Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Saturday, July 24, 2004

The little things
Written by: Beck

California is currently considering a ban on allowing buses and trucks to idle for more than five minutes.

Your first impression is likely to think this is simply silly. The author of the article points out a few good objections to the law, with special emphasis on enforceability and economy.
The problem is enforcement. Are California Highway Patrol officers and local police officers, armed with stopwatches, going to stand around monitoring every truck and every bus at every stop they make, counting off the minutes?

Curbing pollution is important, but a ban that's utterly unenforceable and would take law enforcement officers away from more important duties is scarcely worth the effort.

More important, trucking companies and bus operators have a vested interest in curbing idling on their own -- the high price of fuel. Isn't the more realistic answer an education program for drivers on how they are wasting their company's money? And isn't their boss likely to get a more positive response than a cop with a stopwatch?
This misses the point entirely. Anyone who has pulled into a truck stop late at night on a cross country road trip has seen the lines of semi trucks lined up, parked for the night, and idling away. Truckers often leave their trucks idling all night. In that sense, it'd be quite easy for a highway patrolman to walk up and issue twenty tickets in a row, no inconvenience whatsoever. California lawmakers think this is perfectly logical, as the thought of an 18 wheeler idling all night for no reason makes their skin crawl--such wastefulness is anathema to the anti-pollution pro-conservation mindset.

Do these people really think truck drivers leave their engines running overnight out of carelessness? This isn't like turning off the running water while you're brushing your teeth. These truck drivers, stopped for the night in the middle of nowhere, are living in a home away from home. They need the engine running so that they can power air conditioning and heating. They need it to power their little mini-TV's and VCR's. They need it because for the time spent on the road, they're in their homes. Legislators don't complain about central air. The thought that a person would cool 3000 square feet of home so that they can sleep comfortably in their 200 square foot bedroom never raises an eyebrow. Meanwhile, a truck driver's comfort, already tenuous at best, hinges on that internal combustion engine chugging away through the night.

California's a state controlled by Democrats, right? I thought Democrats were supposed to care about "The Little Guy." I guess when the constituency involved is such a small part of the population--one not broadly represented by special interest groups or public sentiment--The Little Guy doesn't really count for squat.

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John Beck

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