OLD TOWN, Maine — Before a federal pilot program allowed trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds to ride interstate roads north of Augusta, the 54 trucks of K-B Corp. of Old Town averaged about 3.2 miles per gallon of diesel fuel.
Now, thanks to the program, they get more than 4 miles to the gallon, saving the hauling company 30 percent on its fuel bills, or about $15,000 a week if fuel costs about $3 a gallon, says Melonie Bond, the hauling company’s fleet manager.
“That’s huge for us,” Bond said Thursday. “It [the pilot program] also saves us time. Riding the highway instead of the back roads saves us about two hours a day per truck. That’s money in the guy’s [driver’s] pocket, too.
“If that program continues, a lot of good things can happen,” Bond added. “If that goes away, then we lose that money and our trucks are back on the back roads with the school buses, kids and bicycles.”
Bond and other K-B Corp. principals lobbied hard for making permanent the pilot program when 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud visited them as part of a three-day campaign tour of small businesses that began Wednesday.
A four-term Democratic incumbent from East Millinocket, Michaud is running against Republican challenger Jason Levesque in the 2nd District, which runs from Levesque’s hometown of Auburn to the Canadian border.
Michaud didn’t need to be sold on the pilot program, telling K-B President William Kitchen that he favors legislation that would make it permanent.
Michaud is touting two bills that he said he helped get passed in the House this spring:
ä The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which delivers loans to small businesses to push the recovery forward and create jobs through a new $30 billion lending fund for small and medium-size community banks that could leverage up to $300 billion in lending.
Michaud said he supports the bill, which is under Senate review, because community banks provide the credit that small businesses need to grow and create jobs. It’s especially needed since the Wall Street financial crisis and the struggling economy have diminished banks’ ability to lend, he said.
ä The Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act. This would spur investment in small businesses by increasing capital gains tax cuts for investors in small businesses this year, and increase to $20,000 from $5,000 the deduction for start-up business. By allowing entrepreneurs to recover more start-up expenses, small-business owners can focus more on hiring new workers and growing their businesses, Michaud said.
K-B officials said the American Recovery and Investment Act, the federal stimulus package approved by Congress, has helped them.
Over the last year, K-B earned about $250,000 hauling compacted cars turned in through the cash for clunkers program and another $100,000 from razed housing projects in southern Maine and New Hampshire at least partially funded by the stimulus package, said Chuck Eaton, a supervisor at the trucking company. The company has an $18 million annual operating budget, employs about 70 workers and hauls about 450 tons of waste metal a day, Bond said.
Michaud voted for the stimulus package, but he hasn’t been afraid to criticize the Obama administration, saying that red tape has left $275 billion in stimulus funding allocated but not yet spent. He said the federal government erred in allocating only 7 percent of the package for infrastructure improvements that average about 35,000 new jobs for every $1 billion spent — by far the biggest bang for the buck available.
“Our infrastructure is falling apart, so we have to do the work anyway,” Michaud said. “Has the stimulus done good work? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes.”