Washington’s obsession with silver bullets

By Ryan S. Bowley, OOIDA Director of Government Affairs

Over the past few years, Washington has become obsessed with silver bullet solutions. Instead of having to make tough choices or focus on the root of the problem, politicians, bureaucrats and so-called experts rush to tell us how their idea is going to fix all of our problems.

One only has to look at the highway funding debate to see how this story line plays out.

The widespread reluctance from Congress or any occupant of the White House to even consider measured increases to fuel taxes to fund road and bridge repairs has led to a whole slew of “innovative” concepts for funding sources.

The Bush administration touted tolls and public-private partnerships, while President Obama has focused on an infrastructure bank. Others out there press for a vehicle-miles-traveled tax system that will require costly technology and a massive infrastructure to collect taxes from each one of the more than 250 million vehicles out on the road.

Trucking is no stranger to this script either. Instead of focusing on ensuring that every new truck driver has a basic understanding of how to safely operate that vehicle, we see agencies and other groups spending a lot of energy touting the next great “safety innovation” that will finally achieve highway safety. EOBRs, speed limiters, crash avoidance, CSA, sleep apnea screenings, the list goes on and on. Needless to say, each of these comes at an enormous cost to the small-business trucker who has every incentive in the world to operate safely. The questionable part is whether or not these “innovations” actually lead to results on the highway in fewer accidents.

The element that ties all of these together, from VMT taxes to sleep lab testing, is the powerful role that the groups manufacturing the transponder or running the sleep center have in driving both the establishment of these policies and how they are administered. Often, this is lost as policymakers focus on the quick fix.
This reality makes it all the more important for truckers like you to take an active role in educating your representatives and their staff members about how trucking really works and how, despite their big promises, silver bullet “solutions” always miss. LL