Truckers rally at Statehouse, on I-77 for lower fuel prices

Associated Press
Alice Ballard, of Cayce, S.C., participates in a National protest to lower the cost of fuel.

COLUMBIA --- Six truckers inched along Interstate 77 on Friday and a handful of others parked their rigs in front of the Statehouse as part of a loosely organized protest of high fuel prices.

A dozen people supporting the drivers gathered outside the state Capitol and four truckers parked their rigs, blaring their horns to attract attention. Some protesters held signs, one of them reading: "Enough is enough! Fuel costs must come down!"

The truckers are trying to pressure oil companies to lower fuel costs and want Washington politicians to stabilize prices by tapping the nation's oil reserves.

Truckers have held similar protests throughout the country this week. In West Virginia on Friday, more than 60 rigs pulled up to the seat of that state government to demand relief.

Truckers also clogged streets around Pennsylvania's Capitol and forced slowdowns on the New Jersey Turnpike this week.

Barry Ballentine, a trucker for nearly two decades from a rural town in central South Carolina, had one of the rigs parked in front of the state Capitol.

"This is the first time I've had to call my mortgage company to tell them I'm going to be late," said Ballentine, of Gaston. "Right now the big oil companies are controlling everybody's destinies. I own my truck, and I'm still taking a beating."

One South Carolina trucker's wife held up a sign and hollered when passing cars honked in support.

"We're not going to be quiet. We're not going to stop until somebody notices and does something," said Wanda McGuffin, whose husband has been driving for more than 20 years. "There will be a strike ultimately if nothing is done."

Despite the protests, the director of the South Carolina Truckers Association said he doesn't expect a massive shutdown.

"We don't condone or support any type of activity like that, but we are sympathetic to the cause," Rick Todd said.

Mr. Todd said truckers are parking their rigs if they can afford it and taking other jobs until there is more business or gas prices drop.