WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A few dozen trucks bearing the hallmarks of a planned trucker rally on the Capital Beltway have made their way into the D.C. area.
The Truckers Ride for the Constitution started before dawn Friday, with truckers planning to drive the 64-mile Capital beltway in eight hour shifts until Sunday afternoon.
Alabama trucker Bradley Higgins has made his living behind the wheel for the past 13 years. He anticipates that he will spend about $700 on gas this weekend to participate in this round-the-clock driving protest.
“I’m not getting paid to circle around the Capitol," he said. "I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do. The American people, the American truck drivers are tired of being walked on."
The Ride for the Constitution is a grassroots effort, and at one point, organizers thought they might have upwards of a thousand participants. Far fewer showed up, but they were no less local.
"The government needs to be held accountable," says driver Kevin Altizer. "They still work for us. It's still 'We the people.'"
"The critters in D.C., they think we don't exist," added Richmond driver, Dan Edwards. "They've got their little party and we're not part of it and we're here to show them today that we do matter and we're going to make a difference."
By about 8:45 a.m., Virginia State Police officials said that about 30 tractor trailers left a stop in Dumfries at about 7:30 with plans to head toward Washington. Meanwhile, in Dumfries, 15 more were spotted bearing the official Twitter hashtag of the ride - #T2SDA.
Police officials say that at about 8:50 a.m., authorities stopped four trucks that were driving side-by-side across four lanes of traffic, slowing the commute in the area to about 15 mph.
The truckers were not ticketed, but law enforcement officers warned them not to impede traffic. Despite the stop, a VSP spokesperson says the convoy hasn't caused any major hangups or incidents.
The protest has attracted truckers from as far away as the West Coast and has more than 140,000 supporters on Facebook.
Trucker Bill Ludwig says he’s concerned about the future of an industry he has been part of for a quarter of a century.
"We're over-regulated, over-watched," he said. "It's just very difficult these days to make a living as a truck driver. "
“Anybody at all is talking about the truckers coming to shutdown D.C.,” says organizer Ernest Lee. “We've got to stand together. We've got to be united. Guys, we've got to keep it peaceful here. Got to keep it clean.”
The group planned to meet at two rendezvous points: One on I-95 near Kings Dominion; the other in Harrisburg, Pa., on I-81.
According to WTOP's John Aaron, though, truckers did not gather in Harrisburg on Friday morning.
They are protesting general discontent with the government, new limits on the number of hours they can drive and gas prices.
Motorists fear the impact it will have on traffic and driver safety.
“I anticipate it being dangerous because there are going to be people getting really ticked off - road rage – whatever,” says motorist Elizabeth Stalker, who uses the Beltway. “I wouldn't want to play with an 18 wheeler that's trying to make a statement and I'm just trying to get to work.”
Others say they'll try to avoid the protest.
“I'll probably stay off the beltway if I can,” says Paul Zacharias. “I don't know where I'll end up going though so I'll have to do the best I can.”