Have truckers been getting off easy by paying less than their fair share for using the New York Thruway?
A consultant to the Thruway Authority says yes, they have.
The consultant said commercial traffic accounts for about 40 percent of the agency's revenue. And in what you'd think is a key finding, the consultant noted as well that the volume of commercial traffic on the Thruway has been declining just a bit over 4 percent a year since 2005.
In true New York fashion, upon receiving this news, the Thruway Authority decided a 45 percent increase in tolls for commercial trucks is in order. That would push the cost of driving a truck with three or more axles from Buffalo to New York City to $127 from the current $88.
It is not a surprise that some 23 business groups - the New York Motor Truck Association, of course as well as manufacturers, retailers and grocers - have banded together to fight the toll hike.
The Motor Truck Association has also asked its individual members to shower Albany with a unified message:
''Nearly 90 percent of New York communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods. Without trucks, no person, home or business could survive. The Thruway Authority's plan to raise tolls for commercial motor vehicles on the roadway by 45 percent will not only raise the cost to operate in New York state for the trucking industry, it will raise the costs for every business in New York that relies on trucks to deliver their goods''
It simply does not take a great deal of thought to figure out that a 45 percent toll increase on commercial vehicles will have unintended consequences - financially as the extra costs ripple through the state's economy, as well as the danger of more big trucks on local roads when drivers look for ways to avoid the Thruway.
The Motor Truck Association also points to a history of financial mismanagement at the Thruway Authority, saying truckers and their customers should not have to pay for past bad decisions.
One of the biggest issues is that the Thruway maintains the Erie Canal.
''The Thruway spends over $50 million dollars annually on the canal - funded primarily through toll revenue. ... The time has come to find a new home for the canal, Thruway users can no longer be asked to subsidize it,'' the Truck Association says.
We cannot help but note the irony of the Thruway Authority's proposal being played out against the backdrop of TV advertisements from the Cuomo administration about New York at last being a friendly place to do business.
Members of the Thruway Authority are holding the first of several toll-hike hearings across the state next week in Buffalo.
They deserve to get an earful.