By Bill Hudgins, columnist
The volume on my friend Rufus Sideswipe's TV suddenly went up, and he stared as a surprisingly scruffy anchorman announced, "This is a special report from WDUH news!
"It has been just a week since Gov. Bumble's Restrictions On Trucks, Truckers and Engine Noise Act, or the ROTTEN Law, went into effect.
"To recap, this law combined all existing federal, state and local trucking laws and regulations into one law, and added new restrictions designed to keep highways clear of trucks for commuters and shoppers.
"Under the ROTTEN Law truckers can't have more than 3 percent body fat and must be able to run a 100-yard dash in under 7 seconds. "It also said that trucks can't be louder than a vacuum cleaner, can run only between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., and that all rigs carry tracking devices linked to BIGBRO – the Bureau of Infinite Government for Big Rig Oversight.
"WDUH's investigative team has discovered the law has had unforeseen consequences. We now go live to the field. Tammy, you first. Where are you?"
"Chuck, I'm on the Paradise Overpass where my car ran out of gas. I'm not alone. Apparently there's no gas anywhere, so we're reporting by cell phones instead of satellite truck. But there is plenty of diesel since the trucks stopped running. Traffic-wise, the joggers, bicyclers and rollerbladers are really moving along on the interstate, zigzagging around the abandoned cars."
"Thanks, Tammy. Now to Bob – where are you?"
"Chuck, I'm outside what used to be a busy supermarket. My fridge was empty, so I walked the five miles here. But except for spoiled milk and rotten fruit, the only things on the shelves are some wheat germ cakes. The manager said deliveries stopped right after the law went into effect."
"Thanks, Bob – they didn't have any hair gel or makeup, did they? They ran out here at the studio, which is why I look a mess. Next, let's talk with our business analyst, Justin Credible, for some perspective."
"Chuck, Gov. Bumble said the law would be a big step toward better traffic flow, safer highways and better air quality. But as soon as it took effect, the secretary of state reported a massive surrender of trucking business licenses by owner-operators.
"Out-of-state fleets also announced they won't run through here anymore, so the state treasury is projecting the loss of millions of dollars in fuel taxes and trucking related fees. Truck stops and dealers are laying off or just closing up, since they can't get supplies and don't have much business. We're hearing reports of layoffs in manufacturing and retail for the same reason.
"Also, before the gas ran out, traffic accidents didn't decrease, and pollution stayed just about the same. The governor's advisers can't explain this, since everyone knows trucks were to blame for both problems. But now that most of the cars are off the road, the governor says his safety policy has been vindicated."
"Justin, school starts again this month, but without gas, how will kids get there?"
"Chuck, it looks like they will have to walk or bike. School officials will shorten hours to give kids time to arrive and get back home before dark. Kids will have to bring their lunches, if they can find any food. On the bright side, this should do wonders to reduce childhood obesity."
"Justin, didn't anyone speak out against the ROTTEN Law?"
"A couple of owner-operators did get five minutes before a sub-sub-subcommittee. They warned that more regulation would break the back of trucking and put a lot of people out of business. If more had spoken out, maybe things would have turned out differently. But now it's lights out for trucking."
At that moment, Rufus jerked awake. "I was dreaming," he thought, looking around the familiar interior of his sleeper, lit up by his little TV. "Just a dream. Couldn't ever happen," he mumbled as he buried his head under a pillow and drifted off again.
He didn't see the TV come back on or hear a voice say, "This road we're on leads to the senseless destruction of a wonderful industry, to the intolerable abuse of hard-working, decent people. That's the exit sign just ahead. Next Stop: The Truckless Zone." LL