Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It’s all in how you ask the question

Anybody who has flipped on the tube to some courtroom drama has heard the phrase: “Objection! Leading the witness.”

The point of the objection is, you can’t ask a question that provokes the answer you’re looking for. Too bad that rule doesn’t apply to surveys and polls.

A great example of a survey loaded with leading questions was one recently released by a group pushing for increasing the size and weights of heavy trucks on the National Highway System. Supposedly, the poll reveals that people are overwhelmingly in agreement that we need larger and heavier trucks on the highways.

Being the skeptic I am, I immediately requested a copy of the poll and the questions asked. And, honestly, I am not surprised by what I saw.

The pollsters surveyed 1,000 people. Presumably, these people were “Average Joes” not familiar with the dynamics of truck weights, highway fatigue, stopping distances and such.

They were asked questions like this:

Considering the state of our economy, if it could be demonstrated that a reasonable increase in the truck weight limit could contribute to safer roads, greater fuel economy and more productive highway transportation by enabling companies to consolidate loads and deliver products with fewer trucks, would you favor or oppose higher weight limits for properly outfitted tractor-trailers?

That is one big “if” in that question.

The survey questions leaned on causes like cleaning up the environment, reducing congestion, improving highway safety. And the way they were worded, if you opposed adding weight or increasing the size of trucks and trailers you were against – the environment, highway safety, etc.

Anyone with any real knowledge of the trucking industry knows that increasing the size and weight of trucks on the road will cause more problems than it solves.

Trotting out opinion surveys based on leading questions asked of people ill-equipped with the knowledge to know what they are really saying is just another smokescreen.

Truckers know that universally increasing the size and weight of all trucks using the National Highway System is a bad idea. Land Line has an in-depth piece on this very subject in its July issue.

Hopefully lawmakers will continue to listen to the truckers who know what they’re talking about instead of giving even a second thought to a survey of 1,000 people who had five minutes to kill answering a few leading questions.

4 comments:

  1. It's funny how those who know little to nothing about the realities associated with a heavy truck and how it operates want to force change on us and just say "Times are changing, deal with it!" without ever trying to gain an initial understanding.

    Most trucks on the road now have driveline & suspension components designed to work together for hauling an 80,000-lb gross vehicle weight. Overstressing those suspension components and axle assemblies will eventually cause them to break. Once that happens and the driver loses control of the truck, the results can be deadly- for the driver and anyone else around the truck.

    Most truck owners already know that shippers will not pay a higher rate for a truck to haul a load that produces a higher gross weight than what they pay for a truck at or under the 80,000-lb current limits, so where would there be any financial justification for them to invest in more expensive equipment for those heavier loads? Adding axles, replacing driveline components, and/or buying new trucks and trailers with the additional equipment needed for heavy-haul work is not cheap to begin with.

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  2. No problem.
    Yes, I can see NO PROBLEM with Larger Heavier Trucks crumbling down our Highways and alternate roads as long as everyone is agreeable that when these Heavier and Larger vehicles are challenged as they are daily by incompetent 4 wheel drivers and other Truck Drivers and end up in accidents and other negative results, that all people killed are to become the exception to the rule as in "That's the way it is so get over it!"
    HOW MANY BRIDGES would support an increased amount of Heavier vehicles before crumbling beneath or BECAUSE OF these Heavier vehicles?

    I figure that if all roads resemble the wonderful roads in Michigan of I-75, West Memphis, AR. of I-40 & I-55, Louisiana on I-10, NC I-85 through Charlotte, I-40 through Oklahoma City, OK., I-80 and the pathetic Toll road of I-76 in Pennsylvania,I-77/I-64 in WV Toll Road, I-95 in Northern New Jersey, through New York City, in Connecticut; that every traveler best be happy.
    Then there's California...'nuff said.

    In conclusion I then see NO PROBLEM with Heavier and Larger Trucks crumbling down our Highway Infrastructure.

    Thank you for your time!

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  3. I've got a couple of suitable poll quetsion:

    1. How many more feet would you be willing to back up at an intersection when the driver of an even LONGER tractor trailer struggles to get his rig around the corner in front of you?

    2. As a business owner that receives deliveries or makes shipments by truck or a truck stop owner, how much more will you be wiulling to pay to enlarge your parking lot and increase the load-bearing capacity of your truck parking and dock areas?

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  4. Why not "nationalize" the railbed and treat it like an interstate, create distribution centers convenient to population centers. There ought to be enough work to keep all of us busy and closer to home. Longer and heavier is the reason so many roads are trashed, when we jumped to 80k and 65' from 72k and 55' the carnage on light poles on corners, curbs, and highways exploded. Rates however did not, what does society gain by trashing infrastructure for the benefit of a few greedy S.O.B.'s?

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