Taking a toll

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Effective Jan. 1, 2005, all drivers will pay more at tollbooths along the Illinois Tollway.
While the news will not be welcome for commuters, it is especially painful to companies in the shipping business, because they will be paying, at best, more than twice the current amount for Illinois tolls.
And those costs will rise even more during peak travel times.
Combined with higher fuel costs, officials in the southeastern Wisconsin trucking industry say the toll increases will result in higher shipping costs for businesses and ultimately higher costs on goods for consumers.
"This is going to impact us substantially, and all trucking companies," said LuAnn Doyle, safety and security director with Tax Airfreight, Inc. "Chicago being a major gateway, there are tons of other carriers in Wisconsin traveling back and forth across the state line."
Tax Airfreight has about 140 trucks in its fleet, based near General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. Doyle said the company uses about 30 percent of its fleet purely on Illinois-to-Wisconsin traffic.
Greg Groth, president of Tax Airfreight, said the toll increases will add about $120,000 in costs to his business for 2005, and those costs ultimately will have to be passed on to customers. He said those costs will be part of the company’s negotiations when it talks to its customers.
Because the trucking industry is so competitive, firms that ship goods from Illinois to Wisconsin and back will have to pass on the added costs to customers, Doyle said.
"We run close to the wire, and the profit margin is very competitive," she said. "That’s something we’re not going to be able to absorb."
Scott Kappelman, operations manager of Jeff’s Fast Freight in Cudahy, said his company also will have to pass along the new costs to its customers. The company has 33 trucks in its fleet, most of which run between Illinois and Wisconsin.
Both Kappelman and officials from Tax Airfreight said that because they specialize in shipping to airports with tight timelines, they will not be able to avoid shipping during peak hours.
"We just don’t have that ability," Kappelman said. "With a lot of the (exports) going out of the country, they have to be at the airport to make the flights out. We can’t adjust our routes to the non-peak hours."
Ron Neumuth, vice president of sales for Custom Freight, based on Milwaukee’s far northwest side, predicts higher costs for trucking customers and ultimately, consumers.
"In today’s environment, there are more loads available than trucks can haul," Neumuth said. "It’s a very competitive business. There are so many people out there, and everybody’s capacity is limited. In the past, pricing was very competitive, but now people are anxious to get their loads delivered on time and they’re more willing to discuss small rate increases."
The increases also may result in more traffic trying to plot alternative routes to avoid the tollways, Doyle said.
"All this will do is create incredible congestion where it is not wanted, because big trucks are going to be forced to get around the (Interstate) system," she said. "There will be an incredible increase in crashes. I don’t see this as a positive thing to the consumer or motoring public."
Info box
Large trucks currently pay $1.25 to $1.50 at tolls on the Illinois Tollway. Effective Jan. 1, 2005, they will pay $4 during peak hours. Trucks that use the I-pass system will be eligible for a $1 discount, but not during peak hours. Trucks paying cash also will be eligible for discounts between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
October 29, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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