The Independent Truckers Association, which represents an unknown number of truckers with a list of demands ranging from repeal of the 55 mph speed limit to a ban on state trucking taxes, yesterday called for a nationwide truck strike beginning Jan. 31.

Mike Parkhurst, president of the ITA and editor and publisher of Overdrive, a trucking magazine that says the $2.50 it costs is the "price of truth," said at a well-attended news conference that the strike "will last as long as Congress wants it to."

The primary target of the walkout appears to be the 5-cent-a-gallon gasoline and diesel fuel tax rise, scheduled to go into effect April 1, and large increases in trucking taxes Congress passed in the recent lame-duck session to finance highway construction and improvements in mass transit. Parkhurst's literature calls the act "the truck bankruptcy bill."

Parkhurst continually provided non-answers to questions about how effective a strike would be, how many truckers acutally pledge fealty to the ITA and precisely which of many ITA demands Congress would have to meet to avoid or end a strike. He said there are about 100,000 independent truckers and that they transport 80 to 90 percent of the food moved by truck.

The ITA has been successful in the past in disrupting the nation's transportation system, particularly when striking to obtain relief from fuel shortages. No ITA strike attempt has been completely successful, however, as many independents have continued to operate.

Parkhurst's strike call is not supported by the American Trucking Associations, which represents 10,000 to 15,000 truck firms.

Federal officials familiar with the trucking industry said yesterday that they are monitoring the situation and taking it seriously, but that they expect many truckers to continue working if they can find work. The trucking business, like many others, has been seriously affected by the recession.