel. That may be true to some degree, but it must also be remembered that a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is compromised in the kind of stop-and-go driving that these back roads involve. So unless the superhighway route is substantially longer, it’s often more economical — at least in terms of fuel efficiency.