Some truck stops limiting diesel buys; others run dry

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A number of truck stops across the eastern United States, including some far from the areas immediately affected by Hurricane Katrina, are experiencing fuel shortages.

Paul Bush, a spokesperson at T-Chek Systems, said his company is posting truck stop fuel shortage information on its website, http://www.tchek.com/hurricane.asp. The website also has a list of truck stops, both chain locations and independents, that are closed because of hurricane damage. Scroll down past the price chart in the middle of the page to reach the truck stop information.

Among the major truck stops reported out of fuel were the TravelCenters of America in Meridian, Miss. (Interstate 20/59 at Exit 160), and Antioch, Tenn. (I-24 at Exit 62), and the Love’s Travel Center in Loxley, Ala. (I-10 and Highway 59 at Exit 44).

More than a dozen other truck stops in the Southeast and Midwest reported they were rationing fuel at 50 gallons per truck. These included truck stops as far north as Ohio and Indiana.

While the grim spectacle of a wrecked New Orleans has transfixed TV viewers, dozens of rural counties in the Gulf States likewise are without food, fuel and power, and truck stops are affected like every other business.

The Meridian TA not only was out of diesel but also was out of gasoline, water and electricity, employee Sherrelle Coats said. Employees were cooking burgers on a gas grill to feed hungry truckers.

Richard Joyce, a company driver for Jimmy L. Rakes out of Pilot Mountain, N.C., was out of fuel Sept. 2 at the Noble Truck Stop in Livingston, Ala. Joyce had siphoned 50 gallons of diesel out of his refrigerated unit just to get that far.

“I’ve been here since last night,” he said. “Do you know how hard it is to move 50 gallons of fuel in a 2-gallon bucket? Hopefully my boss is on the way with some diesel.”

Also frustrated by the “No Diesel” sign on the fuel pumps at the Noble Truck Stop was Rick Burton, an owner-operator from Cameron, Mo. The CB airwaves were full of talk about fuel outages, tempers flaring and growing panic among truckers, Burton said.

“I’m hearing about three-hour waits for diesel, shots ringing out and truckers arming themselves,” Burton said. He planned to park his truck after he got home and work in the construction industry.

Also fed up was Cassell Harris, an owner-operator from Memphis, Tenn., who pulled out his last $100 for fuel in Meridian. “I’m out of money, out of fuel and going to park my truck for a few weeks until the fuel situation settles back down,” Harris said. “I’m tired, outraged over the prices and the lack of availability. I’ve had enough.”

In a letter to the nation’s governors, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves warned about potential problems incurred by drivers because of spotty fuel supplies.

“We have had many reports of truck stops whose fuel supplies are totally depleted or who have had to ration fuel sales,” Graves wrote. “In order to avoid running out of fuel, truck drivers are filling their tanks to the maximum limit whenever possible. In some cases, however, this puts the vehicles over the legal weight limits. We urge you to instruct your weight enforcement personnel to give trucks a minimal weight tolerance so that drivers do not have to make the difficult choice between getting an overweight citation and risking running out of fuel.”