A convoy of 42 independent truckers from seven states pulled their 18-wheel rigs into Washington yesterday to protest a major tax increase on heavy trucks passed last month.

The trucks, led by a D.C. police escort, rolled into town shortly after rush hour and parked at RFK Stadium. Then the truckers, all members of the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association of America, caught taxis and took their plight to Capitol Hill.

"We're here to get the message across that if something isn't done about the high road taxes, a lot of us independent truckers are going to be out of business," Jim Johnston, president of the 4,000-member OOIDA said at a press conference.

Johnston said the focus of the protest is a new highway tax and construction bill signed into law by the president earlier this month that will increase gasoline taxes by about five cents a gallon and raise heavy truck user fees from $240 a year to $1,900 by 1988.

Ulysses Delcher Sr., of Jacksonville, Fla., said he has operated his own 18-wheeler for 12 years, hauling military household goods to 48 states. But, he said, he will not be able to stay in business when his federal user fees climb from the $210 he now pays each year to the $1,700 that will be due under the new law.

The truckers, who said they will have to pay out $4,000 more each year as a result of the new fees in addition to increases in the cost of equipment, spent yesterday afternoon talking with the staffs of their senators, hoping to persuade legislators to reconsider the tax.

If no changes have been made in the highway tax law by Jan. 31, Johnston said that many of the independent truckers in his organization may join other truckers in a nationwide strike. graphics/photo: A sign posted by truckers in the RFK parking lot spells out the major concerns of the independent drivers. By Gary Cameron--TWP