[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/23/art.elex2.cnn.jpg caption="The CNN Election Express is headed across the country."]ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The cost of diesel was $3.26 a gallon Wednesday at the Pilot Travel Center, but the biggest concern for independent trucker Charles Dye wasn’t the price of fuel. It was NAFTA.
When Dye first got behind the wheel of his rig eight years ago, the 28-year-old said he grossed $180,000. Last year, Dye said he made $65,000 before expenses - barely enough to live on as he ran roofing oil between Memphis, Tennessee and Savannah, Georgia. He is on the road 20 days a month.
Because he is an independent contractor, Dye has to purchase his own health insurance. Right now, he is not covered. Luckily, the mother of his four-year-old child does have insurance, which helps alleviate the financial burden.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, which loosened restrictions on goods and services between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, is to blame for the hit he is taking in the wallet, he said.
“It was hard for me to make a living last year other than the years before, because of the way they opened the borders and let the trucks come over and practically do work for nothing,” he said, as the gasoline flowed from the pump into his rig.
Dye wants the U.S. to restrict the number of Canadian and Mexican truckers from working in this country.
“They are cutting my throat to do my job for less pay,” he said.
Even though NAFTA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Dye said the former president’s wife Hillary Clinton or her rival Barack Obama will get his vote this fall. I pressed him: Why would he back Clinton when her husband signed NAFTA into law?
“I made more money, and I believe in a Democrat more than I do a Republican,” said Dye, who lives in Arkansas. “That’s just my opinion. President Bush hasn’t showed me anything.”
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston