A North Carolina truck driver was shot and killed late Monday night and dozens of drivers reported that they were the targets of bullets and bricks yesterday, but federal officials said most independent truckers seemed to be driving on the second day of what is supposed to a nationwide shutdown.
At least 50 shooting and brick-throwing incidents were reported, many at night with targets apparently chosen indiscriminately. The dead driver was a member of the Teamsters union, which is not supporting the shutdown.
The National Association of Truck Stop Operators said business at various truck stops was off by 10 to 25 percent and in one instance was down 50 percent.
Nonetheless, Lee Keely, of the Agriculture Department's Office of Transportation, said, "We have no indication at all that the effect is other than negligible" in the movement of produce and other commodities, a prime cargo for independent drivers, who own and operate their own trucks.
The nation's approximately 100,000 independents form about one-third of the total driving force.
A spokesman here at Safeway Stores Inc., about half of whose produce is delivered by independents, said all scheduled deliveries were made yesterday. That report was similar to those received across the country.
Transportation Department sources repeated their estimate of Monday that only about 20 percent of independent truckers appeared to be staying home. Those who usually drive at night were shifting to daylight runs, they said. Many states, including Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania, beefed up highway patrols.
The independent drivers are protesting truck tax increases voted by the lame-duck Congress in December as part of the gasoline tax/highway construction bill.
Mike Parkhurst, president of the Independent Truckers Association who called the shutdown, said about 70 percent of the truckers are staying home and suggested that federal officials are "not telling the truth."
There have been no meetings between Parkhurst and federal officials since the shutdown began, and none is planned, according to both sides.
Since midnight Sunday, the Associated Press has counted shooting incidents in 22 states, almost all in the Northeast or South. In addition to the slain driver, a trucker was seriously wounded by gunfire in Brigham City, Utah, and a teen-ager suffered a fractured skull when a brick bounced off a truck into the family car as it passed beneath the Plum Borough overpass on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The FBI was monitoring the investigation of the fatal shooting of George Franklin Capps, 33, of Clayton, N.C. His truck was entering Newton Grove, N.C., on U.S. Rte. 701 about 11:05 p.m. Monday when a bullet hit him in the neck, apparently killing him instantly, police said. The truck rolled to a halt in a ditch.
Detective John Ancellotti of the Sampson County, N.C., sheriff's office said that there was no way to prove that Capps' shooting was related to the truck shutdown, but that two other trucks had been the targets of rifle fire on Rte. 701 Monday night.
"We have no suspects and have made no arrests," he said.
State Police in Maryland and Virginia reported several rock-throwing incidents, four shootings and one minor injury involving truckers, while truck-stop operators and owners of area trucking firms that rely on independent drivers said business was down sharply.
The most serious incident occurred in Baltimore at 4 a.m., when a sniper's bullet pierced the passenger door of a tractor-trailer traveling northbound on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway. The driver, James Marvin Edwards, 62, of Roseboro, N.C., suffered minor cuts from flying glass and metal.
Maryland's first confirmed shooting incident occurred four hours earlier in Bowie, when a truck traveling west on Rte. 50 near the Church Road overpass was struck by gunfire.Driver Newton Dawson of Manassas Park was not injured.
Virginia State Police said a United Parcel Service truck was fired on by two men standing on the median strip of U.S. Rte. 460 near Pamplin City, about 100 miles west of Richmond. The driver was not injured in the 3 a.m. incident, but his vehicle was damaged by several gunshots.
Also on Rte. 460, west of Appomattox, a truck driver said he heard several gunshots at 1:45 a.m., but did not realize that his truck, loaded with bakery goods, had been hit until he arrived in Richmond.
In Bedford County, Va., a truck driver reported that his rig was forced to the side of the road at 3 a.m. by two men in a white car. The men, one with a pistol, told the driver to return home, and he did so, to Appomattox, police said.
Several widely scattered rock-throwing incidents also occurred yesterday in Caroline County, Va., Cumberland, Md., and near Morgantown, W.Va., where two brothers were arrested after several drivers reported that rocks were thrown at their vehicles along U.S. Rte. 119.
Meanwhile, truck-stop operators in Frederick and Jessup, Md., reported gasoline and restaurant business down by as much as 40 percent. "We haven't had any problems," said Millard Bolyard, of the I-70 Truck Stop in Frederick. "It's just real quiet."
John Popovich, terminal manager of Liedtka Trucking Co. of White Marsh, Md., said business at the firm was down by half.
"Our company drivers are still working, but a little more cautiously," he said. "They're trying to stay out of areas where there's been some trouble. But we also use about 100 independent drivers, and they're just not working until all of this is over."