Legislation has been introduced that would provide low interest loans to truckers and other small transportation businesses struggling to stay in business while gas prices are soaring.

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), who introduced the legislation, has met with dozens of independent truckers to discuss the problems facing the industry and the possible solutions.

Under the terms of the proposed legislation, transportation businesses that have suffered, or that are likely to suffer from high fuel prices would be able to apply for emergency loans through the Small Business Administration. The loans would be capped at $250,000 and would be offered under terms similar to those offered through the SBA's "essential employee" program. The essential employee program allows small businesses to seek disaster assistance if one of their employees is a military reservist who gets called up to active duty.

Baird requested that his legislation be included in the upcoming economic stimulus package. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) are co-sponsors of the legislation. The Northwest Log Truckers Cooperative and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have come out in support of the bill.

"Truckers provide the backbone of our nation's retail economy, and an alarming number of trucking and transportation businesses are going belly up, unable to afford the rising cost of fuel," Baird said. "Even more disturbing, some are being forced to choose between paying for safety repairs and filling the gas tank. This legislation would provide them with a stopgap measure to help keep them, and our economy afloat."