- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2000

A convoy of about 60 tractor-trailers is expected to drive into the District of Columbia during the tail end of the morning rush hour tomorrow.

The drivers of the trucks are protesting rising fuel costs.

The protest could end up a minor inconvenience, or a commuter's nightmare. Maryland State Police and the U.S. Park Police aren't sure yet.

Maryland's state troopers will greet the convoy at the Maryland House rest stop near Baltimore at about 9 a.m. and escort the trucks down Interstate 95 through Prince George's County, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for Maryland State Police.

Then, police are expected to lead the convoy onto westbound Route 50, then New York Avenue NE into the District, Mr. Piringer said.

"We'll be handling it just as we would a funeral procession or dignitary escorts," Mr. Piringer said. "There could be some minor delays on the roads, but they will be coming into the District well after rush hour. And we will be there to provide a safe passage for everyone."

D.C. police said they haven't received any official word on the threatened convoy.

The truckers, who represent 65 companies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, are expected to arrive here about 10 a.m. from southern New Jersey by police escort and park their rigs near the Mall, said Jackquie Medaglia, one of the organizers of the truckers' group.

"We're going to have a police escort as we're going from state to state. The word's getting out, and we're increasing our numbers," she said Saturday after a meeting in Bucks County, Pa., attended by 200 members of the Mid-Atlantic Owner Operator Independent Driver's Association.

Meanwhile, Maryland State, U.S. Park and D.C. police yesterday were awaiting orders on handling the convoy if it becomes longer than 60 trucks.

The truckers arriving here tomorrow voted last weekend to halt deliveries and demand a 30 percent rate increase and a 15 percent fuel surcharge from companies whose goods they haul.

They said the rising costs are making it impossible for them to earn a living, protest organizers said.

The drivers met for about 4 and 1/2 hours Saturday, although none received any concrete offers of higher freight-hauling rates, Ms. Medaglia said.

The drivers are dealing separately with the various companies they work for, and the companies in turn must negotiate with customers such as steel companies and railroads whose freight they haul, said organizer Chris Van Schaizk, an independent trucker from Levittown, Pa.

"We are trying to get some offers on the table. We feel like we are making some progress," Mr. Van Schaizk said. "It's a lot of riding around making visits and talking to the different carriers."

Drivers say the fuel costs are forcing them off the road.

"It's costing these drivers in some cases $200 to $300 a day for fuel, and they're not even making $200 a day," said George Cashman, the Teamsters national port director from Boston.

The independent truckers want the shipping or trucking companies who employ them to pay them fuel surcharges to compensate for the rising prices.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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