Monday, September 29, 2008

Why bad laws get piled onto good people

If you’ve been reading the pages of Land Line Magazine’s Web site, you’ve seen that officials in Dane County, WI, were pursuing an ordinance that they hope will reduce truck idling in unincorporated areas of that county.

Here are some of the basics:

  • The proposal would restrict idling to five minutes an hour.
  • If temperatures are below 39 or above 80, trucks could idle an additional 15 minutes an hour.
  • And, like other proposals, ordinances or laws of this kind we’ve seen all around the country, this one focuses on the effect diesel emissions have on the health of the area’s population.

It doesn’t sound much different from what we’ve seen elsewhere. But it raises some questions, such as:

  • Why do they keep ignoring the health of the trucker?
  • What about truckers who take along their kids, or pets?
  • What ultimately is the end game of this; how far are they going to carry this idea?

I had a few thoughts about that.

First – and this is the sad part – in most places that have an idling restriction, the trucker’s health is not protected. But many of those same cities will fine a car driver for leaving an animal in a vehicle that doesn’t have the heat or air conditioning operating.

In fact, when I used to eat lunch every day at a bar and grill up the street, frequently, all the K-9 officers from this county would be eating there, too.

Every single one of those vehicles was idling so the animal would be safe and comfortable.

Second, why is this happening – why are public officials going out of their way to protect some citizens, and not others? Why don’t they understand what this is doing to the trucker?

In part, this is a plain lack of understanding. Some public officials that I’ve spoken to, or that truckers have told me they’ve talked to, say they never thought about what it was like for that trucker to sit in the cab. Some didn’t realize that the regulations require them to be in there at certain times.

I’ve even had one insist to me that all the truckers stayed in hotels every night. Seriously, this person really believed that.

These laws can be set by any level of government, they can be different from town to town, and you can face a fine without ever knowing in advance, or even having a chance to know, that you’re in violation of some law.

I’m no fan of federal regulation, and I prefer a lot of things to be done locally instead. But sometimes the feds or some other nationwide force needs to be setting the rules.

That’s why we have federal trucking regulations. That’s why we have IFTA and IRP.

If only one idling law applied nationwide, at least truckers would know what they faced. And we would have the opportunity to make our case to the feds once, instead of having to deal with the governments of 50 states, as many as 3,000 counties, and tens of thousands of cities and towns.

Again, this is why it’s so important to start calling all your public officials – not just the ones in Congress, but also in your state legislatures, your county commission, your city council.

Otherwise … look at how out of control things can get.