Even though oil prices have dropped slightly in recent days as Katrina-affected refineries come back online, talk is still swirling in the trucking industry about a strike that potentially could stop the transportation of many products nationwide.

Mention of a possible strike began even before Katrina damaged some oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and forced some refineries and pipelines to temporally shut down.

The national average price for diesel fuel last week stood at $2.59, which is 71.9 cents more than a year ago.

“We are now at a critical point for the industry in terms of fuel prices,” American Trucking Association chief economist Bob Costello told Fleet Owner magazine recently. “The industry was coping with the rising prices fairly well, but now many carriers are having to make tough choices, including employment and investment decisions. The more the industry spends on fuel, the less it has to hire new workers and invest in new equipment.”

The magazine noted for many long-haul truckers, especially owner-operators, high diesel prices are proving to be the last straw. On Aug. 19 a group of independent truckers formed a 15-truck convoy and drove through Santa Maria, Calif., to protest the rising cost of diesel. And in Florida, a loose group of owner-operators, company drivers and small fleets is trying to jumpstart a nationwide trucking strike Oct. 31, in hopes of getting the federal government to put a cap on fuel prices.

The effort in Florida also involves delivering petitions to Congress calling for lower fuel prices, mandatory freight rate hikes, and equal speed limits for trucks and cars. The petitions are scheduled to be delivered to Congress Oct. 17.

An e-mail circulating from “Terry,” a Teamsters member mentions a possible five-day truckers strike this month.

“They will be protesting the high price of fuel nationwide and intend to bring the nation to her knees,” Terry states.

“Almost everything moves by truck across this country, and it won’t take very long for our merchants’ shelves and gasoline storage tanks to empty, resulting in serious shortages in food and fuel. So, be prepared.”

Trucker John Ralney is from Greenville, Texas.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Ralney told the Bristol, Va., Herald Courier. “It’s made almost a complete turnaround since I started driving.”

On average, it’s costing Ralney $150 each time he stops to refuel. He’s stopping more often, fearing gas shortages. The farther north he drives, he says, the higher prices get.

The Virginia paper reported some truckers have talked about participating in a three-day strike.

Said independent driver John Lacey of the potential strike: “Some will, and some won’t. But if it happens, I’ll be there with a sign on my truck that says ‘No fuel. Going home.'”

Besides truckers, the high cost of gas and diesel is hitting school districts nationwide.

“We don’t have an option,” Edgecombe County Public Schools transportation director Tommy Hudson told the Rocky Mount, N.C., Telegram. “We have to … get the students to and from school.”

The district has instituted a no-idle policy for its bus fleet to save fuel.

As WorldNetDaily reported, gas prices in some parts of the world spiked dramatically last week in the wake of Katrina, with some reaching as high as $5.87 for a gallon of regular.

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