Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The highway philosophers

It’s 2025 and you’re listening to “Fire Away,” the straight-talk show that puts public officials on the hot seat.

“Hi, I’m Steve Belligereno and today we’re speaking with Secretary of Transportation Wally Watson. The subject is trucks. Good morning, Wally.”

“Good morning, Steve. Great to be here. I think.”

“Let’s start with the 92 trucks that ran off the pier at Port Newark last week.”

“Ninety-one, Steve. The one with the driver veered off at the last second.”

“Still outrageous! How could one driver lead an army of trucks off the New Jersey Turnpike and into Newark Bay?”

“It wasn't an army, Steve. It was a platoon. They were platooning. Only the first truck has a driver, the rest are automated and follow ...”

“We get that, Wally. Just tell us what happened.”

“Well, turns out the driver got a little steamed when his toll authorization was revoked ...”

“Wait a minute, Wally. Aren’t today’s truck drivers the most carefully selected, intelligent, and insanely healthy ever? Isn’t that what the DOT promised?”

“Sure, but ...”

“Didn’t that DOT’s Perfect Driver Initiative start with the Wristband Mandate? Don’t all CDL drivers wear health monitor wristbands at all times?”

“Of course ...”

“And wasn’t that followed up by the Blood Pressure Mandate?”

“Of course. All drivers have their blood pressure checked continuously in the driver’s seat ...”

“And then there was the Catheter Mandate.”

“That was a tough one, Steve. But it did away with those pesky random drug tests and inefficient pit stops.”

“And then there was the master’s degree requirement.”

“We've got some darn smart drivers out there, Steve. That driver had a degree in crisis management.”

“But there are still too few drivers, Wally, isn’t that right?”

“True. The Perfect Driver Initiative didn’t help the driver shortage. However, we look on the bright side: Motorists are very happy there are fewer trucks on the road.”

“But they’re not happy about those long truck trains ...”

“Platoons, Steve.”

“OK, platoons. Just yesterday one of those platoons inadvertently pulled off I-74 and turned downtown Peoria into a parking lot.”

“I grant you, Steve, he probably shouldn’t have done that ...”

“Well, why did he?”

“According to my people on the scene, his navigation application was distracted by a Facebook coupon for Burger Barge.”

“But why didn’t the driver override the navigation application and stay on 74?”

“The coupon was a real bargain.”

“A bargain! What does that have to do with anything, Wally?”

“Well, Steve, the driver’s degree was in economics.”

“OK, then let’s talk about economics. We have the smartest, healthiest, best-rested drivers in the world. But everyone complains that we can’t seem to get the freight delivered. What’s going on here, Wally?”

“We’re looking into that.”

“Could it be that driver pay is too low?”

“Oh no, Steve. A recent study shows that drivers are looking for pretty trucks, sensitive dispatchers, friendly performance feedback, and free Internet – not pay.”

“I find that astounding and very hard to believe!”

“Well, Steve, it’s easier to understand when you consider that a good proportion of today’s perfect drivers were philosophy majors.”