The View with Lou: Street wise?

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The American Trucking Associations took the pulse of the American public on a couple of trucking related issues recently and discovered a couple of things fleet executives north of the border should find interesting.

The ATA’s poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and comprising 800 respondents, found a surprising amount of support among the American public for spending more on infrastructure. Participants were asked whether the US should spend more or spend less on several priorities, including K-12 public schools; transportation infrastructure; anti-terrorism and national defense; health care; environmental protection; food and drug inspection; and government assistance to the unemployed.

While K-12 public schools came out on top with 61% supporting spending more on them and only 14% wanting to spend less, spending on infrastructure came out second with 48% supporting an increase in spending and only 10% wanting to spend less. Seventy one percent of respondents felt their nation’s roadways were only in fair to poor condition. Almost half of Americans (49%) believe traffic congestion impacts the quality of their life.

So it would seem US truckers’ long-term plea to improve the nation’s infrastructure is in line with the American public. And that can only be good news for fleet executives hoping for the same kind of support here.
Well, not exactly.

When survey respondents were told that “it is estimated that in order to repair, update and modernize their nation’s roads, highways and bridges, it would cost $4 trillion over the next 25 years” and then given several different ways that this money could be raised, their enthusiasm for infrastructure improvements quickly fizzled.

Not one of the funding proposals presented received a better than 36% approval rating, leading Neil Newhouse, a partner in the firm which conducted the poll to conclude: “Americans say there is a need to spend more money (on infrastructure) but they don’t want it coming out of their pockets…It would take a heck of a lobbying job to get any of these proposals passed.”

As ATA president and CEO Bill Graves pointed out shortly afterwards, infrastructure is not free, and it’s not cheap, and it’s not going to get repaired or rebuilt by osmosis. Unfortunately, the average American seems to believe that it can. Even more unfortunate is the reality that the longer necessary infrastructure repairs are ignored, the higher the repair bill gets.

The second lesson delivered by the poll results has to do with the industry’s image and safety. Turns out the American public may have a more favorable image of trucking than many in the industry would have thought. Almost two thirds (65%) of the survey’s 800 respondents said they had a “favorable” impression of the industry and only 9% said their impression of it was “unfavorable.” The vast majority felt truck drivers were far less likely than passenger vehicle drivers to make unsafe traffic maneuvers, violate the speed limit, or cause a crash. But they did have concerns about the hours truck drivers work and a considerably smaller majority (57%) thought the industry had a good to excellent safety record.

How can the industry be made safer? Respondents were provided with several options. Eighty six percent of them chose “placing new technology on trucks to make sure drivers weren’t on the road for too many hours at a time.”

Carriers still opposed to EOBRs in their trucks should note that the industry’s image is inextricably tied to its safety record. And a public that has become progressively used to the efficiency and accuracy of digital record keeping over the past 20 years, finds it rather odd that some in our industry insist on the old pencil and paper.

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With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.

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  • I’ve been driving for 27 years and have well over 2 million accident free miles under my belt , never had a roll over or a jack knife , never been charged with a insecure load , I’ve been hustled at the scales a few times by mto officers ( that feel they have to justify their jobs by harrassing me so they can generate some money for the province ) other than that I have a clean record and i am a safe operator still using a paper log, what i find odd is all the talk about eobrs and roll over protection